Review of Adobe Illustrator CS

This is the second of the Adobe Creative Suite series that I am reviewing. In March of 2004, I reviewed PhotoshopCS. There are two Creative Suite (CS) that can be purchased as a package or each program can be purchased separately.

Premium edition
Standard edition
Adobe Photoshop CS
Adobe Illustrator CS
Adobe InDesign CS
Adobe GoLive CS
Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Professional
Version Cue file manager
Design Guide and training resources
Adobe PageMaker® Plug-in Pack

The US price for the Premium package is $1,229.00 and for the Standard package is $999.00. The upgrade price is $749.00 for the Premium and $549.00 for the Standard; however, see the Adobe website for the upgrade qualification parameters.

The Adobe store price for Illustrator CS is US $499.00 with the upgrade priced at $169.00.

The system requirements as copied from the Adobe website for Illustrator CS are:


Intel® Pentium® III or 4 processor
Microsoft® Windows® 2000 with Service Pack 3 or Windows XP® (Adobe applications on Windows XP with Service xxxxxxxxxPack 2)
192MB of RAM to run any one component (256MB recommended)
Additional RAM required to run multiple components simultaneously
Additional 128MB of RAM required to run Version Cue™ desktop server
2GB of available hard-disk space to install the entire suite*
1,024x768 monitor resolution with 16-bit or greater video card (24-bit screen display recommended)
CD-ROM drive
For Adobe® PostScript® printing: Adobe PostScript Level 2 or PostScript 3™
Internet or phone connection required for product activation
QuickTime 6.3 required for multimedia features

* Premium edition only; 1.4GB of available hard-disk space required for Standard edition. For Adobe InDesign® CS xxxxxxxPageMaker® Edition, additional 258MB of hard-disk space required for the PageMaker Plug-in Pack.


PowerPC® G3, G4, or G5 processor
Mac OS X v.10.2.4 through v.10.3 with Java Runtime Environment 1.4.1
192MB of RAM to run any one component (256MB recommended)
Additional RAM required to run multiple components simultaneously
Additional 128MB of RAM required to run Version Cue desktop server
2GB of available hard-disk space to install the entire suite**
1,024x768 monitor resolution with 16-bit or greater video card (24-bit screen display recommended)
CD-ROM drive
For Adobe PostScript printing: Adobe PostScript Level 2 or PostScript 3
Internet connection recommended
QuickTime 6.3 required for multimedia features

** Premium edition only; 1.4GB of available hard-disk space required for Standard edition. For Adobe InDesign CS xxxxxxxxPageMaker Edition, additional 237MB of hard-disk space required for the PageMaker Plug-in Pack.

Since the only other component of the Creative Suite I have reviewed is Photoshop CS, I will discuss Illustrator CS, its new features since Illustrator 10, how it works as a stand-alone program, and how it integrates with Photoshop CS. I will discuss it more from the perspective of an individual artists/illustrator than of a graphic designer team member. I must state that the last version of Illustrator I reviewed was Illustrator 9. It is hard to compare two versions of a program when one version has been skipped. However, I find that this version is much easier to use than Illustrator 9 and has, of course, many more extremely useful features especially since the concept of a suite has been promulgated. I use an AMD Dual Athlon as well as a Pentium 4 under Windows 2000.

Included with the Illustrator CS CD is a manual, goodies in the form of clip art and stock photos, and an hour plus in training video that is a part of a longer program that can be purchased and is put out by Total Training

There are many new features in Illustrator CS (since Illustrator 10) that I find exciting as well as tried and true features that have been upgraded or just plain work well. Four general areas that have been upgraded are Special Effects, Typography, Production, and Printing

Among the new tools in Illustrator CS is 3D Effects. Using 3D effects, I can, extrude, bevel, revolve, and rotate an object in real time.

At any time, by accessing the appearance menu, I can change the angle, lighting, perspective, etc. of the newly created 3D object by recalling the 3D Effects Menu. I, also, can change the object's shape by changing it directly in Illustrator through its nodes. See the tutorial I have written on creating a sphere in Illustrator CS using 3D Effects.

Appearance Menu
Changed Circle in Illustrator CS Window

Another use of 3D Effects is to produce animations. 3D Effects can be combined with the Blend tool to form these. This tutorial not only describes how to create an animation, but also how to create, store and use Symbols and the Symbol Library.

Libraries play an important roll in Illustrator CS I describe the Symbol Library in the tutorials; however, there are other libraries in Illustrator CS such as the Graphic Styles Library or Brush Library. Illustrator CS boasts a huge Brush Library with the ability to add brushes from other libraries as well as create them.

Graphic Styles Options

Another new effect is the Scribble Effect. This effect is found under the Effects Menu >Stylize>Scribble.

Girl Scribble Menu Scribbled Girl

On the drawing of the girl, I used different options for the features and hair than I did for the rest of the drawing.

