Adobe Illustrator is a versatile tool that offers a plethora of features for graphic designers. One of the essential tasks that designers often need to perform is splitting shapes and text. This article will guide you through the various methods to achieve this in Illustrator.

What is the Knife Tool?

The Knife Tool is a straightforward tool in Illustrator that allows you to cut through shapes. When you select a shape and choose the Knife Tool, you can draw a line across the shape, effectively splitting it into two parts. This tool is especially handy for quick edits where precision isn’t the primary concern.

What is the Scissors Tool?

The Scissors Tool, denoted by the shortcut ‘C’, is another useful tool for splitting shapes. Unlike the Knife Tool, the Scissors Tool is used to cut at specific anchor points. When you select a shape, you can click on its anchor points to cut it. This tool is particularly useful when you want to break a path at a specific point.

What is the Shape Builder Tool?

The Shape Builder Tool is a powerful feature in Illustrator that recognizes overlapping areas in shapes. By selecting multiple shapes and using the Shape Builder Tool, you can:

  1. Merge Shapes: By dragging through the overlapping areas, you can combine them into a single shape.
  2. Subtract Shapes: Holding the ‘Option’ or ‘Alt’ key and dragging through the areas will subtract the top shape from the one beneath it.

This tool provides a visual way to combine or split shapes based on their overlapping areas.

What is the Pathfinder Tool?

The Pathfinder Tool offers various options to combine, subtract, and split shapes. For instance, if you have a rectangle overlaid with multiple circles and want to cut out circular sections from the rectangle, you can use the ‘Divide’ option in the Pathfinder Tool. This tool provides more structured and geometric ways to split and combine shapes.

How to Split Text in Illustrator?

Working with text requires a slightly different approach. Before splitting text, you need to:

  1. Outline the Text: Convert the text into shapes using the ‘Create Outlines’ option or the shortcut ‘Shift + Command/Control + O’.
  2. Ungroup the Text: Right-click and select ‘Ungroup’ to separate each letter.

Once the text is outlined, you can use tools like the Knife, Scissors, Shape Builder, and Pathfinder to split and modify the text as you would with shapes. However, be cautious when working with compound paths in text, as they can behave differently.


Splitting shapes and text in Illustrator might seem complex initially, but with the right tools and techniques, it becomes a breeze. Whether you’re working on a logo, poster, or any other design, knowing how to split and modify your elements is crucial. Practice with these tools, and you’ll find yourself becoming more efficient and creative in your designs.

Remember, Illustrator is a vast software with endless possibilities. Don’t hesitate to explore and experiment with its features. Happy designing!