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How to Install and Use Actions in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Whether you've downloaded stock actions from a site like GraphicRiver or have created your own in order to speed up your vector creation process, you may want to know or want to explain to others how to install and use Actions in Adobe Illustrator CC. Let's do this together!

1. Download and Retrieve the Action File

Step 1

For the purposes of this quick tip tutorial, I'll be using both this Long Shadow Actions file and the 3D Extruder - Vector Actions Pack from GraphicRiver. Once action files are purchased, you can download the ZIP file.

Retrieve your ZIP file from wherever your downloaded file was saved to (I set my browser to download files to a folder on my second hard drive; your default folder may be different than what you see below). I'll be using Windows 10 for the screenshots in this tutorial, but giving instructions for both Mac and Windows machines.

Locate your downloaded zip file
Locate your downloaded zip file.

Step 2

Decompress your ZIP folder. If you are on Windowsright-click your zipped folder and hit Extract All... You'll then be prompted to specify where you're extracting the folders contents to, which is entirely up to you.

If you're on a Mac, simply double-click the folder. You can, of course, move your newly decompressed folder wherever you may need it on your machine.

Let's take a look at what is in our folder below:

  • Two AI files
  • One Action Script
  • One Help File

The files contained in your download may vary, including not having a help file or only containing an action script, so let's press on to using it together.

Unzip and check out your folders contents

Step 3

This step is optional, but may help you keep your actions organized. We're going to move the actions file into the preset Actions folder. On a Mac, you'll likely find it in Applications/Adobe Illustrator CC 2015/Presets/en_US/Actions. This will vary according to your version. For Windows users, you'll likely find it in C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator CC 2015\Presets\en_US\Actions unless you've specified a different location for your program and related files to be saved.

Move your file into the Actions folder, and let's get to loading it into our Actions panel.

Move your file to the Actions folder

2. Install the Action Script

Step 1

In Adobe Illustrator CC, create a New Document (or open a working document). Open the Actions panel (Windows > Actions). Under Options in the panel, hit Load Actions...

Select Load Actions in the Actions panel options

Step 2

You'll be prompted to navigate to your file, which we placed in the Actions folder previously. Once you locate your file, hit Open.

Locate your previously downloaded file and open it

Step 3

Wait a moment for the actions to load in your Actions panel. This particular file has a lot of actions that can be applied to whatever vector content we have. This wouldn't be a tutorial if we didn't apply some of these actions to some simple shapes, so let's do that together.

Check out your loaded actions in the action panel

3. Use the Long Shadow Action Script

Step 1

The file that I'm working with is a bit particular in that it specifies using an enclosed AI file to complete the effect. If you're joining me in using the Long Shadow Actions file, open the file named LS_Object_Placement.AI and place your shape within the file where it says "Place Object Here".

Place a shape in the enclosed ai file

Step 2

Select the object and the long shadow action from the Actions panel of your choice. Hit "play current selection" and wait for your action to complete. I chose the action labeled Medium Down Right.

hit play on your action from the actions panel

Step 3

In the Layers panel, unlock your object and Group (Control-G) both the object and newly created long shadow together. You can Copy (Control-C) and Paste (Control-V) the group into your working document.

Long shadow applied to the letter Q

4. Use the 3D Extruder Action Pack

Step 1

Let's take the 3D Extruder Action Pack for a quick spin. Repeat the previous steps of purchasing, downloading, unzipping, and locating your action files. Load the new actions into your Actions panel. I'll be using the 3D Silicone Rubber action as seen below.

Load the 3D silicon rubber action in the actions panel

Step 2

Like the file before this one, you need to apply any actions or graphic styles included in the purchased pack in a specific .AI file. 

In this case, it's the file labeled Empty_Template_(Start_Here).AI. Paste your content into the file. Select it and Play the selected action from the Actions panel as we did with the long shadow action. Your newly extruded design will be on a new layer above the original layer within the Layers panel, ready for your use in other documents.

Play the selected action

Great Job, You're Done!

While stock packs and files may vary, those you find in GraphicRiver have to meet certain standards, including having everything needed within the zipped folder to recreate the expected result. 

In this case, it's the actions as advertised. Simply download, unzip, and load your action in order to begin speeding up your design process and playing with trendy design styles, without having to spend time figuring out how to create them from scratch.

the final actions side by side
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