The above are just a few of the new features that have been added to the artwork area. However, other creative tools include, the mesh tool for creating gradient meshes in an object and thereby changing how the colors blend, envelopes and live distortion tools such as warp, liquefy, etc. An example of the variations of similar output that can be created in Illustrator is a warping effect. One can warp with an Envelope by using the Envelope Distortion command or by just using the Effect command. In other words, one can select Effect>Warp>Flag to get the result in the middle box, or one can choose Object>Envelope Distort>Make with Warp>Flag. That result is in the right hand box and is different since it contains more editing nodes. Envelopes allow more freedom for editing and can be saved and used repeatedly.

AI Square
Effects Command
Envelope Distortion Command
Envelope Distortion Expand

Illustrator CS has added a lot of high powered typography tools and refined others including a newly designed text engine. One large edition is Increased OpenType fonts and support. Illustrator CS contains 100 OpenType fonts from 24 western-language OpenType font families as well as OpenType fonts in Eastern and other language groups. In brief, Open type fonts have two distinct purposes. They are cross platform friendly (Mac to PC and PC to Mac) and due to their construction, each OpenType font file can be highly modified since it is made up of numerous glyphs. Illustrator CS not only provides some of these fonts, but also commands for specific glyph substitutions. The picture below shows some of the glyphs for the Adobe Garamond Pro OpenType font.

Notice the squares in red and the changes in the enclosed texts below.

Since Photoshop does not internally support OpenType fonts, it is easy to incorporate them in Photoshop CS anyway. Simply create the typed passage in Illustrator CS and then drag it over to Photoshop CS. Since I always work with dual monitors, it is very easy to work with both programs simultaneously, one on each monitor, and then drag the text from Illustrator CS into Photoshop and then execute the Place command.

Text Created in Illustrator CS
Text Dragged to Photoshop CS

In addition, Illustrator CS has many more typographic controls such as Optical Kerning and Optical Margin Alignment to adjust automatically that sometimes inherent ugly spacing between characters. The red rectangle surrounds a Kerning Option.


There are other new features to insure text looks its best such as an Every-line Composer which examines all the text in an area to determine the best line breaks. Adobe InDesign CS and Photoshop CS has this ability as well.

Custom tabs such as those used in product price lists have always been time consuming to produce since all the dots had to be placed manually. With Custom Tab Leaders, this is no longer the case. You also do not have to use dots, but can use other characters in their place.

One aspect of vector graphic programs I use a lot is Text on a Path. This edition of Illustrator has beefed up this option.

The capabilities of PDF file formats as well as WBMP files have been expanded in Illustrator CS. WBMP graphics, for use on wireless devices, has been optimized and now can be exported. This file format option is available along with others when saving for the Web.

Illustrator CS also brings with it the compatibility with Acrobat 6. Working with Adobe PDF documents has been enhanced and PDF layers support has been included. As an example, documents can be created and saved as PDF's. In addition, PDF settings can be saved and documents saved compatible with Acrobat 4, 5, or 6. They can also be saved as layered. Since the Adobe PDF file format doesn't process transparency natively, Illustrator CS has added settings in the Flattener Preview window. These can be used as presets or controlled manually.

Flattener Preview Window

Lots and lots of Templates as well as Saving Setups as Templates has been included in Illustrator CS from website banners to Japanese business card creation. These should save a lot of time, especially in production work.

Business Set 1

Printing has been revamped in Illustrator CS. This new interface states Illustrator CS works with both desktop printers as well as high end printers although I do not have the capabilities of testing the latter equipment.

It took me a while to be able to print satisfactorily with my Epson 1280 so that the results were the same for Photoshop CS and the colors was correct. While it stated not to use your printer Setup Dialog Box, but instead set everything from the Print menu in Illustrator CS, I found I had to use a combination of the two even though I might have been sending two color management signals to the printer.

When I used a combination, I could duplicate my results in Photoshop CS which showed colors compatible to the monitor and accurate to a hard copy source (color swatches as well as scanned in images).

Illustrator CS has strengthened its integration with two major products, Photoshop CS (which is to be expected) and Microsoft Office.

Adobe states that in the text in both Illustrator CS and Photoshop CS can be more similarly edited because both programs share the same underlying text composition technology; also, multiple spot channels can be imported; and 16-bit color data from Photoshop, on import into Illustrator, can be changed to 8-bit. In addition, Photoshop PDF duotone and tritone can be linked and printed more accurately from Illustrator.

In Illustrator, files can be saved as Save for Microsoft Office. These AI files are saved in the PNG format.

I have been using Adobe Illustrator since version 7 except I skipped version 10. I found that Illustrator CS was the smoothest to use. Sometimes even when I like an upgrade to a program, I still continue using a previous version of it because it is more comfortable. This is one program where I will not. I have already switched to version CS and am so glad I did. I really like the changes made and the new features added to Illustrator CS.