Best Buy
  • Price: 435 . 139 . 705 . 895

  • Company: Adobe

  • Pros: Live Trace makes vectorizing bitmap images and sketches a breeze, while the Live Paint takes the headache out of creating a breeze, while the Live Paint takes the headache out of creating complex artwork.

  • Cons: Still awash with floating palettes though the new Options bar reduces the need for many tool-related palettes such as Type.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10 We rate this 9 out of 10

Whether you love or hate it, Illustrator has always been the standard in vector graphics, especially when it comes to the intricacies of accurate colour reproduction and print control.

Illustrator has always had a more technical feel to it – it’s certainly less organic in use than its bitmap brother Photoshop, though that’s partly to do with the difference between bitmaps and vectors. However, the interface, as well as some of the tools in CS 2, have been improved in a way that makes working with vector images a freer and more creative process.

The first thing you’ll notice is that Illustrator now sports an Options palette along with the other applications in the suite. This spans the top of the interface directly below the main menu. Just like in Photoshop the Options palette displays options for the currently active tool. It can be torn off and floated or docked to the bottom of the screen, though it can’t be resized to a standard-shaped palette and docked with the others.

This is probably a good thing, because one of the problems with Illustrator is the number of palettes it has. In CS 2 though, Adobe has provided a way of organizing the workspace through saved palette configurations retrievable from the Windows>Workspace menu. You can save your own palette layouts and call them up depending on the task at hand.

Without a trace

One of the most impressive new features is Live Trace. The previous tracing tool was pretty hopeless, but the new version is superb. It’s very fast, vectorizing bitmap images in seconds, but the level of control it offers is most impressive. Once called in to service on an imported bitmap, the traced version remains live, even if the file is saved and reopened.

 border=0 />Live tracing means you can edit the tracing parameters at any time to change the result of the vectorization. There are a number of presets that you can select depending on the type of tracing result you want. If you are tracing a full-colour photo then you can choose Photo Low Fidelity or Photo High Fidelity for instance. For pencil sketches you can choose Hand Drawn Sketch to have Live Trace produce a clean vector version of your scruffy pencil rendering – great for quickly utilizing that flash of inspiration you scribbled on the back of a napkin in the pub at lunchtime. Other options include Grayscale, Comic Art, Technical Illustration and Black and White Logo. There’s a detailed options dialog that you can open to create custom tracing settings where you can adjust pre-blurring, and resizing of the image prior to tracing and then save your settings as a new preset.
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