How to create shortcuts and actions in Adobe Illustrator
My program of choice is Adobe Illustrator CC. Note that the majority of what I will be creating, can be created with Adobe CS4 to CS6 as well. First off, open Illustrator, and hit Ctrl+N (or File > New). A new dialogue window will open. I create my initial artboard at 1900 x 1200px. Also uncheck the Align New Objects to Pixel Grid box.
Once the artboard is created, I place my resource artwork (File > Place). Once the artwork is positioned on the board, I lock it in place by hitting Ctrl+2 (to unlock it hit Ctrl+alt+2)
I am not a very patient person when I know that there is a quicker way to achieve an outcome. That is why I rely heavily on keyboard shortcuts when working in my various Adobe programs. When you browse through the menu, you will note that Illustrator displays the built-in keyboard shortcuts next to the set action, if they are available. Unfortunately, a lot of the tools and other actions don’t have shortcut keys.
So, before we start to trace the image, we first need to create a shortcut key for the Group Selection Tool (white cursor arrow with a plus sign) to speed up the workflow. This tool is integral to my workflow. The Selection Tool (the solid black cursor arrow) selects all grouped paths, and the Direct Selection Tool (the white cursor arrow) selects points or sections of the path.
The Group Selection tool does what its name implies. It selects the whole path, and enables you to adjust the path on its own, even if it is contained in a group. Also, if you continue clicking on the path, it will step select all the other paths it is grouped with, until the whole group is selected.
To set up the shortcut key, go to edit > Keyboard Shortcuts. In the dialogue window, click in the cell space next to Group Selection (an arrow with a plus), under the Shortcut column. Now delegate your chosen shortcut key; I always set mine to the ` key (usually situated next to the number 1 on a QWERTY keyboard). When you hit Ok, it will ask you to save the new preset.
Secondly, I want to create shortcut keys for various actions, such as flip horizontally, flip vertically, punch and merge. This is to save myself an unnecessary amount of clicking when trying to apply an action to a path.
(Note: Illustrator CS6 and up has a built in tool called the Shape Builder Tool that accomplishes what my preset Actions punch and merge does.)
Go to Window > Actions.
Hover over the folder icon in the Actions panel and click to create a new set. Create two shapes / paths and place them so that they overlap.
Then click on the new action icon in the Actions panel. The test Action I want to create is to punch the top path out of the bottom path. I name it Punch, assign it a shortcut key, in this case F4. When I hit record, it starts recording everything I apply to the path.
With both the shapes / paths selected go to the Pathfinder panel (if the panel is not open yet, go to Window > Pathfinder) and select the second icon – Minus Front. The top path will punch out the area it occupied over the bottom path. Note that a new step gets added to the Actions panel, stating what tool was used. Once that is done, press the stop button on the Actions panel. Test your action by pressing the play button on the action panel while the relevant action is highlighted. Or press your shortcut key to test it.
Now you can start tracing your image. The illustration I created started very organic, so most of it was accomplished with the pen or pencil tool. But there were instances where I did use the Actions I have set up to create and tweak the various shapes and lines.