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Book Review – Adobe Illustrator CS3: Classroom In A Book By Adobe Creative Team

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Adobe Illustrator CS3 – Classroom In A Book is part of the official training series for the Adobe graphics and publishing software from Adobe Systems, Inc. These lessons are designed so that you can learn at your own pace. If you are new to Illustrator, this book will provide you with the fundamentals you will need to master the basic skills. If you are experienced, you will find that there are many things that you will learn on all levels that will enhance your current skills and take you to the next level.

Adobe Illustrator CS3: Classroom In A Book is divided up into 15 lessons and two prequels. Before starting this book, you should have a working knowledge of your computer and operating system. You need to know how to work a mouse, open and close files as well as copying files and navigating though your file system. Your hardware needs to also support Adobe Illustrator CS3 as well.

The prequels are “What’s New in Adobe Illustrator CS3″ which explains what the new features are that come with CS3 version of Illustrator. These include the workspace improvements, control panel enhancements, drawing enhancements as well as many other updates. “A Quick Tour of Adobe Illustrator CS3″ introduces the methods and manors of getting around in CS3, Pathfinder effects, working with color groups and Live Color. You will learn how to work with Photoshop images and how to use Live Trace.

Lesson 1, “Getting to Know the Work Area” shows you how to open files, select tools from the tool panel, use your different viewing options, work with panels and how to use the help system. Lesson 2, “Selecting and Aligning” explains how to differentiate between the various selection tools, how to clone items, lock and hide items, save selections for future use and how to use tools and commands to align basic shapes to each other.

Lesson 3, “Creating Shapes”, explores the creation of basic shapes, how to move, scale, and rotate objects, and how to draw with the pencil tool. You will also find out how to position objects precisely, work with line segments and use Live Trace. Lesson 4, “Transforming Objects” will have you moving, scaling, rotating, reflecting, shearing and distorting a variety of objects and parts of objects.

Lesson 5, “Drawing with the Pen tool” will expose you to the proper way of using the Pen tool to draw straight lines, use Template layers, End path segments and split lines as well as the drawing of curved lines. The pen tool was one of the hardest tools for me and it is explained very well here. Lesson 6, “Color and Painting” will instruct you on how to paint with, create, and edit colors using the Control panel and short cuts. You will also learn about the Color Guide panel, Live Paint features as well as how to save your file as a PDF.

Lesson 7, “Working with Type” is all about type and type layout. You will explore importing type, creating columns, change text attributes, wrapping text around a graphic and creating text on paths and shapes. Lesson 8, “Working with Layers” will show you how to work with the Layers Panel, move objects between layers and merge layers into a single layer. You will also find out how to create, rearranged and lock layers, nested layers and groups. Lesson 9, “Blending Shapes and Colors is all about gradients and blending colors and shapes.

Lesson 10, “Working with Brushes” will tell you how to use the four brush types, change brush colors, how to create new brushes and work with the scribble effect. Lesson 11, “Applying Effects” you will learn how to understand the differences between Filters and Effects, how to use Warp effects to create a banner logotype and create 3D objects from 2D artwork. Lesson 12, “Applying Appearance Attributes and Graphic Styles” introduces you to creating an appearance attribute; this is a technique to alter the look of an object without changing its structure. You will also learn how to save an appearance as a graphic style and apply a graphic style to a layer.

Lesson 13, “Working with Symbols” teaches you how to apply symbol instances, create, modify and redefine a symbol. Lesson 14, “Combining Illustrator CS3 Graphics with the Creative Suite, will show you how to differentiate between vector and bitmap graphics, place embedded Adobe Photoshop graphics in an Adobe Illustrator file and export a layered file to Adobe Photoshop.

Lesson 15, “Printing Artwork and Producing Color Separations” is all about getting your document from your computer to a final print. Here they go into the different types of printing requirements and printing devices. You will learn the language and vocabulary of the printing world as well as the basic color principles, how to separate your colors and special considerations when outputting your document to the printer.

The classroom series has been around for a while and has really matured over the years. Included with Adobe Illustrator CS3: Classroom In A Book is a CD that contains all of the lesson files as well as instructional movies from Lynda.com and Total Training. You can follow the book from start to finish or select only those areas that you want to get up to speed with.

What I especially like, is that it is truly is step-by-step learning. No assumptions are made that “everyone” should know that step and so it is not mentioned. There are also sidebars that explain techniques in more detail. You are able to learn at your own pace and each Lesson has a Q & A section as well as an “Exploring on your own” challenge section.

If I had one complaint, it is that there is no suggestion on how long the lesson will take. I think that this is a necessary component for judging how much time I need to focus on a particular lesson. Still, this would not be a deterrent on my recommendation of this book. I can easily recommend Adobe Illustrator CS3: Classroom In A Book.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.