Bounding box handles in Illustrator

27 Sep 2010

As most of you probably know, you can easily resize an object in Illustrator using the bounding box handles. It's a fast and effective way, but when you are resizing an object that has a stroke applied to it, the handles appear in the middle of the stroke. For precision work this can be annoying. A better way would be if they appear at the outside border of the stroke instead.

Seek and you will find…

Bounding box handles in the middle of the stroke

The above image shows the default bounding box handles.

Use Preview Bounds

To change this to the outside border of the stroke, go to the Illustrator menu and choose Preferences > General. There you check Use Preview Bounds and click OK.

Bounding box handles at the outside border of the stroke

Now you have the bounding box handles at the outside of the stroke, which makes it easier for precise resizing. Changing this also affects the width and height info in the option bar and the X and Y coordinates.

Reset Bounding box

Another short tip is, that you can reset the bounding box via Object > Transform > Reset Bounding Box. This can be handy in situations where you end up with a bounding box that is really hard or impossible to work with.

Here is an example…

You've created a triangle shape by first drawing square, rotate it 45° using shift, and then you remove the bottom anchor point with the Pen tool, as shown in the different steps in the 2 images below. In this situation, resetting the bounding box is really welcome.

Reset Bounding box handles Reset Bounding box handles

These are small tips, and maybe you've known them already, but in case you didn't I hope you find them useful.


  1. 1 Brian 27 Sep 2010

    I’ll admit that in over 10 years of using Illustrator I’ve never known what “Reset the bounding box” does so thank you! I can think of a million instances where I will use this.

  2. 2 Paul Burd 27 Sep 2010

    Excellent! Thank you so much for this tip. It’s going to make precisly resizing objects so much easier.

  3. 3 üsch 28 Sep 2010

    another way to make the bounding box easier for exact positioning is, to “Align the stroke to inside” ...

  4. 4 Laidibug 03 Oct 2010

    I was just struggling with alignment myself. Thanks so much for sharing this tip.

  5. 5 Veerle Pieters 06 Oct 2010


    another way to make the bounding box easier for exact positioning is, to “Align the stroke to inside” ...

    Of course, and that’s a way simpler way as well, but I just wanted to share this preference setting. It’s something I didn’t know for a long time.

  6. 6 Jake F. 18 Oct 2010

    I didn’t know either of these and they are both definitely useful. Thanks!