Pathfinder: An Illustrator tool, until now!

Pathfinder is a very useful tool for designers and only found in Illustrator as part of the Adobe Creative Suite package. Until now. Sketch 3 has its own version that is both powerful but allows you to edit vector paths differently.

The Pathfinder tool really is such a powerful tool that gives you freedom to create items that are not included within the program’s default list of shapes. To give you an example of just how useful it is, imagine you are designing a website and you want to include a halo that has a thicker part at the front and looks thinner at the back. You could just make an oval and add a stroke to this, but it wouldn’t look great. The solution would be to create 2 ovals with the first being the main halo and then having a smaller version on top. The picture below will illustrate this in more detail.


Fixed-width illustrator

Once the vector shapes are in place then you simply go to the Pathfinder box, press “Divide” and voila, you have a simple shape made using Pathfinder.

Fixed-width illustrator

This is just one example of a straightforward shape that can be made. An increase in complexity requires more actions using Pathfinder and other tools to create the desired effect.

But how would you edit this shape once it is made?

Well, in Illustrator it turns out you can’t, unless you undo and repeat your steps again or make a copy beforehand. This is where Sketch 3 comes in. This special feature which I only discovered recently, allows the layers of a vector shape to be directly editable even after it has been made. To demonstrate, using the halo example, I will show screenshots from both Illustrator and Sketch and repeat the same steps so you can see what this feature really can produce.

Sketch 3

Fixed-width sketch

Once the shapes have been created, it’s time to see just how easy it is to edit them using a Pathfinder tool. The next set of images show what the vector file looks like using the outline of the shape in both programs.

Fixed-width illustrator
Fixed-width sketch

Looking at the Illustrator version you can only see the outline of the halo showing that the shapes used to create this vector cannot be edited.

However, in the Sketch version, the shapes are easily visible in the layers panel and the artboard. This also means that I am able to move or edit any shape without having to undo any of my changes.

In a way, this feature has really become a lifesaver when I have needed to edit an image to get the look just right. Instead of starting again, Sketch allows me to edit this any time.

There’s value in both programs.

Since Illustrator designed the pathfinder tool that we know today in Illustrator CS 4, it still out-shines Sketch 3’s version in simplicity and usability. But Sketch 3 out-performs Illustrator when it comes to editing a shape after using Pathfinder.
There are various functions in each program associated with the Pathfinder tool so you can easily create great designs in both.

Below is the final picture that I was aiming for, so I hope this post has demonstrated what Pathfinder can do.

Final Image

Fixed-width final

Photo by Rafa-sf on Deviant Art