updated on 05 August 2022 | reading time: 2 minutes


Compound shapes and Boolean operations

You can combine two or more shapes in a variety of ways. For example, you can join two shapes together (union) or use one shape as a “cookie-cutter” to remove pieces from another shape (subtraction). The new combined shape has a single fill and border.

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


Note: Compound shapes are not compound paths, which are paths with more than one closed contour.


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

compound shapes


Combine two or more objects together so they become a single shape, which is the sum of the objects’ areas.


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


Uses the area where the original objects overlap.


Uses the area where the original objects do not overlap.

To make a compound shape:

  1. Select 2 or more vector objects.
  2. ClickModify > Create Compound Shape or click the Create Compound Shape button on the toolbar.
  3. Choose a Boolean operation (Union, Subtract, Intersect or Difference).

You can split the compound shape to its original parts by pressing / CTRL + / SHIFT + G to ungroup. All properties of the original objects are restored.

Compound shapes are non-destructive and can be changed to a different merge operation:

Create Compound Shape drop-down on the toolbar, or Compound options in the Inspector panel.

Compound shapes are cumulative, so you can have multiple Boolean operations (Union, Subtract, Intersect, or Difference) in one compound shape.

multiple compound shapes

You can 2 or more compound shapes that have been combined by clicking Modify > Create Nested Compound or pressing / CTRL + / ALT + M.

nested compound shapes

After you create the nested compound shape, you can change the Boolean operation type in the Compound section of the Inspector panel.

compound shape inspector


Note: If you didn’t get the results you were expecting, try pressing / CTRL + / SHIFT + Pto convert shapes to paths before the next Boolean operation or change the Fill in the Inspector panel.


winding fill