How to Design Forms From Scratch in Illustrator
Designing forms in Illustrator
In the finished version of this Illustrator file, everything is in place. Notice the lines after First Name, Last Name, and so forth. Those are going to become text fields in Acrobat. The little squares are going to become checkboxes and the little radio buttons are going to be created from these little circles. I also have some cute little buttons at the top. So where does all this stuff come from? Well, first the lines. I'm going to turn on my invisible characters. I'm going to go to Type>Show Hidden Characters so that you can see that each one of these lines is actually a separate little paragraph.
To create the lines, I could use my Line Tool, I could click in here and I could press my Underscore key a bunch of times. But a far easier way to do it is to use tab stops and leaders. So I'm going to select all of these paragraphs and I'm going to go to Window>Type, and Tabs. A little Tab Ruler shows up. I'm going to make sure that any existing tab stops are cleared out so that I get a nice clean start. I have four kinds of tab stops: Left, Center, Right, and Decimal tabs.
I want the Right-Justified Tab. So I'm going to click over here around at the 7-inch mark, I'm probably going to modify that later, but this gives me a start. Notice that there is something already in the Leader field. That's just left over from our previous session. But that's all you have to do, is just put one little Underscore in there. You don't have to put in a bunch; Illustrator is going to repeat them. Why don't I see any lines yet? Well, that's because there are no tab characters in the text. So when I click after Last Name and press the Tab key, now I have a line and on the Address line, all the way through because each one of these paragraphs has that Tab Stop position and it has that Leader attached to that position.
That's pretty good, but I need to modify this paragraph and this paragraph because I have other little pieces that need lines. So I'm going to click in the first paragraph and I'm just going to guess at putting a new Tab Stop about there and then I'm going to press my Tab key. Notice the Leader character is still in there, sort of gives me a head start. There we go! See how nicely they all line up. That would be sort of tough to do if you're just drawing these lines. In the City, State, ZIP, I'm going to need a couple of tab stops. So I'm going to again, just sort of guess.
That little Tab Leader character is already in there, and again, that gives me sort of a head start, and there we go! See. Tab stops are really not all that hard. I'm going to dismiss my little Tab Panel, I don't need it anymore. Now we're going to look at the section under Sessions where I need little squares for checkboxes and little circles for radio buttons. I could draw a square, but I think this is a better way to do this. I'm just going to put my type cursor in the text just before the C. It might be a little tough to see it blinking, but it's there.
And I'm going to use the Glyphs Panel, Type>Glyphs. Glyphs are just characters within a typeface. And the Glyphs Panel lets you look at every character in the typeface to pick what you want. I'm going to choose a dingbat font. In this case, I'm going to use Wingdings. Wingdings has a lot of fun stuff in it. There is a square, but I think maybe I want one with a little dimension to it, so I'm going to choose this little character. My text cursor is there before the C. Once I found the character I want to insert in the Glyphs Panel, all I have to do is double-click, and there we go.
And I could do that again, but I think this is easier. I'll just copy it, put my cursor in there, and paste and paste. There we go! Under Will you be attending the Tasting Party, I want to create radio buttons, so I want little circles. I'm going to click before the Yes. It goes back to Myriad Pro because that's the typeface that's being used for that text. But I'm going to return again to my Wingdings and there is a little circle with a little depth to it, I'm going to use that. And again, you find the Glyph that you want, you double-click, and there you go.
And I'm going to copy and paste this, get myself another little radio button, and there we go. What about the buttons? I'm going to give you a quick look at using symbols to create buttons and I'm going to talk more in depth about that later on. In the Symbols Panel, I already have a bit of button artwork, I'm just going to drag that into the page. Because it's arrived in the page later than everything else, it's on top. So I'm going to position it and then go to Object>Arrange, and Send to Back.
And I'm going to just pull on the corners of the bounding box and make that a little more reasonable size. Illustrator can't create interactive buttons, that has to happen in Acrobat. I'm going to duplicate this. I can hold down Alt on PC, hold down Option on the Mac, and just move that over, and now I have my two buttons. What about making a PDF? When I go to File, it's just a Save As function. So File>Save As and I'm just going to save this as an Adobe PDF and I click Save.
The Illustrator default actually contains the Illustrator file inside a PDF. So to other applications, it looks like a PDF, but you can roundtrip it back into Illustrator if you need to modify it. So if you think you're going to be making a lot of revisions to the underlying artwork, you might go for this default. I'm probably going to choose High Quality Print because I'm going to keep my original document and I'm going to uncheck Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities. Why would I do that? Well, because I'm going to uncheck Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities. Why? Well, because it reduces file size a fair amount.
I'm going to click Save PDF and I get a little caution saying, are you sure you don't want to preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities? No. I'm going to click OK. And there's my PDF. That's how fast it happens. So now you know an easier way to draw your lines, quick way to get in little pieces like those squares and circles and also you start to see that there is some great artwork in Illustrator for creating buttons.
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