Adobe Illustrator 8.0
"A Must Have Upgrade"
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Illustrator 8, by Adobe Corporation, is an upgrade of their illustration application. It is an excellent art production tool whether you are a designer or technical illustrator producing artwork for print publishing, an artist producing multimedia graphics, or a creator of Web pages or online content. The Halloween image to the right was created in Illustrator using the Bezier tool to trace a template for the figure, and also to create the other objects. The program is well-integrated with other Adobe products in look, feel, and use, thus shortening the learning curve for new users. Anyone already using Illustrator will be pleased with this new release as it provides major new features. Available for both PC and Macintosh. Price: $375; upgrade $129. Registered users of Adobe products such as Photoshop and PageMaker can purchase Illustrator 8 for $199, as well as users of CorelDraw and Macromedia Freehand. Web site: http://www.adobe.com
So, what does all this mean to a novice who is unfamiliar with an illustration program and what it does. Those individuals who use other Adobe products such as Photoshop and Pagemaker might want to know what the difference is between Illustrator and those products. Illustrator is mainly a vector-based or object-oriented program even though you can work with raster images. For individuals who are unfamiliar with raster vs. vector programs, you can read our reviews of the following books: Sams Teach Yourself Illustator 8 in 24 Hours and Design Essentials for further illustrations on what you can do with the program or you can click on the link provided below for a brief description of the differences between raster and vector graphics. raster vs. vector.html
|Beginning, Intermediate, or Advanced Users. The program has an intuitive interface and is very easy to learn and use. I would highly recommend it for individuals new to the illustration field because of all the support. The program comes with an informative User Guide, an extensive on-line Help, and the movies and tutorials on the CD provide information and step-by-step instructions about the features. There are many excellent third-party books on the program as well, such as the Adobe Illustrator 8.0 Classroom in a Book. The Adobe Web site offers additional information, and again there are other third-party Web sites that have free tips, information, and tutorials. But the level of precision and control over your artwork and the flexibility to produce anything from small designs to large, complex projects makes it perfect for professionals, also. The graphic to the left shows you what can easily be done with text on a path and objects to create a fun and colorful cat image. And the graphic on the right was created by using the Bezier tool and tracing a template. The lines were stroked; a gradient from Illustrator was used for the fill. You don't have to be a professional artist to use the program. All of the graphics for this review are images that could be done by anyone with a good understanding of the basics of the program.|
Adobe User Interface--Helps you learn Adobe's professional graphics products more quickly, work more efficiently, and move among these tools with ease. Adobe Illustrator 8.0 software offers new Actions, Brushes, Links, Navigator, and Pathfinder palettes.
File Format Support: Illustrator users have support for the following file formats:
Ability to Output Layers to Adobe Photoshop Files--Lets you preserve layers when you save Adobe Illustrator files as Photoshop files.
Actions Palette--Provides a variety of preset Actions for producing 3D buttons, creating a drop shadow, and more. These preset Actions automate common illustration tasks, saving valuable production time. The palette also allows you to record Actions of your own and then apply them to any illustration file.
Art Brushes--Instantly transforms artwork into something that can be drawn along a path over and over again. Adobe Illustrator 8.0 software includes built-in Art brush libraries with clip art, tapered strokes, arrows, and more. The image to the right shows various Art brushes.
Scatter Brushes--Lets you transform artwork into something that can be randomly dispersed along a path. You control the size, spacing, relative dispersion, and more. Adobe Illustrator 8.0 includes built-in Scatter brush libraries with leaves, flowers, insects, food, and objects such as balloons, paper clips, and push pins. The image to the left shows Scatter brushes.
New Pencil Tool--Lets you sketch as freely on-screen as you do with pencil on paper. With this tool, you can also reshape a path by simply drawing a new line near the section you want to alter.
Links Palette--Helps you monitor key status information for linked files, update layouts by linking to new files, embed files, and check whether linked files are present before handing off to a service bureau.
Gradient Mesh Tool--Instantly blends multiple colors in multiple directions in a single object to create painterly washes of color. You retain complete control over the direction, shape, and combination of colors involved in the blend. This tools gives you excellent control in shading objects.
More Intuitive Approach to Selecting and Editing Objects--Lets you resize any object using the same easy-to-use bounding box that appears around selected objects in Adobe PageMaker and Microsoft Word.
Enhanced Eyedropper/Paint Bucket Tools--Allow you to sample text attributes and instantly apply them to other text.
