Edit: There was a better way to do Quick & Dirty #1. I have revised the answer with the improvement. This is now my preferred method.
Like many Illustrator things, there are multiple ways to do this.
The Quick & Dirty Ways
Use these methods if the outline object is at the bottom of your layer stack and transparency doesn't matter.
Quick & Dirty #1 (Recommended)
- Select your object and on the
Appearance palette select the Menu and
Add new stroke
- Select the new stroke on the
Appearance palette and go to menu
Offset Path and offset it by a point or 2.
- (Optional) If you want to reuse this style, open the
Graphic Styles Palette and select the Menu and choose
New Graphic Style...
Quick & Dirty #2
- Copy & Paste duplicates of your object above each other until you have 3 identical objects.
- Make the lowest-layered object have a thick stroke.
- Make the middle-layered object have a less-thick stroke in a different color.
- Make the the top-layered object have the thinnest stroke.
If you really need transparency, you can select your objects and
Outline Stroke to form filled shapes. Then subtract & combine your shapes as appropriate to quickly create an outlined solid-fill shape object.
The "Brush" Way
This method is very flexible but takes more time to set up.
This is definitely the method you want to use if you will be using this border style in multiple places.
- Make a
- Create multiple parallel lines (I find it easiest to start with horizontal lines)
- Select your lines
- Open your Brushes palette (F5).
- Click the menu and select
- Choose New Art Brush
- Make sure the direction guide arrow is going the correct direction for your lines.
- Apply your new
Brush to the object that you want outlined
- Select your object.
- Click on your newly created brush on the
Creating your own brush is simple and powerful for basic shapes like lines or easy curves. If your object has many corners you will need to edit your brush to include the correct way to form corners.
Edit: Afterthought. If you're making a complex shape that needs outlines, you're going to need to create a
Pattern Brush to accommodate corners, you can't do this with an
Art Brush. To create a
Pattern Brush, you need to create each of your corner & side situations and then create pattern swatches. You then use the pattern swatches to create your
Here's the easiest way I know of to make your pattern brush:
Make tiles for each of the required tiles (Outer Corner, Inner Corner, Start, Side, End).
Keep in mind that the tiles need to align with each other on shapes so it may help to create squares and build your tiles in the squares. In the below image, I made my bounding squares blue so you can see them. When I use them to create swatches in the next step I will remove the stroke from the squares.
Drag each of your tiles up to your
Swatches palette to make pattern swatches.
Make a new pattern brush and assign your swatches to each of the appropriate tiles.
You may need to adjust your scaling if you made your pattern at a much larger size than its intended use case.
(Note also that the end-tile indicator is misleading. The End tile should be pointed the same direction as your start tile, as if they were the same object. The dialog seems to indicate that it should be faced the opposite direction but this is incorrect.)
Apply your pattern to shapes to test it out.
When you apply it to a font, you may need to clean up the anchors a bit where they are too close together (depending on the scale of your pattern). For example:
- Here's a B from Font to Outlines with no cleanup (using my example brush stroke):
- Here's the same B with an extraneous point removed: