What is a Compound Clipping Path and How Does It Work?

A compound clipping path is a vector graphic technique. As used as a clipping mask, the process can be used for cropping backgrounds and adding multiple paths for making complicated shapes and designs. 

If you are looking to learn this interest-piquing technique to develop skills, you are on the right page. In this article, we will discuss the compound clipping path, how to make, release, and combine objects in the compound path through Illustrator, the differences between the compound path and group Illustrator, and so on. 

Let’s dive deeper into learning this intricate technique. 

What is a Compound Clipping Path in Illustrator?

A compound clipping path is a vector-based process where several subpaths are masked, done through Adobe Illustrator. When you have complex images and backgrounds, you need to isolate the subject, add designs, or create complex shapes, that is when an illustrator compound path is used. 

What is the Purpose of the Compound Path in Illustrator?

Compound clipping paths are an essential work in Adobe Illustrator. It brings many benefits in creating and working on objects that have complicated shapes. Here are some of the purposes mentioned: 

  • It offers a solution to cut a hole in one object with another. If you are wondering why a hole is needed, sticking to the smaller path in front of the big path and filling the same background color should work fine. The answer is that’s not a wise decision.
  • Because the background may have color variations and opaque paths offer limited flexibility in working. When you change the background or move the objects to a new background, you have to change colors. This is where the compound path is the solution, permitting moving without color change. Even it allows adding effects (i.e., drop shadow), and no adjustments are required.
  • It allows combining different shapes and simplifying them by uniting them into one. The process is particularly beneficial for subjects having intricate and complicated shapes or overlapping elements. 
  • If anyone needs to create clipping masks, a compound path is the solution, which allows control over the parts that need to be shown or hidden. 
  • With compound paths, different effects can be applied to ensure uniform effects. 
  • Users can ensure uniform and scalable shapes. So when editing like resizing, transformation, etc, occurs, those shapes remain as one single unit. 
  • This is a non-destructive editing process, meaning it can ensure the originality of the shapes. 
  • With compound paths, users can create visually interesting designs that grab attention. 

How to Make a Compound Clipping Path in Illustrator? 

Here is the step-by-step process of the Adobe Illustrator compound clipping path. Let’s learn. 

Step 1: Shape drawing 

First, draw a big shape and a few small shapes separately. Make sure the smaller ones can be placed on the big one when needed. 

Step 2: Select the objects 

Use the Selection Tool (V) to select all the shapes or images. 

Step 3: Select the Compound path 

Once you have made the selection, click Object from the top menu bar. A panel will open up. Go to the Compound Path and select Make.

Note: For the shortcuts process, use Ctrl+8.

You will see the transparent-looking compound path where they overlap. 

How to Release a Compound Path in Illustrator? 

Now let’s learn how to release this path in Illustrator. 

First, you need to select a compound path, only the one you will make the release. 

Then, go to the top menu and click Object. A panel will open up. Select Compound Path from there and click Release.

Note: You can use shortcuts by clicking Alt+Shift+Ctrl+8

How to Combine Objects of the Compound Path? 

If you want to combine objects or adjust their appearance, here is how you can do so. 

Step 1: First, select Compound Path by using the Selection Tool (V)

Step 2: Then go to the Window and select Attributes

You will see there are 2 ways. Those are: 

  1. Non-Zero Winding Fill Rule 
  2. The Even-Odd Fill Rule 

Step 3: Toggle between them. You can use either of them to make changes in the compound path, as both of these use mathematical rules for filling or keeping transparent the areas.

What is the Difference Between Compound Path and Group Illustrator? 

There are various differences between compound path and group illustrator. The main one is- compound paths contain only paths, whereas groups contain any objects. 

Let’s check some more differences:

  • Content

Compound path: Contains only paths.

Group illustrator: Includes any type of object.

  • In-between interaction 

Compound path: Paths interact with each other during intersections to create holes.

Group illustrator: Objects don’t need to interact with each other.

  • Combination

Compound path: Compound paths share strokes, shadows, fills, effects, etc.

Group illustrator: Stroke and fill properties are independent.

  • Usage

Compound path: Needed when creating complex shapes.

Group illustrator: Required when organizing artwork.

  • Purposes

Compound path: When an object’s group needs to share the same fill and stroke attributes 

Group illustrator: When groups containing standard or compound paths, compound shapes, or other groups. 

What is a Clipping Mask? How Is It Connected With the Compound Path in Illustrator?

A clipping mask is a non-destructive editing technique in vector graphic software that is used to restrict an object’s visibility. It masks the object below, making the area inside the clipping path visible. The only condition is that the path is a vector object, not an image. But there is freedom for the object below as it can be a vector drawing or raster photo. 

Clipping Mask’s Connection to Compound Path 

Both clipping masks and compound paths are used for creating complex masking. What’s more interesting is that a compound path can be used as a clipping mask, and the visibility can be limited. It is especially useful for creating complex masking effects, where working with a single clipping mask is difficult. 

FAQs About Adobe Illustrator Compound Clipping Path?

What is the path fill rule?

Path fill rule is a vector graphic software process that rules the part that would be filled with a color. It is done in 2 ways. One is an even-odd rule; another is a non-zero rule. 

What is the difference between a compound path and a compound shape?

The main difference between a compound path and a compound shape is that the first one is graphic, and the latter one is illustrator-based. Compound paths are used on a single path, but compound shapes are used on a group of paths. 

Why is a compound path important?

Compound paths play a vital role in graphic design. The process creates a single object by merging different shapes into a compound path. Moreover, it allows users to simplify complicated designs, use effects, create clipping masks, etc. 

Which features can be used to create compound paths? 

To create compound paths, choose any tool and draw shapes. As for the paths, keep them closed or open. Then select shapes and choose Object, then Compound Paths, and then Make. 


You understand that both the compound clipping path and clipping masks are some interesting and cool techniques that make the design much more crisp and attention-grabbing. Hope our article helps you learn the right skills with attention to detail. 

However, the risk is handling a large volume of work at a time. If you have such concerns, feel free to reach out to Offshore Clipping with your needs. 

We are a one-stop photo editing solution for photographers, e-commerce business owners, studio owners, art galleries, online marketers, and so on. You can receive high-end photo editing solutions at competitive pricing.

If you are looking to upgrade your skills, keep our Blog section in check for more tutorial articles.

Ruzel Hasan
Ruzel Hasan

Ruzel Hasan is a genuine polymath. He has versatile skills and is adept in post-production work, graphic designing, photo editing, file formatting, and mastering various related applications and software. In addition, he has a knack for writing, so he shares his knowledge, tips, and ideas through content within his busy schedule.

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