about a month ago I switched to Sketch for webdesigning and I'm a very happy camper ever since. I really love the program and for me it's a big improvement from webdesigning with Photoshop/Illustrator, especially on a workflow level.

There is one thing where Sketch just keeps giving me a headache though: combining shapes, in a way that goes beyond one time time subtraction/union/etc of two fills. Starting this topic I couldn't finish the following task, but during the writing I did manage it. Even still I would like to post this, since the solutions I found are quite cumbersome, considering this task would be relatively easily done in Illustrator.

So here's the challenge: I have a shape, i.e. a rectangle, and from this rectangle I would like to subtract a logo, which is a group of simple shapes:

  • an oval, no fill, 9px stroke
  • two rectangles, no fill, 9px stroke
  • one rectangle, filled with a solid color
  • the group is rotated.

Here's the example: the logo I would like to subtract, masked by the rectangle shape

Let's start with the most likely way to do: subtract the whole group. This doesn't work, but Illustrator doesn't like these kind of actions either, so no hard feelings. Here's a screenshot of the result:

after subtracting the whole group

So let's subtract shape by shape. Let's start with the circle. Subtracting just the stroked circle from the rectangle doesn't work, which is too bad but still in a way forgivable, since it's not outlined. But, after outlining the circle and then subtracting, the result doesn't look OK.

This is where Sketch should do better, imho. I've found a workaround though, which you'll find in the answer underneath this post.

So far, so good. But now the three rectangles. If you subtract the stroked rectangles, the result is odd. Please see my answer for the workaround.

So after a few cumbersome workarounds it worked, which is good of course. My conclusion is that Sketch has a hard time:

  1. subtracting complete groups (so does Illustrator in my experience)
  2. subtracting stroked circles. Even after outlining.
  3. subtracting stroked rectangles. Even when they are not rotated and outlined.
  4. subtracting one shape that's in a group. Get it out of the group first, or it'll be slightly put on another position.

I hope I revealed the problems I'm having with Sketch. Also I hope these problems can be overcome, other than with the workarounds. I wonder if you are having the same problems and if there are any real solutions. It should work just as neatly as the pathfinder tool in Illustrator imo. Normally I wouldn't bother to write such a big post, especially not after solving the problem myself, but because I think Sketch is such a good app I put in the effort to state my problems here.

  • Unfortunately I can't attach the other images, since I don't have enough rep points. I will update the post when I have enough points. Commented May 3, 2016 at 9:24
  • Just found this article, gives a good insight in how Sketch 'thinks' (check out the Q&A as well), but I think it doesn't answer to my problems though... medium.com/sketch-app/… Commented May 3, 2016 at 9:40
  • Hi Galaxy Surfer, it would be easier to understand if you write the answer separate from the question. If you want to know more about the site, please see help center. Keep contributing and enjoy the site!
    – Luciano
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 12:28

1 Answer 1


The subtraction of the inner circle can be reset, giving this result:

enter image description here

(Btw, this only works after removing the circle from the group, or else Sketch just subtracts two circles from the rectangle at a different spot) As you can see, it kinda works, but there is a whole part of the inside of the circle again that is flowing outside of the boundaries of the rectangle. Annoying, but the workaround for this is to mask it with the rectangle:

enter image description here

The solution for the stroked rectangles: Get them out of the group first and outline them. The problem is that the inner rectangle get's extra anchorpoints after this, seen in a later screenshot below. Rotate the shapes to the lines are vertical and horizontal, so the extra anchorpoints can be cleaned. The rotation can be done again after the subtraction (since the subtraction is non destructive, which is a lovely feature). They should be ungrouped too, or else the coordinates of the shapes change after subtraction.

The filled rectangle works fine. But problems arise after subtracting the stroked rectangles. After outlining the stroke, the inner rectangle has become weird, with extra anchorpoints. This can be cleaned, giving almost the acquired result. Now you can rotate the whole combined group. After rotating you can expand the big blue rectangle so it fills the mask neatly, et voilà ...

  • Bit late, but thanks for the review @Pierre.Vriens Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 11:37

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