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Illustrator CS 2

The changes that Adobe makes to Illustrator have always been more exciting to me than new features added to Photoshop, and Illustrator CS 2 is no exception. Live Paint and Live Trace alone are worth the upgrade. Once again, some of the tools have some maturing to do, but they're a good indication of things to come and are already a huge improvement on past versions.

Live Paint and Live Trace

These two new additions are my favorites. In the past, you had to use Illustrator's Auto Trace tool and click inside or outside of a shape in an image to create a vector copy of it, one piece at a time. Rather tedious and hit and miss, to say the least. With Live Trace, Illustrator now allows you to select an entire image and create a "vectorized" version of it, based on several presets or your own custom settings. Obviously, line art looks better than complex photos, but Illustrator handles photos with better results than many other competing products. Vectorizing scanned line art is a snap with Live Trace.

I created a quick line drawing, scanned it, and placed it in Illustrator. With the drawing selected, I chose Default from the fly-out menu next to the Live Trace button at the top of the Illustrator dialog box (the Comic Art setting also worked quite well) and then clicked the button to achieve the results shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9

Figure 9 Live Trace.

After I was happy with my traced image, I clicked the Live Paint button, changing the entire tracing into a Live Paint group. I then selected the Live Paint Selection Tool in the toolbox. With this tool selected, "paintable regions" show a red outline around them as the mouse cursor moves over different areas of the Live Paint group, as shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10

Figure 10 Live Paint regions.

With the Live Paint Selection Tool selected, you can click in an area you want to fill and then select a paint swatch from the Swatches palette to fill that area. You can use solid colors, gradients, and even patterns as fills. You can see the finished drawing in Figure 11.

Figure 11

Figure 11 Live Paint results.

Unfortunately, Live Paint also has a few quirks. When converting drawings created using the Paintbrush tool into Live Paint objects, Brushes, live effects, and transparency are lost. You can get around this problem by copying your brush strokes to a new layer above the original, hiding them, and then painting the object and unhiding the brush strokes. This small shortcoming aside, Live Paint and Live Trace are my choice for best new tools in Illustrator CS 2.

Underline Text

This is a feature that has been a long time coming for Illustrator, but it's one of those little things that makes life so much easier. Until now, there were only two options: creating an underline by hand and resizing it every time you changed your text, or purchasing a $25 plug-in just to get underlined text. Granted, the plug-in, which can be accessed at the Proper Code website, has some nicer features, at least now you have a choice. You can also strike through text, which is another bonus. Hopefully Adobe will take a cue from Proper Code and include more features in the future, such as different colored underlines, underlining text only (not spaces), and skipping letters with tails (such as "j", "g" and "y"). It would also be nice if Illustrator applied strokes to the underlines and not just the text, as shown in Figure 12.

Figure 12

Figure 12 Using Underline in Illustrator.

Control Palette

Another favorite, this feature showed up in Photoshop CS and is now available in Illustrator CS 2. The Control Palette offers tool-specific settings that change based on which tool you have active (see Figure 13). For example, if you're working with text, you'll be able to access stroke and fill settings, change fonts, and set paragraphs to be left-, center- or right-justified. If you're working with the Ellipse or Rectangle tools, you can choose stroke, fill, brush type, and graphic style settings. You can probably see the workflow improvements and speed increases the Control Palette will provide you.

Figure 13

Figure 13 Control Palette.

And the Rest

As with Photoshop CS 2, Illustrator CS 2 offers many other new and improved features and tools. Here are just a few of them:

  • Illustrator now supports Photoshop's Layer Comps.
  • You can now save custom workspaces with different palettes showing or hidden, positioning them wherever you want. Illustrator will remember those settings.
  • You can control the positioning of a stroke along a path by choosing whether it's centered, inside, or outside the path.
  • There is improved Wacom graphics tablet support.
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