Using boolean operations

Tutorial Breakdown

Studio’s vector editing toolset makes it possible to create complex design elements and compositions. Using boolean operations, simple design elements can be combined in different ways to easily produce complex vector shapes.

In this tutorial, we’ll explore:
  • Union
  • Subtract
  • Intersect
  • Difference
  • Editing sublayers



Being that Studio is a powerful vector editing application, you can draw very complex shapes by hand. But oftentimes you can achieve a complex shape by combining more simple shapes. And you can save yourself a ton of time. There are four methods in Studio to combine shapes together. And those methods are called Boolean operations. They’re called a union, subtract, intersect, and exclude. Let’s start with union. In order to use a Boolean operation, we’ve got to overlap two shapes and get them both selected. So here, I’ve got one circle on the left, and I can hold Shift and click the circle on the right and now I have those two circles selected. With those two circles selected, I now have some active options on the Toolbar that weren’t there before. The first of this set of four icons is our Union Boolean operation. And by clicking on that, we’ve just combined these two shapes into one. And on the Layers list on the left-hand side, you can see that we now have a single layer, called combined shape. And if I move this down, you can see that combined shape. So those two circles came together into sort of a figure 8 type of combination, and they now behave as one solid shape. Another phenomenal thing about Boolean operations is you can double click and on the Layers list, you’ll see that this has expanded to show me the two individual circles inside. So I can still edit the shapes individually, making this a completely nondestructive way to illustrate with shapes. Next we have to Subtract Boolean operation. And for this one I’m going to get both shapes selected again using the Shift key and clicking on each shape. And now, we’re going to click the second of the four icons to choose the Subtract operation. And what that’s going to do is subtract the top layer from the bottom layer. It’s going to use the top layer as sort of a cutting tool. And it’s going to cut into the layer below, removing the shape of the top layer. So if we drag this down, you can see that the circle on the left has now become a transparent punchout for the circle on the right. And again, the reason for that is the layer order. It is the top shape that does the subtracting. And it has the bottom shape that gets the subtraction removed from it. Next, we have Intersect. And when we’ve got two shapes selected and choose the third option, Intersect will take the overlapping areas and only the overlapping areas and make them visible. Any areas between the two shapes that are not overlapping are going to become transparent. And again, we can double click, and we can see how the overlap is taking place using the Layers list. And you can see it’s only in the Venn diagram sense that the middle is overlapping that that is visible. The outside is not. And lastly, we have Exclude, which is very much the opposite of Intersect. Exclude is going to take any overlapping areas and remove them from both shapes. And if we drag this down, you can see here that intersect and exclude would come together to form one whole solid shape because they do the exact opposite of one another. So now, let’s take a look at a few fun examples of what can be accomplished using each of these four Boolean operations. Another way to select multiple shapes is to click and drag a rectangular marquee around all of them. And with those now selected, I’m going to use the Union operation to combine these circles and this rounded rectangle intoyou may have guessed it-- a cloud icon. So that easy. On the right-hand side, we’ve got an example of a circular icon that we’ve got a couple of smaller circles to punch out of to create a little profile icon. So here, being that the top two shapes are going to be subtracted and the back shape is going to remain, we’re going to end up with a punch out of the top two shapes when we click subtract. So now, we’ve got our circle icon that looks like a little profile icon. For Intersect, in the bottom left-hand corner, selecting these two and choosing the third option here creates sort of a sideways football type of icon, which on the fourth art board, you can see here we’re using as the background for this eyeball, which has several overlapping circles. So we’ve got three overlapping shapes. And if you remember how Exclude works, it’s going to take anything that overlaps, and it’s essentially going to punch out and alternate in the opposite way that Intersect did. If things overlap, they will be removed. And if they don’t, they will be added, which is why the larger circle was removed from the shape that it overlapped in the background. And the pupil was added because it overlapped the transparent space that had already been punched out for the outer eyeball. So there you have it. We used Boolean operations to create a few complex and useful icons using basic, basic shapes.

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