Combining shapes is simple. With multiple shapes selected, from the toolbar, you can choose from a variety of Boolean operations.
The Add operation combines the selected shapes, adding the top object’s area to all objects below. This is the default mode.
The Subtract operation reduces the compound by removing the object’s area from all objects below.
The Intersect operation modifies the compound by only showing overlapping areas of the selected object and objects below.
Xor modifies the compound by creating a composite shape, with transparent areas where object overlaps with objects below.
With the Xor operation applied, you can add a background behind the transparent areas.
Divide breaks the selected shapes and the intersection between them into separate shapes.
These new shapes can all be moved independently of each other.
Holding down ALT while selecting a Boolean operation creates a Compound layer, containing the shapes you originally selected, allowing you to edit the shapes non-destructively.
Using this non-destructive approach, you can precisely adjust the look of your compound shapes, even after performing the operation, by selecting the layer in the Layers panel and moving or transforming its contents.
You can also change the Boolean operation applied to shapes within a Compound layer by clicking on its icon in the Layers panel and selecting one of the available options.
You can separate the shapes contained in your Compound layer at any time via the Layer menu by selecting Layer > Release compound.
Using the various Boolean operations, you can create a range of complex compound shapes and designs from basic shapes.