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Adobe CS5 Web Premium Part One: Illustrator and Photoshop

Our three-part review kicks off with two elder statesmen By Kevin Schmitt

Adobe CS5 is finally shipping, so over the next few weeks we'll looking at the major programs which comprise the Web Premium package, starting off with the old stalwarts of the group. Now, it's somewhat hard to believe that 2010 marks Photoshop's 20th anniversary, with Illustrator having been around for a few years even before that, but here we are. Both products have certainly seen a lot of design trends and operating systems come and go in their time, but lest I take a long, nostalgic detour down software memory lane, let's simply get to the latest and greatest.

A disclaimer before we begin

As the title of this piece may have oh-so-subtly suggested, the reviews of Photoshop and Illustrator presented forthwith are intended to be part of a larger collection of articles covering the CS5 Web Premium suite. With that as the stated case, please keep in mind that I'm going to be writing with an eye towards the professional Web and interactive designer, and as such, features geared towards other disciplines may get short (or no) shrift. Caveat lector.

Illustrator CS5: long-awaited and useful new features

Put simply, were it a person, we could say that Illustrator has been in existence almost long enough to rent a car. That's a long time. In fact, if Adobe still used version numbers in the product branding, we'd be talking about Illustrator 15.0. Now, I didn't join the party until version 5, but that still gives me a good decade-and-a-half of history with Illustrator as my go-to vector program of choice, and it's been a while since I've been able to say that a version of Illustrator isn't just along for the ride. Illustrator CS5 packs in some really nice features, which we'll start covering right now.


Four in the "awesome" category

As I alluded to already, it's been quite some time since any new feature in Illustrator made me say, "awesome," but this time around there are four such additions (which I'll get to in order of awesomeness, which is my soon-to-be-patented ranking system that will no doubt spawn countless imitators). First up is the addition of variable width strokes, the implementation of which couldn't be simpler. Just create a stroked path as usual, grab the new Width tool, and drag along an anchor (fig. 1, left). That's it. It takes just seconds, and the results are really nice (fig. 1, right).

Figure 1

But that's not where the stroke awesomeness ends. The Stroke panel has been revamped, overhauling how dashed lines work as well as adding arrowheads directly into the main Stroke panel (fig. 2).

Figure 2

As for the dashed lines, a simple box toggles you between the old style dashes (fig. 3, left), and the new and improved model, which aligns dashes to corners and path ends (fig. 3, right).

Figure 3

Awesome number two comes in the form of the Shape Builder tool, which is intended to supplement the oft-misunderstood Pathfinder panel. Instead of selecting two paths and then randomly clicking buttons in the Pathfinder panel, you can now simply grab the Shape Builder tool, and through a combination of dragging and/or modifier keys (fig. 4), do many of the same things the Pathfinder panel affords but with less confusion. It takes a bit of getting used to, but is a huge timesaver once you do.

Figure 4

The third entry in the awesome category is reserved for the new vanishing point tools. Again, we're in "you have to get used to it" territory, but it sure beats how this sort of thing was done until now. Just select a 1-, 2-, or 3-point perspective view from the View menu, and up pops a grid that you can manipulate using the the new Perspective Grid tool (fig. 5). You can then use the (also new) perspective selection tool to take flat objects, drag them to a plane inside the grid (fig. 6), and the perspective adjusts automatically. It's pretty simple when you get down to it, and once you conquer the fairly flat learning curve, amazing things are possible, as Figure 7 hopefully shows.

Figure 5

Figure 6

Figure 7

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  • Adobe CS5 Web Premium Part One: Illustrator and Photoshop by DMN Editorial at May 05, 2010 2:22 pm gmt

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