Learning to design screen printing art in Adobe® Illustrator can take some time and practice. Clicking multiple buttons for one action—especially one you use all the time—can become tedious and tiring. Have you ever wanted to be able to just press one key to complete an action? Golden Press Studio’s art director Cory Romeiser has you covered. In this video, he shows you how to create one hotkey and two actions that speed up your screen printing design workflow.
When designing for screen printing, you perform the same tasks multiple times in every design. Creating hotkeys and actions can save you a ton of time. A hotkey is a key or a combination of keys providing quick access to a particular function. An action is a series of tasks that you play back on an aspect, like menu commands, tool actions, and so on. Cory shows how to make a hotkey for expanding objects and make actions for two things he does all the time: align an item to the center of the artboards and create registration marks.
Generally, hotkeys and actions are pretty interchangeable. Both are used to make a pattern of actions shorter. Depending on how many actions and hotkeys you already have set up, you’ll want to know how to create both.
To get started, Cory creates a new 13”x19” document and hits “Command R” to pull up his rulers. Now let’s do this.
THE USEFULNESS OF A HOTKEY
Hotkeys bring up different tools just by pressing a key on your keyboard. For example, hitting “V” brings up the selection tool, and hitting “T” activates the type tool. Cory wants to create a hotkey for expanding objects, or turning strokes into shapes. He draws a curved line to get started.
To expand an object normally, you would go to “Object” and “Expand” to turn a stroke into a shape instead of a stroke. This works the same with text. Once you’re happy with that aspect, you can make it a shape so it won’t get messed up if you change something else about your design.
In order to save some time, Cory created a hotkey that expands objects with the push of one button. He hits “Command,” “Shift,” and the forward slash (/). But how do you create a hotkey? Here’s how:
CREATING A HOTKEY
To make the hotkey, first go to the menu and click “Edit.” Scroll down to “Keyboard Shortcuts.” It’ll bring up a menu that shows all the shortcuts that are already activated. Go to the dropdown menu that says “Tools” and click “Menu Commands.” From there, hit “Object” and scroll down to “Expand.” When you select it, you can type in your own keyboard shortcut. Name the shortcut whatever you’d like.
If the shortcut you chose is already in use, a pop-up will appear to warn you. From here, you have a couple of options. If you want to keep that shortcut on the current action, hit “Undo.” If you want to overwrite it, hit “OK.”
That’s it! Make sure to test out your new hotkey to make sure it works.
ALIGNING TO CENTER
Actions are similar to hotkeys, except they use the “Function” buttons on your keyboard rather than a pattern of keys. Think of it as a shortcut. Rather than holding “Control,” “Shift,” or other buttons to accomplish a task, you use the function buttons to perform that action. It makes completing actions a little bit easier. Setting up an action can save you loads of time. You won’t have to press multiple buttons every time you complete a specific action.
One of the actions Cory completes the most often is aligning design aspects to the center of his canvas. Here’s how to make it happen.
CREATING AN ACTION
First, go up to “Window” and scroll down to “Actions.” A window will pop up and you can see any actions you’ve set up for yourself already. If you want to delete any actions, do that first.
Setting up an action takes a little bit of planning. First, Cory draws a box on his canvas on the left side. This will be the template shape he’ll use to record the “align to center” action.
Once you’ve created a shape one one side of the canvas (you don’t want it in the middle already, as that’s the action you’ll be creating). Go to the “Create New Action” button in the bottom right of the “Actions” pop up window. Name it “Center” so you know what that action does. Leave the “Default Actions” dropdown, and assign a function key for the action. Cory chooses F8.
Pro Tip: To use function keys, hit the “FN” button in the bottom left corner of your keyboard, and then the function number key at the top of your keyboard.
If you want, you can select “Shift” or “Command” if you want to hold those buttons down as well to perform the action. You can also apply a color if you’d like.
RECORDING THE ACTION
Action shortcuts record all the actions you take to accomplish a task and assign them to the Function key you chose. In this case, that includes everything you’d normally do to align an object to the center of the canvas. To start recording, simply hit “Record.”
Once you’re recording, click the box you drew and click the buttons you’d normally use to bring an object to the center of your canvas. When you’re done with that, go back to the “Actions” pop-up and hit “stop playing/recording.” Test it out to make sure it worked and you’re good to go!
REGISTRATION MARKS ACTION
Every film of screen printing art requires registration marks. So you’re adding a lot of registration marks in every design you create. Wouldn’t it be great to have an action that does it for you? Cory thinks so.
Creating actions always uses the same process. Find “Window,” scroll down to “Actions,” and prep your canvas to record it. To prepare for the recording, first pick some registration marks that you want to use as a template for your action.
Cory used to create registration marks by opening a different document and copying and pasting the registration marks from the old document to the new design. With an action, you won’t have to do that.
RECORDING THE ACTION
Place the registration mark template wherever you want on your canvas. Whenever you complete this action, the registration mark will show up where you set the template every time. Cory’s is in the top right hand corner of the canvas, because it’s out of the way until he needs it.
Click on the registration mark template and lock it with “Command 2.” Since this is just the template, you don’t want to move it around. Drop the opacity of the template mark so you can draw a new one overtop. Before you start recording the action, change the color to something that isn’t black. You’ll need to do this so you can record the change to black and the registration mark action will remember it.
Create new action, name it (Cory names it “reg”), set it to a function key (Cory chooses F1). When you’re ready, hit “Record.”
Now that you’re recording, set the color to black. Go to “Stroke” and set it to seven points. Find the line segment tool in the top left toolbar to draw the intersecting lines of the registration mark. You’ll have to use the line segment tool, because the pen tool doesn’t work when it comes to actions. Hold “Shift” and draw the intersecting lines so they stay straight while you’re drawing.
The crosshair is done. If you’re happy with a crosshair as your registration mark, hit “Stop Playing/Recording” and you’re good to go. Cory goes one step farther: he adds a box around his crosshair for extra precision.
Hit the rectangle tool and point your cursor at the center of the crosshair. Hold “Shift” and “Option” at the same time to draw the rectangle out from the center. Without deselecting the rectangle, go to the “Stroke” menu again and set the rectangle to three points. When you have it how you like it, hit “Stop Playing/Recording” to save the action.
Pro Tip: If you want to make your registration mark a group, you can highlight it and hit Command/Control “G”. You’re not able to do this as part of the recorded action, but it’s a good habit to have so you don’t end up moving pieces of your registration mark around.
You can create shortcuts for any action you use regularly. Saving time is always important, whether it’s in big or small amounts. By creating hotkeys and actions, you can save yourself valuable time and tedium during the design process.