Adobe Illustrator CS4 review

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

  • Price When Reviewed: 485 . 139 . 895 . 1249

  • Pros: Great workflow improvements; Blob brush adds intuitive painting options; gradients support transparency; vastly enhanced appearance panel.

  • Cons: No upgrade to graph-making tools; most live effects are still as they were in the first version of CS.

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The latest version of Illustrator adds a feature that users have wanted for years: multiple artboards. This isn’t the only trick up Adobe’s sleeve, but in many ways it’s the most profound.

Up to 100 different artboards can be included in a document, each with unique proportions and bleed settings. The improvement that this makes to workflow can’t be overstated.

To support this new feature, there’s a new Artboard tool, allowing quick adjustment of size and arrangement. It works smoothly, and just as you’d expect. The active artboard is used for the output for Web and exporting (as crop areas did before), but it’s also possible to create a multi-page PDF using several or all artboards.

There’s a wealth of other workflow improvements here. The Appearance panel, originally introduced in version 9, has been vastly improved. Direct support for adding effects, fills and strokes is now handily located in the Appearance panel – including all attributes.

So, for example, you no longer need to highlight the stroke you want to target, then navigate to the Stroke panel to set the width or colour – it’s all available within the Appearance panel. Layer-style eyeballs let you quickly show and hide specific appearance attributes.

Isolation Mode has been vastly extended and improved. You can now double-click on any path to enter isolation mode and only affect that path; previously Isolation Mode (a CS3 innovation) only applied to groups. This offers huge benefits: no more locking and unlocking, hiding and revealing paths or re-ordering stacks to get to the object you want to edit.

Clipping masks have also been re-engineered to prevent editing outside the clipping mask area. Previously, every clipping mask had to be locked to prevent it from being selected when clicking where the clipped artwork fell.

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