Smooth and Erase Tools--Lets you quickly smooth out crooked paths or erase parts of paths. You simply drag the smooth or erase tool over your path to remove unwanted bumps and wrinkles or to erase the path altogether.
Calligraphic Brushes--Allows you to specify a Calligraphic brush stroke with fixed, random, or varied widths. When you draw with the revised Calligraphic brush, you now create paths rather than filled shapes for easier editing. The image to the right shows Calligraphic brushes.
Pattern Brushes--Offers you an easy way to customize and apply patterns to paths. You can work with built-in Pattern brushes, such as ornate borders, ropes, vines, train tracks, and more. The image to the left shows Pattern brushes.
Photo Crosshatch Filter--Lets you turn a scanned photograph into textured or crosshatched sketches instantly.
Installation, Manual, & Help: Installation is easy and quick. The manual, On-line Help, and Tutorials are useful to get you started. I found the Quick Reference section, see image to the right, helpful as you can print out commands or information that you might want to keep by your computer rather than a book.
Interface: Adobe has made more than 100 user interface enhancements in Illustrator 8 to make it easier to use. Left-handed keyboard shortcuts have been provided for hiding, showing, locking, unlocking, moving, and copying elements. The Adobe Illustrator work area, as shown in the image to the left, includes: a menu bar across the top of the screen, which contains Illustrator's commands and essentials such as printing, saving, copying, and pasting; the document window which is directly beneath the menu bar and is where you do most of your work; the Toolbox which contains the tools you will use to work in Illustrator; the page border of your document, which is shown as a heavy solid line, and which can be changed to fit whatever you might need--anything from 2 x 2 inches to 227.54 x 227.54 inches; the print area, which is inside the page border and is shown as a dotted line; floating palettes along the right side and across the bottom of the screen; scrollbars along the bottom of the document window and on the right side; a status bar, which is to the left of the scrollbar at the bottom of the document window, where you can have Illustrator display important information; and the zoom magnification window, immediately to the left of the status bar, which identifies the current zoom percentage of your file. The interface is very intuitive and easy to work with. There are 18 palettes to play with, and you can have them "stick" to one another or to the side of the screen. You can also cluster them together, collapse them, or dock the palettes.
Views: Illustrator has three viewing modes to help you work more efficiently: (1) preview--see the file as it would print; (2) artwork--see only the outline of each object, see image to the right; and (3) preview selection--a combination of the two as whichever object you have selected shows in preview mode, and all other artwork appears in artwork mode. The image to the right shows the graphic in the artwork mode. The artwork mode is very useful when you have a complex graphic with overlapping elements or many layers and you want to edit specific parts of your graphic.
Zoom Features & Navigator Palette: Illustrator allows you to easily zoom in and out of your page. You can use the Zoom tool, the keyboard, the Navigator palette, or select a custom view. The Navigator palette, shown in the image to the left, is a new tool that I sometimes forget to use, but it is a very efficient way to scroll, especially in large and complex files. By moving the proxy within the palette, you can quickly move to that part of your artwork. Dragging on the Zoom Slider enables you to zoom in and out, or you can click the percentage at the lower left of the palette and type in any value from 6.25 to 6400.
Multiple Windows: For individuals designing for the Web, there is a feature in Illustrator which allows you to create two different windows that contain the same artwork. It's the same file but viewed in two different windows. For example you can view the work in artwork mode in one window and in another, view the work in preview mode, as shown in the image to the right. You can use it for Web work and two monitors. By setting one of the monitors to 256 colors, you can see how the work will look if viewed at two different color settings. You could also set the two monitors at different resolutions to see how a Web page would look at 640 x 480 resolution and 800 x 600 resolution.
Customizing Illustrator: There are a variety of ways you can customize Illustrator to your own special needs. The Document Setup from the File menu, shown in the image to the right, allows you to select options pertaining to a page and how it is viewed and printed. Illustrator also has seven screens of preferences, all located in the Preferences dialog box found under the file menu, as seen in the image to the left. The seven screens are: General, Type & Auto Tracing, Units & Undo, Guides & Grid, Smart Guides, Hyphenation Options, and Plug-ins & Scratch Disk.
Document Information: Illustrator has various features that give you information pertaining to your work. One of the most beneficial is the Document Info option under the File menu command, shown in the image to the left. You can obtain information on: the document; objects; brush objects; spot color objects; pattern objects; gradient objects; fonts; linked images; embedded images; font details. This information can be saved and then printed.
