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I have several png icons that I want to place on a colored circle but I'd like a white background immediately behind the image (see attached)...I can do it fine with the ones that are circles by creating a layer with ellipses tools and filling that with a circle, but I can't quite figure it out for other icons that are not a perfect circle...

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This is tagged Illustrator, so I'm assuming you're working with paths. This should be an incredibly easy thing to accomplish.

Simple example of what you have. An ellipse with an X in the center, inside of another ellipse.

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You should be able to select the shape behind your X (or whatever the icon might be) and then simply change its fill. No need to go adding more shapes/paths.

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If the circle and the X are a compound path, then all you'll need to do is duplicate that object, delete everything inside the outermost path, and then fill in the remainder. Drag your newly filled shape below your icon.

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