Skip to content

Speed Welding in Adobe Illustrator Tutorial

August 19, 2013



Art in illustrator is often composed of many objects and layers. Sometimes it’s necessary to flatten that art into one flat compound path. This would be the difference for example in art ready for printing and art ready for cutting a graphic out of vinyl.

The original art “A” Is made up the paths shown in “B”. There are shapes with white fills, black fills and black strokes. This version of the art is valuable because you can quickly adjust the thickness of the strokes or remove the strokes all together to make a more realistic version. Even though we want to get to “C”, the “B version” is still the ‘master file’ for this graphic and should be retained (wether kept off the page, on an older version or on a hidden layer.) We can always make “C” out of “B” But we can not do the reverse (make “B” out of “C”).


Depending on the methods you use it can be a tedious and time consuming process to take the art from “B” To “C”. The ‘Speed Welding’ technique uses three basic steps: Expand, Divide and Unite.

  1. Make sure the graphic is on a separate layer and that all other layers are locked. Select the entire graphic and EXPAND it. You may need to do this several times to get all strokes and fills expanded. If you have text make sure that it is converted to outlines.
  2. With the entire graphic selected use the DIVIDE command in the pathfinder.
  3. Your graphic is now flat, but broken into tiny pieces. Select a black piece of the art. Use the Select/ Same>Fill Color command to select all the black. Use the UNITE command in the pathfinder. Now clean up the remaining objects by cutting your new flat united art, selecting all and deleting the remaining white and clear objects. Paste the graphic back and you are done!

Below is a more detailed and broken down guide to Speed Welding. Let’s take a closer look at Expand, Divide, Unite.


Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 10.09.55 PM

1A- Isolate the graphic. We don’t want to alter any other graphics that might be in your document by accident. I recommend either copying the target art to a new layer and locking all others, or copying the target art to a new document.

1B- Select the entire graphic. Make sure none of the graphic is locked or hidden.

1C- EXPAND it. You may need to use expand more than once to get all strokes and fills expanded. If your graphic contains ‘live’ text, make sure that it is converted to Outlines. You can check your work here by switching view modes from Preview to Wire frame (Command Y).


Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 10.12.24 PM

2. Now your art is ready for the Pathfinder to do the hard part for us. With the entire graphic selected use the DIVIDE command in the Pathfinder Menu. Your graphic is now flat, but is broken into many tiny pieces.


Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 10.17.28 PM

3A- Deselect the full graphic. Use the ‘white’ direct selection tool to select one of the black pieces of the art. Now use the “Select: Same> Fill Color” command from the drop down menus to select all the black and nothing else. Use the UNITE command in the pathfinder. At this point the Speed Welding is done and all that is left is clean up.

3B- With the black welded shape still selected use Cut (Command X). This will protect the welded shape while we delete the other shapes generated by using Unite. Now use Select All (command A). Hit the Delete key on your keyboard to get rid of the shapes we can see and also the ‘hidden’, clear/none filled shapes that are generated by using Unite.

3C- Paste the graphic back (Command F) and you’re done! We can quickly do the prep and cleanup work and let the pathfinder break down the layered art and put it back together as flat art.

This version of your art is now a flat one color graphic and can now serve many uses that the original couldn’t. You can cut it out of vinyl, use it as a clipping mask, change the color of the whole art with one click and see through the transparent areas.

Get Printable versions of the tutorial by clicking on the thumbnails below!

SpeedWelding-01 SpeedWelding-02

Share Or Comment

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s