I want to use Pathfinder: minus front to make the navy blue ballerina "punch a hole" in the grouped image of the 3 pink stripes in the background. This is going on a t-shirt, and I want the navy blue of the t-shirt to show through the 3 pink stripes. I have tried selecting both the ballerina layer above the pink stripes and selecting Pathfinder: Minus Front and the whole thing just disappears. What am I doing wrong?
Are these all vector paths?
Are those stripes perhaps still brushes?
What would always work: opacity mask. But you can only use it, if it's suitable for the output process. e.g.: you don't need to send the file for cutting on a plotter.
Make the ballerina pitch black dark.
Select all and in the transparency panel: Make Mask.
Uncheck the Clip option.
The ballerina and the stripes all need to be closed (filled) nostroke paths, the ballerina as a single path, for it to work (properly).
If the stripes are brush strokes, you can outline them.
If the ballerina consists of multiple, maybe open filled paths, you can try to Unite them and make sure that is consists of a single path.
Then you can try Minus Front again.
My guess is the 3 pink stripes are separate groups.
Select the Ballereina and copy to Cipboard
Select Stripe 1 & Ballerina and use pathfnder minus front
paster the clipboard in front and repeat with stripe 2 & Bellarine
one more time repeat for Ballerina 3
Just a reminder, Minus Front is a destructive action. You will lose the vector lines. Clipping Mask will allow you to keep all the lines in the file. Of course if the screenprinter specifies that to have filled shapes only in your artwork file then Minus Front is the way to go to remove all other vector lines.
Thunder-Lightning makes a very important reminder. For my own part I always create a backup before any destructive action, even down to individaul bits of artwork.