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Top 10 New Features in Adobe Illustrator CS5

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Brian Wood, contributor to Adobe Illustrator CS5 Classroom in a Book, loves the handy new (and often long-awaited) features in Illustrator CS5. He highlights 10 of his favorites for users who want to know whether CS5 fulfills its promises.

Adobe Creative Suite version 5 has arrived, with exciting additions across the entire suite, but Illustrator CS5 in particular is full of new features and program improvements that promise to make our lives easier. You're probably asking that all-important question: "Should I/we upgrade?" Sure, cost weighs in, but so does the further question, "Will these exciting new features that promise time-saving and increased creativity actually deliver?"

Since I don't know your exact criteria for upgrading, I'll stop short of making grandiose promises. However, to help you make your decision, I'll take you on a whirlwind tour of these new and improved features in Illustrator CS5:

  • Perspective drawing
  • Variable widths
  • Bristle Brush
  • Enhanced strokes
  • Shape Builder
  • Multiple Artboard enhancements
  • Drawing Enhancements
  • Roundtrip with Flash Catalyst
  • Symbol enhancements
  • Crisp web graphics

The first thing you'll notice after opening Illustrator CS5 is that the welcome screen is no longer showing by default (Help > Welcome Screen). You'll also be pleasantly surprised to see that the interface hasn't changed much from the CS4 version, so there's little need to spend time figuring out where Adobe hid which features.

Something else worth mentioning is the CS Live suite of online services located at upper right in the Application bar (look for the blue circle). This new suite of services integrates with Adobe Creative Suite 5 to simplify the creative review process, help speed up website compatibility testing, and so on. The services include BrowserLab for web page testing, CS Review (an online creative review process), and much more. If you want to test some or all of these services, you can sign up by April 30, 2011 and receive a free year's subscription. (Scroll down on the "Get CS Live" page and click the Sign Up button.)

Perspective Drawing

Ever tried to draw something in perspective in earlier versions of Illustrator? I'll be the first to admit that it wasn't easy. Illustrator CS5 takes a big step forward with a comprehensive set of tools for adding perspective drawing to your artwork. This feature is composed of two tools found in the Tools panel: the Perspective Grid tool and the Perspective Selection tool (see Figure 1). These tools make it relatively easy to add content in perspective to your artboard.

Figure 1 The new Perspective Grid tool allows you to set up a grid so you can draw directly on planes in accurate 1-, 2-, or 3-point perspectives. The new Perspective Selection tool allows you to move, scale, duplicate, and transform those perspective objects dynamically on the grid.

Although each document can have only one perspective grid to create your artwork, you can use grid presets to manage the viewing angle and viewing distance for the scene, along with widgets to control vanishing points, horizon height, ground level, and the origin for your grid.

Illustrator allows you to create certain objects (such as shapes) in perspective, and to bring certain objects (such as symbols and text) into perspective. Together, the perspective tool set can bring your city scene into perspective.

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