Software Review: Illustrator CS5

As with InDesign and Photoshop, Illustrator CS5 offers numerous enhancements that should please most users—and might even inspire some longtime FreeHand aficionados to forgive Adobe for ceasing development of that product.

New perspective-drawing features make it easier to create 2D artwork with the illusion of three-dimensional depth (see the video demo). You can set up one-, two- or three-point perspective grids that appear as horizontal or vertical planes disappearing into the distance. Objects placed on one of the grids are automatically distorted to match the perspective. Any text placed on a grid remains editable, and the new Perspective Grid tool lets you modify the angle, height and vanishing point of the grid.

One of the most interesting additions is the Width tool, which lets you vary the width of any stroke at multiple points on the stroke – a much easier way to create tapered or undulating effects that previously required a filled path. Strokes created with this tool can be saved to a list of predefined “width profiles” available through the Path control.

A revamped Stroke panel now includes an option that modifies dashes so they wrap correctly around corners (see the video demo). It also offers better control over arrowheads, which in previous versions you set using the Effect menu.

Also new is the Bristle Brush, which uses transparency variations and other tricks to mimic painterly brush strokes (see the video demo).  The new Draw Inside and Draw Behind modes make it easier to created layered drawing effects (see the video demo). The new Shape Builder tool provides an alternative to the Pathfinder panel for merging or subtracting objects (see the video demo).

Designers who use Illustrator to create web graphics will appreciate new anti-aliasing options for text as well as the Align to Pixel Grid feature. The latter adjusts objects so they’ll look better when converted to raster images for the web (see the video demo).

Illustrator CS5 also offers enhanced functions for managing multiple artboards, a long-awaited feature finally introduced in CS4 (see the video demo). For example, you can now assign names to artboards, and a new Artboards panel makes it easier to navigate among the artboards in the project. Also new is the Rearrange Artboards dialog box, through which you can organize artboards into a single row, column or grid. And the new Paste on All Artboards option will paste selected objects to the same location on all artboards.

New perspective-drawing features in Illustrator CS5 make it easier to create 2D artwork with the illusion of 3D depth:


Stephen Beale has been writing about computer technology since before many current Adobe employees were born. His first computer was an Osborne 1 powered by steam turbines and illuminated by gaslight, though his memory is somewhat hazy on this point. He’s the author of seven books on computer applications in the graphic arts and a former news and reviews editor for Macworld.  He’s currently editor of a website for public relations professionals in health and medicine. For more information,
see his website.

Other CS5 reviews:

InDesign CS5
Photoshop CS5
Flash CS5
Fireworks CS5
Flash Catalyst CS5
Dreamweaver CS5
Back to Creative Suite 5 Overview

Adobe Evangelists, including Russell Brown, will be on hand during the HOW Design Conference,  June 6–9 in Denver, to demonstrate the new Creative Suite 5 tools. 



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