Adobe Illustrator CS5 review

Price when reviewed

First launched in 1988, Adobe Illustrator has an even longer pedigree than Photoshop. And for much of this time its creative capabilities have been effectively circumscribed by PostScript, Adobe’s page-description language.

Illustrator CS5 is still defined by PostScript – it has to be in order to enable high-resolution, fully scalable vector output – but Adobe does what it can to push the envelope. This time, it kicks off with better control over arrowheads and dashed lines.

The big change is that Illustrator CS5 adds a Width tool, allowing you to drag out from multiple points along a path to interactively vary its width. This neatly sidesteps one of the big limitations of PostScript: that paths can be stroked only at a uniform width.

Adobe Illustrator CS5 paths and brushes

For more expressive strokes, Illustrator CS5 also enhances the handling of brushes by providing control over how shapes are stretched along a path and how tight corners are handled. It also introduces the Bristle Brush. By managing factors such as shape, density, stiffness and paint opacity, this produces strokes that look uncannily like they were created with an artist’s paintbrush. It’s an extraordinary achievement within a vector environment.

As well as stroking open paths, PostScript lets you fill closed shapes. Often, the best way to create exactly the shape you want is to combine existing objects, and to help with this Illustrator CS5 adds a dedicated ShapeBuilder tool. It isn’t intuitive, however, and most users will stick with an occasional visit to the Pathfinder panel.

A more successful attempt to give existing power a creative twist is the introduction of Drawing modes. The first, Draw Behind, forces all drawing to appear behind the current selection, while the second, Draw Inside, hides any drawing outside the current selection. Both effects were previously achievable through re-ordering or clipping masks, but this new approach feels more creatively flowing.

Illustrator’s longest-standing PostScript/EPS-inspired limitation was its restriction to single pages. This was finally lifted in Illustrator CS4 through the introduction of multiple artboards, but the way in which these were created and managed was bizarre. CS5 introduces more familiar page-style handling via an Artboards panel, where you can quickly create blank artboards and re-order existing ones (although without previews). You can also export individual artboards as AI files and paste objects across all artboards.


Software subcategoryGraphics/design software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported?yes
Operating system Windows XP supported?yes

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

Todays Highlights
How to See Google Search History
how to download photos from google photos