Brush Effects: Enhancements to the paintbrush tool allow you to create various brush effects along a path, simulating a paintbrush stroke or artwork stretched along a path. You can choose from brush effects that appear by default in the Brushes palette, or you can create your own art and save it as a brush in the palette. Choose from Calligraphic, Scatter, Art, and Pattern brushes. You can also import sample brushes from the Window menu or access complete brush libraries from the Illustrator Extras folder on the Application CD. A Pattern brush was used to create the rope in the image to the right; the cowboy is a scanned image, and the other objects and text were done in Illustrator.
Gradient Mesh Tool: The new gradient mesh tool converts an object to a multi colored, mesh object on which colors flow smoothly into one another, thus it bridges the worlds of vector and paint programs, letting you create complex shading, lighting, and tonal transitions directly in your vector-based illustration program. You can designate colors at different points inside the fill of a mesh object; the designated color is seamlessly blended from one region of the fill to another. You can also produce airbrush effects such as complex shading, highlighting, and contouring. The tool is powerful but easy to use. You create an object with a fill; then select the gradient mesh tool and click in different parts of the object to overlay a mesh. Each point you click then becomes an anchor point, and color originates and blends with the colors in a 360-degree arc around these anchor points. You can control the colors assigned to each anchor point and determine whether they're different tints of a single color or separate colors. You can make simple designs or create complex masterpieces. The shape of each blend can be adjusted by manipulating the handles associated with each anchor point; plus you can add, delete, and transform anchor points. The images to the left shows a graphic created with the Gradient Mesh tool and the dialog box. Gradient can be created, saved and then modified in the Gradient palette--see image to the right.
The file size of images created with the gradient mesh tool tend to be smaller as you are working with vectors, not pixels. You can resize the color blends to be as small as a button or as large as a billboard with complete freedom as they are vector images and resolution independent. The printed results are excellent as the gradient mesh tool is designed to take advantage of the smooth shading support built into PostScript 3 software devices. It also produces great results on PostScript Level 2 or Level 1 devices.
Photo Crosshatch Filter: You can now convert a photographic image into a series of hatched layers, to give the appearance of a pen sketch. Users can determine the density, dispersion, thickness, maximum line length, and rotation of the hatch layers. These hatch layers create shaded sketches based on the light and dark gradations within the photograph. The image to the right was a color photo that was scanned into Adobe Photoshop and then brought into Illustrator. I used the Photo Crosshatch filter on it and applied the Bevel Frame Action from the Actions palette.
Enhanced Blend Tool: With the blend tool, you can now blend two or more selected objects to create intermediate objects and colors, and then have them follow an irregular path, or "spine," which can be updated immediately--see image to the left. Users can even blend different types of objects, including paths with different numbers of points and paths containing gradient fills.You can blend between open paths, closed paths, gradients, colors, and other blends. You can edit any part of a blend, and the artwork will reblend automatically. Blends are considered live as they are completely editable. You can add, remove, or edit anchor points on the blend path to refine its shape; move, delete, resize or transform the original objects that formed the blend; or change the color of any object in the blend.
Links Palette: With the Links palette, you can identify, select, monitor, and update objects that are linked to external files and identify embedded files. You can also determine if an object's link to an external file is broken or missing, get information about the link characteristics and paths, and open a linked object's original file and application so you can edit the image. You can also import an image, resize and rotate it, and then replace it with a new image. Illustrator will automatically resize and rotate the relinked file using the same settings you applied to the first image. The image to the left shows the Links palette as well as the dialog box with link characteristics.
Actions Palette: You can now automate tasks by grouping a series of Illustrator commands into a single command--called an action--to reproduce frequently used effects easily. Actions can automate the use of fills and strokes, gradients, swatches, text attributes, and object transformations. You can assign actions to function keys for easy access, and share actions with other workers to expedite the work process across a group. Users can select one of the actions provided with Illustrator in the Illustrator Extras folder on the Application CD or create one of their own. There are more than 150 preset actions that come with Illustrator. You can produce 3D buttons; create vertical text with a forward-casting shadow; add a drop shadow; emboss an object; apply a wood grain, stucco, metal, or other texture; and make a template with the click of the mouse. The image to the right shows the Actions palette as well as a 3D box and beveled frame created by using the Actions palette and actions provided with Illustrator.
