How to Use Offset Path in Adobe Illustrator

You can use the “offset path” in Illustrator to create equal outlines and borders around an object. You can add or remove a specific space around your shape/text.

Select the object you want to offset before offsetting the path. There are four ways to access and activate the offset path tool in Illustrator. 

  • Go to the overhead menu, then select Object > Path > Offset Path.
  • Go to the overhead menu, then select Effect > Path > Offset Path.
  • Go to the Properties Panel. Go to the overhead menu and select Window > Properties > Offset Path (under Quick Action). If you don’t see the properties panel on your screen, 
  • You can also access the Offset Path tool from the Appearance Panel. Go to the overhead menu, then select Window > Appearance > Offset Path. 

Are you looking for an efficient way to create borders around your object? Use the offset path tool.

Hi, my name is Rita. I have been using Adobe Illustrator for over five years. Outlining objects was one of my favorite design elements, but I often need help adding borders to complex shapes.

The reason is that I will either add a stroke or duplicate the object and scale. These methods work, but you will get a more accurate result offsetting the path.

In this article, I will help you understand what it means to offset a path and how to use “Offset Path” in Illustrator. 

Key Takeaways

  • You can create a shape based on an existing one by offsetting the path.
  • You can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + Shift + O (for Windows users) or Command + Option + Shift + O (for Mac users).
  • The offset path creates a new object separate from the original. That means you can edit the offset path independent of the original and vice versa. 

What Does It Mean to Offset a Path in Illustrator?

Offsetting a path in Illustrator is a way of changing the size and appearance of an object by adding or removing specific areas around it (these areas show up as outlines/borders).

You might wonder why you can’t add a stroke or create an outline instead of offsetting a path.

Although the appearance of an offset path and an outlined object may appear the same, they are different. 

The offset path replicates the original object and then adds a path from the original to the duplicate.

An offset path in Illustrator differs from applying a stroke or scaling an object in the following ways:

  • One difference between the offset path and the stroke is that the outline is not just applied to the selected object as it is when you add a stroke.
  • You can add or remove the space around an object by offsetting it, but you can only increase the offset using a stroke.
  • You can only add or remove an equal amount of space around a complex object by offsetting it. Duplicating and scaling the object will add similar space around the simple shapes. It won’t do the same for complex shapes.

The offset path is a quick and efficient way to create outlines to add or remove space around an object. 

How to Use Offset Path in Illustrator 

You can offset a path in Adobe Illustrator in a few easy steps. First, select the object, then go to the overhead menu and click Object > Path > Offset Path

A pop-up window menu will show on your screen. Use this window to edit the offset settings to suit your design needs.

Let’s see how this works in practice.

Step 1: Select the shape you want to offset. You can use the shapes tool to create a shape if you don’t have one.

Step 2: Go to Object > Path > Offset Path.

Step 3: Adjust the settings of the Offset dialogue box. 

Check the preview box to see the changes in real-time. 

Can you see the three fields you have to fill in? Okay, let’s input values into the field and see how it works.


This field determines the size of the offset. You will notice the size of the offset change automatically as you type in a value. 

Let’s input 20 as the offset. You see the path increase by adding 20px around the borders.

You can also decrease the offset of your object by inputting a negative value. For example, you can decrease the offset by the same 20px. That will be -20px.

If you don’t have a specific offset value, you can offset your path manually by selecting all the offset figures in the field and rolling up and down your mouse wheel. 


This field determines how the corners of your path will appear. You can choose to make the corners sharp, round, or square. 

Let’s look at the joins settings.

Miter: This setting makes the corners of your offset path appear sharp. It is more like the amplifying option that highlights the original state of the corner.

Round: This setting makes the corner of your offset rounded. 

Bevel: This setting will make the corners of your path square or cut out.

Miter Limit 

The miter limit field determines how far the miter transcends into a bevel join. It shows how far the points can extend beyond the original path.

For example, if you set the miter limit to 20 – it signifies that you want the point to transform to a bevel join when it reaches 20 times its original weight.

This field helps to keep the points of an angle sharp.  

How to Add Offset Path to Text

Offsetting the path of text is almost the same as the path of a shape. The difference is that you need to create a text outline before applying the offset path tool because it needs to be a shape. 

Let’s offset text in Illustrator following the steps below.

Step 1: Add text. You can use the Text Tool or keyboard shortcut T.

Step 2: Select the text and create an outline. You can use the keyboard shortcut Shift + Ctrl/Command + O to create a text outline.

Step 3: Select the text and make a compound path. Go to Object > Compound Path > Make or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Command + 8

Note: Creating a compound path will make the object’s color disappear. Don’t worry. You can fix this later.

Step 4: Select the compound path, then go to Object > Path > Offset Path. 

The offset path window will open up. Edit the settings to meet your design intent. Check the preview box to see changes in real-time.

Step 5: Add fill to your paths. Select and fill the compound and offset paths. I’ll advise that you fill them with different colors to make the outlines/borders more obvious.

That’s it! You’ve just offset text in Illustrator.

Final Thought

The offset path helps create borders, outlines, negative space around a text, etc. One of the main settings you’ll need to adjust is the Offset value

This value determines the distance between the original object and the new path. Input positive values to create an outward offset path and negative values to create an inward offset path.

Always remember to create a text outline when offsetting the text in Adobe Illustrator.

Do you have any questions? Let us know in the comment section below. 

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