Adobe CS6 Design Standard review

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Illustrator CS6

Next up is Illustrator’s overhaul. To start there’s a rationalisation of the toolbox and panels, plus a darker, more modern interface (you can adjust the brightness). More importantly, Illustrator CS6 benefits from native 64-bit support and the same GPU-based Mercury Performance System as Photoshop. By taking advantage of all available RAM and offloading work to the GPU, responsiveness is better – especially when working with large complex files.

Adobe Illustrator CS6

Illustrator’s bitmap tracing capabilities have been reworked. The former Live Trace system offered real power but was hidden away and underappreciated. Now the tracing engine has been updated, and everything is managed more efficiently through a new Image Trace panel.

New creative power comes with the ability to apply gradients to strokes. This might sound of only occasional interest – say, for producing rainbow effects – but you can apply gradients within and along strokes, which proves more useful. In particular, by using gradients to subtly change colours and opacity along the stroke and combining this with the existing ability to vary width, you can produce advanced photo-realistic drawings with only a few lines.

The real highlight of Illustrator CS6 is its new pattern handling capabilities. Select your starting objects and hit the Make Pattern command, and they open into a dedicated tiling environment. Using the Pattern Options panel, you can then select from different pattern types and control the tiling boundary. The result is a seamlessly tiling swatch that can be applied as a fill and creatively blended to create the richest possible formatting.

Adobe Illustrator CS6

Illustrator often seems like Photoshop’s forgotten cousin but, as its new pattern capabilities demonstrate, there are many graphic jobs that are far more efficiently handled via vectors. After 25 years, Illustrator is still going surprisingly strong.

With big upgrades to the three main applications, Design Standard comes away from the CS6 overhaul very well. It remains a strong suite.

Click here to return to the full Adobe Creative Suite 6 review.


Software subcategoryGraphics/design software

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