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Adobe Creative Suite 5 expands and extends its graphic reach

By Serdar Yegulalp
April 12, 2010 11:00 AM ET

Illustrator

The changes made to Illustrator CS5 are a lot like what's been done to Photoshop. Instead of reinventing the whole program (which would have helped no one), Adobe simply touched up a whole slew of features. Most of these changes are intriguing, a few spectacularly useful. Collectively, they make for a good reason to upgrade, if the majority of your work is intended to span more than one target medium.

Several of the new features in Illustrator are further evidence of how Adobe is trying to bring synchrony to a great many features across different product lines. The "bristle brush" feature in Illustrator, for instance, lets you paint with a brush defined by many real-world characteristics -- the stiffness of the brush, length/density/thickness of the bristles, and so on. (It works best with a drawing tablet.) Photoshop users will find that feature familiar, because the bristle brush has been added to Photoshop CS5 as well.

Another cool feature, symbol scaling, lets one part of a symbol object (essentially a piece of vector clipart) scale independently of another. For example, if you're using an icon on a colored field, the icon can be partitioned off from the rest of the field, so when the whole symbol is resized, the icon doesn't stretch. This is very handy if you're designing something that's going to be reproduced in variety of dimensions and aspect ratios -- for instance, a bus ad versus a Web banner -- and you don't want to waste time realigning things.

Adobe CS5
Illustrator snaps items to exact pixel coordinates.
Click to view larger image

Other new features close the gap between vector and raster output, so you can design for the former without making compromises in the latter. The "Align to Pixel Grid" option ensures that vector objects are snapped to the nearest pixel edge. This way, you won't end up drawing horizontal and vertical lines that end up anti-aliased across pixel boundaries, and so rasterized versions of the drawing look much cleaner. Use this in conjunction with the "Pixel Preview" option, and you can see a pixel-accurate version of your drawing -- a little like you've copied it into Photoshop -- without having to export it.

In the same vein, Illustrator CS5 adds anti-aliasing for text, so you can see in the same way how fonts rasterize. Note that Illustrator CS4 already had advanced text-handling features (ligatures, hanging punctuation), akin to what we see now in Flash CS5; Flash has been playing catch-up to Illustrator.

Speaking of Flash, those who use Illustrator to create graphics for Flash will like how Illustrator integrates with Flash's sister app, Flash Catalyst. Catalyst lets you add Flash programmability to Illustrator images -- which can be re-edited in Illustrator without losing the programmer's markup added in Catalyst.

Adobe Illustrator CS5: Pixel Preview and Snap to Pixel


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