How to Cut a Shape in Adobe Illustrator

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When you need to cut a shape in Adobe Illustrator, there are multiple ways to do it. Illustrator comes with various dedicated tools for this task. In this article, we'll learn seven different ways to cut a shape in Illustrator.

Before we start with the tutorial, let's look at the tools we're going to use for cutting shapes in Illustrator.

  • Knife Tool
  • Scissors Tool
  • Eraser Tool
  • Clipping Mask Tool
  • Crop Tool
  • Divide Tool
  • Minus Front

Now let's begin our tutorial!

Method 1: Cutting a Shape the Knife Tool

The Knife Tool works just like a real knife. You draw your line over a shape, and it's done.

Step 1

Prepare the object you want to cut the shape from. You can use any object here or make shapes using the Rectangle Tool.

Rectangle shape that we'll use to cut in Illustrator

Step 2

Select the Knife Tool from the left-side toolbar.

Knife Tool in Illustrator

Step 3

Draw the shape you want to cut over the object. You'll see a split when you've drawn your shape with the Knife.

Drawing the shape with the knife

Step 4

Choose the Selection Tool (V) and click outside the object to deselect the object. The split line will seem darker when you deselect the object, and you can easily figure out that the shapes are divided into two parts.

Deselected shape

Step 5

Now drag one of the sides from the other, and your shape is separated from the object.

Two shapes separated after being cut in Adobe Illustrator

Method 2: Cutting a Shape with the Scissors Tool

The Scissors Tool is another useful tool for cutting shapes and is easy to use. You'll find it on the left-side toolbar inside the Eraser Tool.

Step 1

Make a shape you want to cut.

Step 2

Select the Scissors Tool from the toolbar or use the shortcut key (C). This will activate the Scissors Tool.

Scissors Tool in Illustrator

Step 3

With the Scissors Tool, click on the edge of the object you want to cut.

Selected shape

Step 4

Now click on the other side of the object.

After clicking on the other side

Step 5

You'll not see any visible split or cut, but you can separate your shape now using the selection tool. Select the Selection Tool (V). Now click and drag one of the sides. You'll have your shape separated.

Shape that's cut and about to be separated
Separating the shape
Two cut parts of the shape after separating

Method 3: Using Illustrator's Eraser Tool

The Eraser Tool works almost like the Knife Tool. It cuts through the surface it's dragged over. However, when you use the eraser tool over an object, the track where the eraser tool is run, disappears completely.

Step 1

Select an object or a shape you want to cut.


Step 2

Select the Eraser Tool from the left side toolbar or use the shortcut key (Shift + E).

Eraser Tool

Step 3

Make your shape by cutting through the object with the Eraser Tool.

Square with a shape that has been erased

Step 4

When you are done cutting your shape, it's time to separate it from the object. Go to the Layers Panel and select the part you don't want to keep.

Selecting part of the shape

Step 5

Now that you've selected the part you want to remove, delete it by selecting the Delete option at the bottom right corner of the Layers Panel. This is how you'll delete the layer, and you'll be left with the shape you wanted to keep.

The remaining shape after deleting part

Method 4: Using the Clipping Mask

You'll find the Clipping Mask option in the Object located at the top toolbar. Go to Object>Clipping mask> Make. You can also use the clipping mask from the right-click option or the keyboard shortcut Ctrl +7 (on PC) or CMD+7 (on Mac).

Step 1

First, you need to make two shapes, one on top of the other. With the clipping mask, you'll be able to keep the shape that's on top. So make sure you place the shape you want on the top.

Two shapes

Step 2

Select the Selection Tool (V) and select both objects using the selection tool.

Both shapes selected

Step 3

Now it's time to use the clipping mask. You can either select the clipping mask from the toolbar manually or select it from the right-click menu. And the easiest way is to press Ctrl +7. Make sure you've selected both objects before selecting the Clipping mask.

Make clipping mask

Step 4

Once you choose the Clipping Mask, your shape is cut .

Shape cut using a clipping mask

The tools we'll discuss below are located in the Pathfinder Panel rather than in the toolbar. If you cannot find the Pathfinder on your screen, that means this panel is not enabled yet. To enable it, go to Window and choose Pathfinder. You can keep the panel in the right-side toolbar with the other panels. It will make your work a lot easier.


Method 5: Cut a Shape with the Crop Tool

Unlike other tools, the Crop Tool cannot be found on the toolbar. Go to the Pathfinder panel and select Crop Tool from that panel.

Step 1

Bring the object on the artboard you want to cut a shape from and draw another shape on top of that object.

Two shapes on artboard

Step 2

Select both shapes using the Selection Tool.

Both shapes selected

Step 3

Now select the Crop Tool from the Pathfinder panel.

Crop tool

Step 5

The object is now cropped as you selected the Crop Tool.

Cropped shape
bottom half of the shape

Note: To get an opposite effect, you may also use the Minus Front option, which will crop or subtract the front object instead.

Method 6: The Divide Tool

This tool is also found inside the Pathfinder. Go to Pathfinder and find it in the bottom left corner of the panel.

Step 1

First of all, draw a shape that you want to cut.


Step 2

Now draw a line over the shape you just drew. You can draw the line anywhere on the previously drawn shape to achieve your desired shape.

Circle with a line drawn on it

Step 3

Select the line and the shape using the Selection Tool (V).

Step 4

Go to the Pathfinder and select Divide from the panel.


Step 5

Now grab the Direct Selection Tool (A) and separate the two sections by dragging one of them. There you have your shape all ready to use.

Shape that has been cut and separated

Method 7: Minus Front

With this tool, you can cut a shape according to the object's shape on the top. You can find the Minus Front in the Pathfinder Panel.

Step 1

Make two shapes, one on the other. You can make several shapes on top of one object.

Multiple shapes on top of each other

Step 2

When you place your shapes, select all of them using the Selection Tool (V).

Step 3

While your shapes are selected, go to pathfinder and select Minus Front from the panel.

Minus Front

Step 4

The object from the back now has the shapes of the front objects cut into it.

Shape that has other shapes cut into it

Final Thoughts on Cutting Shapes in Illustrator

While working in Adobe Illustrator, you'll need to cut shapes a lot. Hence, knowing all possible ways of cutting a shape in Illustrator often comes in handy. Try these methods and see which one you like best.