I am trying to copy and paste this icon I designed into an infographic in Illustrator.

The black shadow is a copy of the original icon set behind, so if I set the white of the front element to transparent that black shows.

Is there an easy way to simply select only the white elements and make them transparent?

If I make the white of the icon transparent then this happens.

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • 1
    Hi Blaine McGaffigan, Welcome to GD.SE! I am a little confused by your question. If you make an object transparent, then it will show you any object that is below that layer. If you want to only change objects with the same color, then you can select an object with that color and go to Select -> Same -> Fill Color and then in the appearance panel change the fill opacity. – AndrewH Apr 27 '16 at 16:02
  • I updated my post with what happens when I make the white transparent. I guess what I need to do is subtract shapes? I'm new to Illustrator. – Blaine McGaff Apr 27 '16 at 16:22

There are 3 parts to this graphic.

The black shadow, the calendar object and the calendar outline.

For your design, copy the white object with the stroke and paste infront. Make 1 version have no stroke and a fill and the other version have no fill and a stroke. Hide or lock the object with the stroke for now.

Select the top parts both the calendar object and the black shadow (Ungroup from the bottom part of the calendar icon if needed).

selecting for pathfinder

Open pathfinder options, Window -> Pathfinder. Select the "Minus Front" option.

minus from front

Do the same for the bottom half of the calendar icon.

Reveal the stroke.


End result

  • Thanks AndrewH. This worked perfectly! Is this what you would recommend from a workflow perspective, or is there an easier way to do it to begin with? – Blaine McGaff Apr 27 '16 at 17:03
  • @BlaineMcGaffigan This is the general workflow I would use to create the icons. You could create actions for part of the steps if creating an icon from scratch. Ex: Copy object past in back, then Object -> Transform -> Move (Copy checked). – AndrewH Apr 27 '16 at 17:08
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    Depends on what the goal is and where in the process you are. If you are exporting your icon as a finished product then pathfinder is the way to go... If the icon is just a piece of a larger design or you are mid-process then my answer is a much better option :) – Cai Apr 27 '16 at 17:26

Using pathfinder is a destructive process so it isn't ideal.

A better option is to define a transparency knockout group. In a transparency knockout group, the elements of a group don't show through each other.

  1. Group your icon (cmd + G)

  2. From the transparency panel check Knockout Group.

enter image description here

  1. Select all the white shapes in your group.

  2. From the appearance panel set the opacity of the fill (not the whole shape) to 0%.

enter image description here

You now have a transparent icon that you can still edit as before. No need for destructive pathfinder operations.

  • Oh wow this is awesome! I will have to try and remember this when designing in Illustrator. – AndrewH Apr 27 '16 at 17:32
  • Theres a lot you can do with transparency and masks in Illustrator which seem to be very underused! – Cai Apr 27 '16 at 17:38
  • I like this non-destructive method. There is a tiny transparent line in between the front shape's stroke and the back shadow. @CIA did this happen with you? – Blaine McGaff Apr 27 '16 at 19:11
  • No, that shouldn't happen. Is it there in illustrator or only when you export your file? – Cai Apr 27 '16 at 21:15

When you make a fill transparent, it just means you can see right through it to anything that is behind it. In this case, to the shadow object behind it. The image below is one way you can get the desired effect:enter image description here

I just recreated a simplified version of your artwork to illustrate. There are other, non-destructive ways to do this same thing, but they're more complicated and involve clipping masks or transparency masks, which you can explore on your own!

Hope that helps! :)


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