Offset path

I use it for die lines and for margins among other things. You’ll find uses for it. I use it often enough that I’ve given it a keyboard shortcut.

I should add – this post is referring to the offset path command, not the offset path effect.  That’s a whole other post that I will get to soon. This is the one that’s located in the Object menu under path.

What it does is to take the bounds of your object and make a new object either inside or outside of your existing object.  It will not work on text unless you’ve created outlines (Type -> Create Outlines).

Example – you have a die line and you want to set up margins. (See the previous post on non-printing layers to see how to incorporate them as well)

Here’s the dieline:

Now, select all the panels you want to make margins for and, from the Object menu, go to Path -> Offset Path…

You’ll see the Offset Path dialog, asking you how far you want the offset to be (in this case, .125 in. inwards, so a negative offset), the way it should treat the corners (in this case Miter, which will leave them square) and in this example, we can ignore the miter limit since we’re working on rectangles.

Viola – margins, which I’ve made cyan so you can barely see them in the screenshot.

Not so difficult an operation to do manually if you were so inclined, but a big time-saver if you do it on every file you make.

That’s about it.  Pretty simple but very useful at times.

The different Join types determine what Illustrator will do at a “corner”

And the Miter Limit  controls when a corner gets mitered (pointy) as opposed to beveled (squared off).  In my experience, it really only comes into play with very acute angles.