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Software Review – Adobe Master Collection – Illustrator CS6 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 CS6 Master Collection. Adobe releases CS6 with four separate suites of products. They are Design Standard, Design & Web Premium, Production Premium, and Master Collection. Add to that, they a have also have the Creative Cloud – a subscription based suite that gives you access to all of the individual products for a $49.99 per month subscription fee. 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.

Adobe Illustrator CS6 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 CS6

Illustrator CS6 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.

So what is new with Illustrator CS6?

• Mercury Performance System – has been added to Adobe Illustrator CS6 in the same way as it was added to Adobe Photoshop CS6. This engine is based on the Premiere Pro CS5’s Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine and provides you with precision, speed, and stability on large, complex files due to native 64-bit support on both the Mac OS and Windows systems. You have full use of all the RAM on your system and it enhances overall performance optimization and is apparent in many different ways. What this really means is that you can work on projects with hundreds of layers using many effects and still have responsiveness that would not be available in prior versions.

Illustrator CS6

• Gaussian Blur – and other effects such as drop shadows and glows have been enhanced to be significantly faster than ever before as is the interaction with the tools has been improved. When you set a blur radius by using a slider, you are now able to preview the change instantly and directly on the artboard as opposed to in an intermediate dialog box. This gives you much more flexibility and instant results making you much more efficient in your workflow.

• Image Trace – gives you the ability to convert raster images into editable vectors using a completely new tracing engine. With this fresh approach to tracing, you quickly get premium results with image sensing that automatically applies the most appropriate preset. Add to that, you now have the ultimate in control with an Image Trace panel that places all of the options in one place. This makes the interface more intuitive as well as interactive and you get clean lines, accurate fitting, better color recognition, and reliable results because of the new underlying technology.

Illustrator CS6

• Pattern creation – has replaced its more complex approach with a completely new method to get seamlessly tiled patterns which in turn makes it effectively more fun to work with. You can now experiment freely with different types of repeating tiles and pattern shapes that can be edited at any time. Add to that a new Patterns Options panel now provides easy access to controls for maximum creative exploration enhanced by instant previewing.

• Gradients on strokes – give you the ability to apply gradients to your strokes—along the length, across the width, or within the stroke itself – all with complete control over placement and opacity.

Illustrator CS6

• Updated interface – has a number of new enhancements that help you to take fewer steps to accomplish your daily tasks in a new, more streamlined interface that has been completely re-engineered to take advantage of foundational improvements made in Illustrator CS6. These include adjustable brightness in the user interface allowing you to darken the look much in in the same way that Photoshop lets you providing better contrast to work with your project.

• Panel enhancements – have been improved so that you can work with your favorite tools more easily and smoothly than ever before. Enjoy inline editing of layer names, precise color sampling, and more. These include the transparency panel to work with masks more easily and the color panel’s sample colors faster and more precisely using an expandable color spectrum in the Color panel. And hex values can now be quickly copied and pasted into other applications. Other panels that have been improved are the character panel, transform panel, and the control panel.

Illustrator CS6

The biggest thing about this Illustrator CS6 is not really the new bells and whistles, but rather the speed improvement. It flies! Yes, it still wants memory, but if you have the memory and are running a 64-bit machine, then this update will run like never before. To me the speed improvements are worth the price of the upgrade alone.

When you add in things like the Image Trace – which replaces Live Trace, and the pattern creation, Gaussian Blur, and gradients on strokes, Illustrator CS6 has added some pretty good enhancements. Add to that, the numerous interface enhancements, you have what I would call a significant upgrade. Overall, 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.
  • Shraddha

    I’ve been creating logos and patterns day-in day-out ever since I got the demo version of Illustrator CS6. It’s so easy – Image Trace in Illustrator CS6 I wish they had such an accurate and customizable trace tool in Photoshop too.