How to Cut Objects in Adobe Illustrator 2022 in 7 Ways

How to cut objects in Adobe Illustrator

There are various methods you can use in Adobe Illustrator to cut objects. The reason is not all objects were created in the same way. You may wish to cut raster images, vector graphics, a text layer, or a simple shape. In this case, you need to use different ways to cut them to the results you want.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a graphic designer to do this. Whether you are a business owner or marketing manager without a design background, you can find an easy way to cut objects in Illustrator.

How do you cut something out in Illustrator?

There are various ways to cut something out in Illustrator. This depends on whether your object is a vector, an image, a line, a graphic, or part of the graphic. Each object requires a different method that may lead to different results.

How you cut something in Illustrator also depends on which part of your graphic you’d like to cut and the eventual result you’d like to achieve. For example, the method of cutting a new shape from another shape may be different from cutting a side of the shape. In this article, we will explore the various methods to reach different outcomes.

Where is the Cutting Tool in Illustrator

There are various cutting tools in Illustrator to be used on different object formats. The cutting tools to be used on vectors are different from those that can be used to cut images. If you wish to cut an image, you can cut out part of an image with cropping methods. In the examples below, you will learn how to use cutting tools to cut out irregular shapes, lines, waves, and parts of the objects that are vectors.

Here’s where you can find the three different cutting tools in Adobe Illustrator.

First, if you haven’t got the Advanced Toolbar opened up, go to the top menu of Illustrator, and click Windows. Then scroll to Toolbars and click on Advanced.

Advanced Toolbar

After that, your minimized Toolbar will appear wider showing more tools.

Expanded Toolbar

Next, look for icons like any of the following:

Cutting Tools

These three tools: Eraser Tool, Scissors Tool, and Knife are the three cutting tools you can use to cut objects in Illustrator, particularly irregular shapes and objects that are vector formats only.

If you can only find one tool, chances are the two other tools are nested as a submenu of that visible tool. For example, in my Illustrator program, I see the Eraser Tool. When clicking on this and holding down my cursor, it expands to a bigger menu that shows the Scissors Tool and the Knife. Your Toolbar may show the Scissors Tool or Knife. Look for it, click and hold down your cursor to see all three cutting tools.

Video on where is the cutting tool in Illustrator

How to Cut Freely in Illustrator

Now that you can find the cutting tools in Illustrator, you can use them to cut irregular objects freely. These cutting tools: Eraser Tool, Scissors Tool, and Knife are created such that you can simply use quick drawing actions to cut up vector objects.

Without these tools, you will have to cut path points from start to end. You also wouldn’t want to use the direct selection tool to click on every anchor point bit by bit when you’ve cut out your object. Some vectors have hundreds of path points and working on these points can take hours or even days to complete depending on the size of your artwork.

In this case, let’s look at the scenarios below to learn how to cut out an irregular object from another freely in Illustrator with these cutting tools.

How to Cut Out Part of a Shape in Illustrator?

In the following examples, you will learn how to use the Eraser Tool, Scissors Tool, and Knife Tool to cut out part of a shape in Illustrator.

How to Cut an Object Freely with the Eraser Tool

There are times when you want to remove parts of your shape or objects quickly without the need to be too precise on the exact areas to remove. Maybe you wish to cut off an irregular shape to remove it forever and you don’t need to retain that portion. You can just use the Eraser Tool to erase the part you wish to remove.

In this example, you can erase part of this apple to make it look like part of it has been bitten off.

How to cut freely with the Eraser Tool

Step 1: Select the Eraser Tool or hold down Shift E on the keyboard.

Eraser Tool

Top Tip: If you want to adjust the size of your Eraser Tool, hold down the left bracket key on the keyboard to make the eraser smaller and the right bracket key to make the eraser bigger.

You will want the size of the eraser to be big and small enough to erase the shape or object. Too big and you will erase too much. Too small and it takes a longer time to erase what you want to remove.

Step 2: Rub off part of the object

Once you are settled with the size, just click on the object, and that part of the object will be cut off or removed. In this case, you can just rub off the top part of the apple with the Eraser Tool in a similar way you’d do with a physical eraser on a drawing of an apple on a piece of paper.

Rub off with Eraser Tool

How to Cut an Object into Two Parts with the Scissors Tool

Using the Eraser Tool may be great to cut off an irregular freely. But sometimes you need to cut off another irregular shape based on where the path anchor points are located. In this case, using the Eraser tool is harder to control where you want to cut off because it cuts off objects wherever it touches.

If you are looking to split up or divide objects into parts in a more orderly manner, less freely like how you use the Eraser Tool, then you can do so with the Scissors Tool.

In this example, let’s say you have a strawberry graphic and you’d like to cut it into 2 parts. You can use the Scissors Tool to do this based on where the path anchor points are located.

How to Cut an Object into Two Parts with the Scissors Tool

Step 1: Select the area you want to take action on by using the selection tool to click on it.

Use Selection Tool to click on the object

Step 2: Select the Scissors Tool from the Toolbar.

Scissors Tool

Step 3: Bring the Scissors Tool to the path on the object and click on the point where you’d like to have the object to start to split from.

Select first anchor point with Scissors Tool
Select another anchor point with Scissors Tool

You can see that the path that previously outlined the shape is no longer there. Only one side of it remains.

Step 4: In this case, two points have been split up to divide the strawberry shape into two parts. You can now shift one part of it away.

