Yesterday I tried to create the following shape:
enter image description here

Following the path from the top it goes round, crosses over itself (bottom left), goes around again and passes under itself before going back up again. The paper sketch was easy to make.

However, in Illustrator I expected to create this with a single path and an outline of that path. With a single path I ran into the problem that it could never pass over itself. The boundaries would then disappear: enter image description here

Then I went ahead and made it in a convoluted way with multiple elements, which made editing very slow and rigid:enter image description here

Now I am wondering how I can recreate this image (or any self-crossing path) using a more flexible method which allows for easy editing afterwards.

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    You want what is essentially a 3D function out of a mostly 2D program - there is no way to indicate that one part of an object should be "higher" than another part of that same object. The only real way around this (that I'm aware of) is faking it, and it seems like you're doing that. Still I'll be curious to see if someone has another answer to this! – tobybot May 31 '17 at 23:31
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    Don't think there is another answer @tobybot As you posted.. Illustrator can't control the stacking or height of an object upon itself. Only separate objects have stacking. So, you have to split an object into separate parts if you want a visual overlap. – Scott Jun 1 '17 at 0:20
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    @Metis i beg to differ – joojaa Jun 1 '17 at 13:41

It is possible to do this without cutting the curve. What you do is you use the appearance panel to overlay 2 strokes on top of each other. Then over this layer copy the same strokes, but this time with a dash that is set up so that the stroke only covers a part of the curve.

enter image description here

Image 1: A path that overlaps itself.

This works irrespectivelly wether the curve is open or closed. There is also a an alernative approach for this problem that has been answered before in the question:

  • Clever -- I hadn't thought of dashes. – Scott Jun 1 '17 at 13:51
  • Thanks, it works, but it's very tedious to find the right dash/gap size. I'll look into the brush method you linked to. – Saaru Lindestøkke Jun 3 '17 at 14:06
  • @SaaruLindestøkke Try putting a big value (About 1/3 to 1/2 length of curve) in the first stroke length and then a even bigger one in the next, then disable the even ends option. This works with one or 2 tries. – joojaa Jun 3 '17 at 16:01

Illustrator does not have any method or ability to control the stacking of an object upon itself. There's no way to control what does or does not "overlap" on a single object.

Only separate object have any stacking abilities. So to create a visual overlap, you must have more than one object in Illustrator.

How you achieve multiple objects appearing like a single overlapping object depends a great deal upon the nature of the image itself. However, in general, there's no real easily editable method which is better than any other. The method you've outlined in the question is as good as any other.

If any improvement can be made in the editing, I would suggest using a single path with multiple strokes applied via the Appearance Panel. Then it is a fairly easy matter to use the Direct Selection Tool to copy a section of the path, paste it in front, and alter the end caps of that pasted section so it visually appears not present, but does create the overlap.

enter image description here

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