Adobe Illustrator CS2
Company: Adobe Systems, Inc.
Price: $499 or $169 Upgrade
I’m a long-time user of Adobe’s venerable vector graphics tool and while I’m not a professional designer by any stretch of the imagination, I still have had ample opportunities to use Illustrator in its many different versions, going back as far as version 6. I have followed each version since, and the latest version builds upon a very solid foundation.
For many years, I was in charge of fulfilling graphic requests for a very large company. If you needed a hi-res graphic from this company, I was the person you talked with to order it. At the beginning, if they asked for line art, it was a toss-up if they asked for Illustrator or Freehand files. As time went on, however, it was obvious that more and more design studios were moving away from Macromedia Freehand (now owned by Adobe) and towards Illustrator. The reason? Simply put, Adobe Photoshop. Because all these studios used Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe put much more emphasis on making all their graphic programs easier to work together, it was only natural on the next upgrade to pick up Illustrator as well. The close-knit relationship between Photoshop and Illustrator has only been getting stronger as newer versions were released, and with Creative Suite 2, the merger is the best yet.
One of the latest features in Illustrator CS2 (Or Illustrator version 12) is Live Trace. This new tool allows you to convert raster images, black and white as well as color, to editable line art. There have been various tools over the years, both third-party and Adobe tools, that allowed you to do this, but Live Trace now allows for conversion within Illustrator. The user can set the threshold value on a black and white image to get the desired level of line art needed. For instance, let’s say you needed to use an Apple logo for a presentation, but you only had access to the low-resolution JPG below.
You, however, needed the logo editable, so that you could change the size without losing the detail. It may look fine at the current size, or even smaller, but what if you needed a larger version? You could open the file in, say, Adobe Photoshop and increase the size by 200%, but look at the quality of the logo now. Not very useful, is it?
To convert the same JPG into line art, you would create a new RGB document in Illustrator, Place the JPG into the new document, and enable Live Trace. Set the value that gives you the best result, and click the Expand button. Viola, an instant editable vector logo! You can then change the color; make it larger, and much more, all without losing the quality you need.
Live Trace with Color images work much the same way, but I found the results to be hit and miss.
Also new to Illustrator CS2 is Live Paint. If you are an old pro with Illustrator, you know how time consuming it can be to paint overlapping shapes. With the new Live Paint feature, you can simply use the Live Paint Bucket to paint the intersecting closed space any color you like. Closed spaces, while using the Live Paint Bucket, will become highlighted as you move over them, so that you can see, before applying the color, what areas will be filled. This is a huge time saving feature, taking much of the guesswork out of cross section painting. And as the name implies, it is live, so that if you move an object after painting it, the colors will stay constant as long as the intersection stays true. Live Paint does this using its new Gap Detection feature.
With this new tool, you can paint objects even if there is a gap, or lack of line art, between objects. The Gap Detection feature (customizable to user defined settings) will “see” where the gap is and assume that the line would continue until it reaches the next intersecting line. Thus when you fill with paint, the color will not fill the other side of the gap. Like Live Trace, Live Paint is a huge time saver, and it works great.
Borrowing a page from Photoshop, Adobe has given Illustrator CS2 a very Photoshop-like tool bar that will change as different tools are selected. This means less time spent going to menus, and more time getting work done.
Also like Photoshop, Illustrator takes full advantage of working with Adobe’s new file browser application Bridge (review forthcoming).
All in all, Adobe Illustrator CS2 is a great upgrade to an already fine product. While I would love to see multi-page support added, Adobe now owns Macromedia, and thus Freehand, so I would hope that the next major revision would address this shortcoming.
MyMac.com Rating: 4.5 out of 5