updated on 21 November 2020 | reading time: 3 minutes


Compound shapes / Boolean operations

Two or more shapes that interact to produce a different shape. For example, it can be like sticking two shapes together (union) or using one shape as a “cookie-cutter” to “bite” pieces out of another shape (subtraction). The new combined shape has a single fill and border.

Compound shapes are a result of so-called Boolean operations. The result is fully editable at any time. All shapes will retain their special properties like round corners or sides. Compound shapes are also known as Boolean Groups.


Note: Not to be confused with “compound paths” which are paths with more than one closed contour for example “a donut shape”.


“Elements” within compound shapes have an icon displaying their effect on the other elements below them.

compound shapes


“Glue” two or more objects together so they become a single combined shape with the sum of its areas


Use the upper object as a “cookie cutter” to remove an area from the lower object.


The result only shows the areas where the original objects overlap.


The result only shows the areas where the original objects do not overlap. Opposite of intersect.

To make a compound shape:

  1. Select 2 or more vector objects
  2. Use Modify > Create Compound Shape (Alternatively: Create Compound Shape button in the main toolbar or in the context menu)
  3. Choose from available boolean operations (Union, Subtract, Intersect or Difference)

You can at any time split Compound shape to its original parts using Ungroup command / CTRL + / SHIFT + G. All properties of the original objects will be restored.

A Compound Shapes are non-destructive and can be changed to a different merge operation at a later time using:

Create Compound Shape dropdown on the toolbar, or Compound options in the Inspector panel.

Compound shapes are cumulative you can have multiple boolean operations (Union, Subtract, Intersect or Difference) in one Compound Shape.

multiple compound shapes

Sometimes when you try to combine 2 or more Compound shapes the result can be different than expected. I such cases use Modify > Create Nested Compound or  / CTRL + / ALT + M.

nested compound shapes

After you create the nested compound shape from the menu you can change the boolean operation type in the Compound section of the Inspector panel.

compound shape inspector


Note: Sometimes in a multiple or very complex boolean operations it is possible to achieve unpredictable results. There are 2 remedies for you to try: Convert shapes to path / CTRL + / SHIFT + P before the next boolean operation or try to change Fill rule (in the Inspector panel).


winding fill