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  • Price: £471.23 plus VAT . £188.81 plus VAT . £1,509 plus VAT . £2211.21

  • Company: Adobe

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

It’s two years since we last saw a significant release from Adobe and there has been much talk about what the new Illustrator CS6 package will offer in the way of updates and new features.

The new suite contains a number of new features and tools, the most noticeable of which from the off is the standard UI has the same dark background that debuted with Photoshop CS6 – though you can turn it back to lighter gray if you wish.

The interface overhaul is more than just a colour switch – it’s been polished, streamlined and inconsistencies ironed out. The new UI has a sleek, modern feel to it and with some newly designed menu icons, it appears to take influence from existing programs such as Cinema 4D­.

Compared to some of the other parts of CS6, Illustrator CS6 seems light on new creative features. The reason for this is that the development team has been giving it an overhaul under the hood, rewriting the code for 64-bit on both Mac OS X and Windows so you can access more than 2GB of RAM. It also taps what Adobe calls the Mercury Performance System, which it has stressed isn’t the same as the Mercury Graphics Engine used by Photoshop (as it’s not pushing previously-CPU-based tools to the GPU in the same way).

We’ve only just got our hands on the Gold Master of Illustrator CS6 – most of our testing was on the beta version – but our initial tests shows that with very complex documents with dense textures, Illustrator now flies

As for new tool features, the two most talked about and from what I can see, the main introductions from the Adobe team, are the Pattern Creation and Gradient on Stroke features.

The new Pattern Creation feature automates the process of creating seamless repeating patterns. The pattern design tools are accessed through a new menu item Object > Pattern > Make. This takes you into a new Pattern Creation mode, controlled by a new Pattern Options panel.

The Pattern Options panel allows you to choose from a number of tiling options as well as manual settings for the H and V grid spacing. The new feature also allows you to easily edit one shape, which will in turn edit the rest within the pattern.

Learn how to create seamless repeating patterns using Illustrator CS6's new tools in our step-by-step tutorial

The new Gradients on Strokes feature is also a welcome addition, offering the user the choice of three gradient on stroke options. Offering a gradient within stroke, gradient along stroke and gradient across stroke option, this is a helpful, timesaving feature for designers looking to add more depth to their illustrations.

Illustrator CS6 is part of the CS6 Design Standard, Design/Web Premium, Production Premium and the Master Collection – plus Creative Cloud.

CS6 Design Standard costs £1,032, or from £219 as an upgrade. CS6 Design/Web Premium or Production Premium costs £1,509, or from £298 as an upgrade. CS6 Master Collection costs £2,223, or from £397 as an upgrade.

Creative Cloud costs £38.11 per month with an annual contract. Current owners of CS3 or later suites or products can get this for £22.23 per month. On a month-by-month basis, Creative Cloud costs 57.17.

All prices exclude VAT.