Move one part away from main object

How to Cut an Object with Curves or Wavy Lines Using the Knife Tool

Other than freely removing irregular parts of an object or splitting it apart, sometimes, you want to cut something freely with curves, or wavy lines that can be irregular in form.

Also, there are times you want to cut an object and retain the item you have cut to make use of it as part of your design. This is something the Eraser Tool can’t do because it removes the area you cut and doesn’t retain it at all.

In this example, let’s say you have a pear graphic and you’d like to cut it apart and leave the bottom of it curvy. In this case, you can use the Knife Tool. The Knife Tool cuts across a path and separates it as you draw upon it.

How to Cut an Object with Curves or Wavy Lines Using the Knife Tool

Step 1: Select the Knife Tool from the Toolbar.

Knife Tool

Step 2: Draw a curved path or wavy line across your object.

Cut with Knife Tool

Step 3: Move the cutout part away or use it for other purposes.

Split up the object

You can cut up the object with straight lines with the Knife Tool as well.

Cut objects in a straight line using the Knife Tool

Using the same steps, but instead of drawing a curvy or wavy line across the object, draw a straight one instead.

If you are on a Mac, you can hold down the Option key on the keyboard while you draw to maintain a straight line. If you are a Windows user, use the ALT key while you draw the straight line.

Slice an object with straight lines

How do I cut a shape out of another shape in Illustrator?

If you’d like to cut a shape out of another shape in Illustrator, there are functions you can use that will give you great results faster than using the Eraser Tool, Scissors Tool, and Knife Tool.

The best tool to use is the Pathfinder Tool in Illustrator. It can help you create different pathfinder effects from the same set of objects. Depending on the results you want to achieve, you will select the suitable function from the Pathfinder Tool to do that.

If you don’t see the Pathfinder Panel, here’s how to open it up:

Open up Pathfinder Panel

Step 1: Click Windows on the top menu

Step 2: Scroll down to find and click Pathfinder.

Click Pathfinder in the menu

The Pathfinder Panel will pop up that looks like this:

Pathfinder Panel

Let’s say you want to achieve a graphic something like this where it’s empty in the middle:

Cut out shape in another shape

Using the Ellipse Tool, you can draw a circle shape. Then, cut a star shape out from this circle using one of the Pathfinder Tools. You can also select the rectangle tool to draw a square or rectangle in place of a circle.

Using Minus Front to cut a shape from a shape

Step 1: Draw the master shape, in this case, it will be a circle.

Draw a circle with Ellipse Tool

Step 2: Draw a star shape within the circle.

Star inside the circle

Step 3: Select both circle and star shapes with the Selection Tool.

Select objects

Step 4: Go to Pathfinder Tool and refer to the icons under the Shape Modes section.

Roll over each Shape Mode and you will see the names of each mode. Then, click on the icon that says Minus Front. You can also use the Exclude Tool or Trim Tool.

Minus Front
Star shape in the circle with Minus Front Tool

You’ve now cut a star shape out of a circle shape.

The downside of using the Minus Front Tool is that the shape disappears.

If you wish to retain the star shape, you can use the Trim Tool under the Pathfinders sub-section:

Trim Tool
Star shape in the circle with Trim Tool

You can also use the Exclude Tool which works similar to the Minus Front tool, but the colour of the main shape changes that of the star shape.

Star shape in the circle with Exclude Tool

What if you want to trim objects in Illustrator and you want to retain the objects so that you can use them later and cut other parts of the main shape?

Maybe you want the final result to look something like this:

Cut more star shapes in the circle shape

In this case, you will need a tool that will cut the star shape in the circle and won’t take away the star. You will then use back the same star for the left and right sides of the circle.

To achieve this, you can use the Divide function that can be found on the Pathfinder Palette:

Use Divide Tool on Pathfinder Palette to cut shapes from a shape

Step 1: Select both star and circle with the Selection Tool

Step 2: Click the Divide icon on the Pathfinder Tool

Divide Tool

Step 3: Ungroup both star and circle.

You can use the keyboard shortcut by pressing the Shift key together with Command G for Mac users. For Windows users, use Shift with the Control key and G. Or right-click on your mouse for a menu to pop up, scroll down and click on Ungroup.


Step 4: Move the star to the right while keeping the main shape in place.

Cut out a star shape

Step 5: Select both circle and star, and click on the Divide icon on the Pathfinder tool.

Click on Divide Tool

Step 6: Ungroup the star and circle, then move the star to the left.

Move cut star shape out of the main shape

Step 7: Select both star and circle and click on the Divide icon on the Pathfinder tool

Use Divide Tool

Step 8: Ungroup the star and circle on the left and delete the extra object.

Delete unwanted shape

These steps, coupled with the basic skills listed above and your imagination can set the stage for creating some really awesome results. Exciting, isn’t it? That being said, you should now be able to cut out an object in any way you choose using Adobe Illustrator’s native shapes and tools. Picking up the pace a bit, soon we’ll cover how to divide objects while keeping their edges intact, so you’re sure to have ample opportunity to put your new skills to use.

If you want to learn how to cut objects in Illustrator, the best thing you can do is just get started: select an object, apply a profile to it, fill the stroke, and start experimenting with the settings. And of course, practicing makes perfect. Soon enough you’ll be able to find the right shape for your image every time.

Featured image from: Online illustrations by Storyset

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