Type Sampling: Users can select the eyedropper and paint bucket tools to copy the fill, stroke, character, and paragraph attributes from selected type and copy the attributes to selected type, or apply the copied attributes to text they will type. You can select options for copying and applying type attributes in the Eyedropper/Paint Bucket dialog box.
Enhanced Text Handling: You can now view nonprinting characters, such as spaces, tabs, and paragraph marks on-screen. Also, improvements in the Character and Paragraph palettes allow you to work more precisely with Japanese text. You now have more flexibility when working with wari-chu text and kinsoku shori. The image to the right indicates the Character palette. Working with text in Illustrator is fun and easy. You can do all kinds of neat tricks with text when you change it to an object or Bezier paths--see image to the left for examples.
Enhanced Layers: You can create a template layer whenever you want to base a new illustration on an existing piece of artwork and, for example, trace over it or build a new illustration from it. Template layers are locked, dimmed, and nonprintable. Additional layers improvements include more flexibility in showing and printing layers and viewing layers in the Layers palette, and the ability to export Illustrator files as Photoshop layers. There is now a keyboard shortcut to hide and show layers. Nonprinting layer names are italicized so users can identify them at a glance. A Small Palette Rows command has been added to the Layers palette so users who work with large numbers of layers can maximize the number visible at any one time. The image to the left shows template options and the image to the right shows the Layers palette.
Color Palette and Swatch Palette Enhancements: Changes to the Color palette and Swatches palette make it even easier to use and create process or spot colors. Now Illustrator automatically adds color swatches to the Swatches palette when a file is imported, and spot colors are automatically merged when you import an image. Also Fill and Stroke controls are now included on the Color palette. The image to the right shows the Swatch palette.
Bounding Box Editing: You can now use the bounding box (which displays when an object is selected) to scale, move, and duplicate objects easily by dragging a handle surrounding the selected objects. The image to the right shows a bounding box around an object.
Free Transform Tool: You can use the free transform tool to perform transformations on selected objects, such as reflecting, rotating, shearing, and distorting, without selecting the associated transformation tool or using the Transform palette.
Pencil, Smooth, and Erase Tools: Using the new editable pencil tool, you can easily lay down paths and then reshape paths or objects. Illustrator 8 simplifies freeform path editing with its new Smooth and Erase tools. These tools complement the pencil tool, giving you complete control over your freeform drawings. The Smooth tool easily glides over a path, removing unwanted bumps and wrinkles--see image to the left. The Erase tool eliminates part or all of a path. The image to the right shows the Pencil options.
Smart Guides: You can use Smart Guides, temporary "snap-to" guides, to help you create, align, and edit objects relative to other objects in a file. The direction, angle, and tolerance of Smart Guides are determined by settings in Preferences.
Registration Color: You can mark objects with a color that prints on all plates. There is now a predefined registration color in the Swatches palette. Users can apply this registration color to custom printer's marks and trim marks to print them automatically on all separations. Users can also redefine this registration color from its default black to any color they want for on-screen display.
Extra Goodies: Adobe products usually ship with additional materials and Illustrator 8 is no exception. Here is an overview of what is included with the program.
Adobe Illustrator 8.0 software, plus these other useful programs:
Training and support materials, including:
Versatile artwork and other content, including:
|I must confess that I really love this program. Once you start working with vector graphics, you are hooked. They are wonderful if you are creating images that will be used for a variety of designs and used at different sizes and resolution, say if you were designing a logo that would be put on a product, a web page, on letterhead, and on business cards. Also, the first time I went to save a file to a disk in Illustrator, I brought out the Zip disk--because nothing fits on a floppy disk anymore, I thought. To my amazement, I didn't need it. The file did fit on a floppy. Illustrator is a powerful program with robust features, but it is extremely intuitive and addictive. And the new features in this version, make it even easier to learn. Plus the program is better integrated with other Adobe products. Also if you use the program enough, you will come to love the Bezier tool. The image to the left was created using a template and tracing over the image with the Bezier tool. The improved Pencil tool and the new Smooth tool are beneficial to those non-expert users who might not have steady hands and don't have a graphics tablet. Artists or just about anyone will love the new Gradient Mesh tool. And once you transform text into Bezier paths, you will wonder how you ever did without the program--see image to the right for example of how you can transform text into art objects.|
Graphics: Adobe Illustrator 8.0 & Adobe Photoshop 5.0
Web Page Editor: Dreamweaver 2.0
Scanner: Hewlett Packard ScanJet 6250C Professional Series