How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

Over the years I have been passed many a logo to “clean”. I also learned while I was in college that I was of the few that actually knew how to make a logo one shape so it would appear correctly on any background color. I always make my logo files this way for two reasons:

1. It gives the client the best possible file.

2. It makes your files easy to use. (printers love you & your clients love you)

Cleaning a logo is a must do. This isn’t something that you just pass on to someone else. Just like naming your layers before handing off the logo, this separates the men from the boys (or women from the ladies) and truly defines you as a good designer to work with or a great designer that gets recommended to others.

*BONUS: View the video version of this tutorial*

The file I am going to be working with is available for download but, the skills that I am trying to teach or refresh you with are not the file. Its the ability to solve the problems and use the tools in illustrator to do this for the rest of your files, the rest of your clients and the rest of your work.

If you want to follow along and try this step by step the .ai is available here (Ai-logo.zip)

The file we are starting with is a simple geometric shape (a logo from my senior portfolio Progenesis Technologies) .

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

The final product is shown here so you know where we are going.

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

Note: If you’re a pro you can probably tell that this can be done in fewer steps. Go ahead and plow through it if you wish. This is meant to give a nice background into effectively cleaning a logo and using the pathfinder tool.

Step 1

Add guides.

Line up anything in your logo that can line up. (drag them out from the rulers {cmd(ctrl) + R to make the rulers appear})

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

Make sure shapes are centered and make sure that if there is a mirrored shape that the lines are on the same plane. Traditionally I will leave a mark like this as rough as possible until the client has approved and we are both sure that this is the final most version that I will produce. I do this because if there are revisions later you might kick yourself for merging this into one object, especially if I client says “Can we get rid of that one part there“. Could be hours trying to get back to the same point.

Step 2

Get out the pathfinder tool. ( window > pathfinder )

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

If you are not familiar with the pathfinder tool this is your chance. The pathfinder tool is an amazing option in Illustrator. I am labeling our file in four quadrants to make sense. That way we all know what is going on. So our shape (the finished product in the bottom) is what we are aiming for. You could simply mirror this image (make one section and then repeat for the other 3) but the point of this tut is to make sure that you understand how to work with pathfinder.

Step 3

Select quadrant #1.

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

We are trying to match the section in the bottom.

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

The first thing we are going to do is select in the pathfinder palette: Divide

I usually click this several times to ensure that I divided the parts as effectively as possible (so I have a ton of pieces to work with).

Step 4

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

After our image has been divided we want to ungroup this so we can work with it. So, hit either: cmd (ctrl) + shift + G or Object > Ungroup

Step 5

Delete the two endpoints.

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

This now leaves us with three sections in the top quadrant.

Step 6

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

Go back to the pathfinder palette and select: Merge.

Like before, I click this several times to make sure that I have effectively merged everything. It’s not always necessary but, I like to make sure I cover my bases.

Step 7

Do the same for quadrants 2, 3 and 4. Until you get something like below.

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

Step 8

Select quad #1 and #3.

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

We are trying to match the two sections in the bottom corner again. Now you can see that our shape has some overlap and the bottom does not. Hit divide on the pathfinder again and then ungroup the shapes.

Step 9

This is the tricky part.

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

This logo is something like childs play compared to what your creative mind can whip up. Just remember to pay attention to what you are doing and not to twitter. Now, delete the part in red.

Good news: Illustrator has an undo. I use it frequently. :)

Step 10

Select quad #2 and #4 and divide the shapes and ungroup.

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

Delete the point that we don’t need anymore. (Have you saved recently? Not a bad idea.) We are almost there. You’ve done great so far let’s see this thing through.

Step 11

There are overlapping shapes in the middle of our shape. In order to make this look like the final object we are going to do the same routine we have done in the rest of this tut to get our shape.

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

Select everything in the shape but the center circle (that’s coming soon)
Then,
divide the shape then ungroup.

Note: Do you have blue lines in the middle of your shape? It’s ok. These things happen, “Casualties of War”. Not everything always gets cleaned up, so always double check yourself and delete everything that is un-needed.

Step 12

Delete our two points. Now merge the entire shape.

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool<

Note: Make sure you delete these two little blue lines if you ended up having them.

Step 13

Now, we are going to test a few things:
Take the shape tool and draw a box.

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

Send the box to the back. (cmd(ctrl) + shift + left bracket or right click > arrange > sent to back or window > object > send to back.) Make sure your box and the shape are two different colors so you can see the effect.

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

Step 14

We are done right? It looks correct?

Wrong.

Delete the box we made and select the whole shape and fill it with a color.

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

Hmmmm. We see our shape but its just in the outlines. Now we have a big blob. How do we get rid of it?

Step 15

Select the inner four sections from all the quadrants and delete them. (you might have to ungroup or use the direct select tool depending on what you did last)

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

Select 16

Fill the shape with a color now, it is now leaving the insides white. Our mark is now cleaned. You can now change the color of the shape as much as you want and it is setup correctly to go on multiple background colors.

How to effectively clean a logo in illustrator with the pathfinder tool

Things to note: This tut is not a clear cut guarantee to cleaning a logo, it is however, methodology in how to think while using the pathfinder tool. There are other ways to do the same thing but, pathfinder in my experience has been the best at helping me effectively clean logos.

The finished source files are available for download as well if you want them however its just a shape not the learning portion of how to do it for yourself.

Video Tutorial

Chad Engle is the Editor of Fuel Your Apps. He is a fulltime designer, who lives, breathes, listens , eats, tweets , connects & consumes all that is creative & app related. He is a caffeine addict and likes long walks on the beach. Follow him on twitter at@chadengle and @fuelyourapps