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Software Review: Adobe Master Collection – Illustrator CS5 from Adobe Systems

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This is the second of a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the Adobe Creative Suite 5 (CS5) Master Collection. When Adobe released CS5 this year, they not only will release single version products, but also five separate suites of products. They are Design Premium, Design Standard, Web Premium, Production Premium, and Master Collection. You can go online to compare what is contained in each version. The goal of this series it to define what each product does and provide information of what the new version brings to the table.

Illustrator CS5 is the vector-based graphics editor that is developed and published by Adobe Systems. It was first developed for the Apple Macintosh in 1986 and it is the companion product of Adobe Photoshop. It wasn't until Illustrator 7 released in 1997 with ports for both Windows and Mac that Illustrator became a standard for designers. Illustrator CS5 is technically version 15.

Illustrator CS5 is a vector graphics editor. That is, it is an editor that allows users to create sharp-edged artistic illustrations such as cartoons, clip-art, and complex geometric patterns. The other popular image editing format is a bitmap format. Adobe Photoshop is a raster image editor.

Illustrator CS5What do you need to run Illustrator CS5?

For Windows:
• Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 3; Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise with Service Pack 2; or Windows 7
• Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon 64 processor

On a Mac:
• Mac OS X v10.5.7 or v10.6.3
• Multicore Intel processor

• 2GB hard-disk space for program installation
• 1024×768 display (1280×800 recommended) with qualified hardware-accelerated OpenGL graphics card, 16-bit color, and 256MB of VRAM
• Some GPU-accelerated features require graphics support for Shader Model 3.0 and OpenGL 2.0

• DVD-ROM drive
• QuickTime 7.6.2 software required for multimedia features
• Broadband Internet connection required for online services

So what is new with Illustrator CS5?

Illustrator CS5• Perspective Drawing – will give you the ability to draw shapes and scenes in accurate 1, 2, and 3 point linear perspectives. It will allow you turn on a grid that supports drawing directly on planes of true perspective. You also have the ability to create objects in flat space and then apply them to a perspective plane where they will correctly transform in shape.

• Beautiful Strokes – make designing with strokes more powerful and flexible. There are five new updates to Illustrator CS5 drawing tools that include Variable-width strokes that let you change the width of your strokes easily, dashed-line control that give you symmetrical dashes around corners, precise arrowheads let you work in new ways with arrowhead shapes, stretch control that let you define how art and pattern brushes scale along a path, and brushes with corner control to get clean results even around corners.

• Bristle Brush – lets you paint with vectors that resemble real-world brush strokes. With the Bristle Brush you can control things like size, length, thickness, and stiffness giving you the ability to achieve the expressiveness of natural media like watercolors and oils but with the scalability of working with vectors.

• Crisp graphics – are needed when developing artwork for Flash Catalyst, Adobe Flash Professional, and Adobe Dreamweaver. Through the use of Pixel grid alignment you can generate clean, sharp raster graphics by turning on Align to Pixel Grid. This means that objects are automatically nudged to the closest pixel edge and a one pixel stroke won't straddle two pixels and get blurred or lost with anti-aliasing. Text anti-aliasing gives you crisp, clean, readable text for the web, mobile devices, or anywhere you need to generate raster images from your artwork.

Illustrator CS5• Multiple Artboards – were first introduced in CS4 and now they have been improved to let you work on up to 100 artboards of various sizes. They are also easier to arrange, align to a grid, and in rows and columns that you can define. You can even create an artboard within an artboard to serve as a crop area so it is easy to export a piece of a composition. You can even save, export, and print artboards independently or together.

• Shape Builder Tool – will let you combine, edit and fill shapes on your artboard. You just drag the cursor across overlapping shapes and paths to create new objects and add color without accessing multiple tools and panels. Shape Builder includes interactive color selection for quickly filling closed or partially closed areas of your artwork.

• Drawing Enhancements – have improved familiar drawing tools to make you more productive. You can draw behind other objects without choosing layers. You can place a image inside a shape. Artboard ruler origins and coordinate systems are now oriented from the upper left. You can join open paths in a single keystroke with objects selected without selecting endpoints and you can use a keyboard shortcut to select individual object located behind other objects.

• Round Trip Editing – will let you develop your ideas and design your interface in Illustrator, creating screen layouts and individual elements such as logos and button graphics. Then open your artwork in Flash Catalyst and add actions and interactive components there—without writing code.

Illustrator CS5While Illustrator CS5 will not blow you away with massive earth shattering improvements, taken as a whole, the smaller, more refining new features are very welcome especially for those who use Illustrator for art design.

With things like the Perspective Grid tool and the Perspective Selection tool that give many of the normal tools the ability to work in perspective. The variable with strokes that give you much more flexibility with your strokes and the Shape Builder tool that lets you create new shapes much more dynamically.

Add to that the new drawing modes, the updates to the Artboards, the improvements of the symbols, and the improvements to the Transform panel really make this a fundamentally sound upgrade. While this may not be an upgrade for everyone, if you work in Illustrator, especially in artistic design, then I feel that this is a very worthwhile upgrade. If you are new to Illustrator and wonder if this will be a good version, then I highly recommend this product.

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About T. Michael Testi

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