How to delete one shape from another in Illustrator CS4?

I have an image (below) of two hands over a black circle. All three are currently separate paths with a fill but no stroke, all on the same layer.

How do I delete the shape of the hands from the black circle, so that afterwards I can delete the hands themselves, and just have the circle, with the shape of the hands cut out of it?


Thank you for visiting the Q&A section on Magenaut. Please note that all the answers may not help you solve the issue immediately. So please treat them as advisements. If you found the post helpful (or not), leave a comment & I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Method 1

Open up the Pathfinder palette (Window > Pathfinder or Shift+Control+F9). Select one hand and the circle and press the ‘subtract’ button:

subtract button in Illustrator CS6

Depending on your preferences, the ‘Expand’ button may become clickable. If it does, click it. Repeat with the other hand.

It might be a good idea to make copies of the hand shapes in advance (and paste them in front, Ctrl+F and lock and/or hide them) so you have spare copies of the same shape.

Method 2

I got stuck on this in spite of Vincent’s helpful answer. Turns out I was trying to cut one shape from another, as opposed to cutting paths from each other.

So, if your objects are shapes, you need to hold the Alt or Option key when selecting an option from the Pathfinder menu. (more info from Adobe, here)

Hope that helps!

Method 3

Clip it with Pathfinder or Clipping Mask

All methods was sourced from or, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5, cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0

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