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Illustrator CS3: What’s New? Lots!

by Sara Froehlich

One of the most anticipated Adobe Illustrator upgrades ever is right around the corner…

box shotOne of the most anticipated Adobe Illustrator upgrades ever is right around the corner. Gone are Venus and the Illustrator flower icons, and in their place is a simple “Ai” icon denoting Illustrator’s default file format. The rest of the changes in Illustrator, however, are not simple, and features like better Flash integration and new Live Color, as well as lots of improvements in interface and efficiency, make this a must-have upgrade. Things that make you go “hmmm” they aren’t…these are things that make you go “Wow!”
The change in the icons from artistic to simplistic of the entire Adobe CS3 line of products is a portent of changes to the programs themselves. They are sporting new lean, mean, and clean interfaces, and Illustrator is no exception. With less area cluttered by palettes you have more room for what you use Illustrator for in the first place: drawing! What is surprising is with this new uncluttered workspace comes even more efficiency.

Illustrator has long been the industry standard in vector drawing software, and this new version keeps up the high standard Illustrator users are used to. Because it is so tightly integrated with other product’s in Adobe’s CS3 line, it’s easy to take advantage of new output options and create content destined for publishing across media. Get ready for seamless workflow, precision drawing tools, great typographic controls, Live effects and brushes that take you from print to video.

“Creative Suite 3 is the biggest launch in Adobe’s 25 year history and a milestone for the creative industry,” said Bruce Chizen, chief executive officer at Adobe. “This release reflects the powerful integration between Adobe and Macromedia and how our products bridge the gap between designers and developers. With new workflows that streamline collaboration and impact the development of rich content, designers and developers now have the creative license to engage audiences across virtually every medium.”Flash Integration

This is the biggest upgrade for Illustrator Adobe has ever made. Integration with Flash is better than ever. Copy and Paste and import to Flash are more reliable, with paths, correct anchor point positions, gradients, clipping masks, and even symbols. Not only that, your Illustrator grouping and layer structure is also preserved when you move to Flash!

New Interface

The entire CS3 suite has a more standardized user interface. Workspace panels that dock and group allow users to customize working spaces for different tasks. These can be as a preset and recalled later. With improved tool visibility and better performance, working is easier and more efficient. Panels can be collapsed and reduced to icon view are featured across the CS3 family of applications.

Live Color

Live Color is a total color environment that not only lets you choose colors for an object; it lets you apply colors to Live Paint groups, changing a whole color scheme at once. Experiment and explore colors by creating harmonious color schemes based on 23 color-harmony rules such as Complementary, Monochromatic, Analogous and more. Choose a base color, and then choose rules to see the combinations. Limit color schemes to existing libraries like PANTONE solids or any set of colors you have saved in another project. Find a color scheme you like? You can now save not only individual colors in the swatches but entire color groups as well to use over and over again.

color cs3


The Live Color dialog box lets you preview changes in your illustration live, letting you shift the entire tone of the image at once. Just as easily you can adjust one single color. If you reduce the number of colors in your artwork, Illustrator automatically remaps the color to your objects based on your defined parameters.

With the color wheel and color harmonies users can explore endless varieties of color no matter what media in which your artwork is destined to be published.


Layers Palette

Small stripes of color now show the colors of the layer’s selection edges. You don’t even have to click to see it–you’ll see it at a glance.


Selecting Points has never been easier

New drawing tools and controls promise to make Illustrator not only easier to use but more efficient. One of the biggest complaints I have had over the years in Illustrator is selecting individual points. As I age, so do my eyes, and the small points are difficult to see and to grab. In Illustrator CS3 that has changed! Using the Direct Selection Tool run your cursor over any point and it will enlarge so you can select it. Even without any objects selected the cursor will show a larger square whenever it detects a point. You now have choices in selection tolerance and anchor display too; check out the new settings in the preferences dialog.


Path Editing

As soon as you use the Direct Selection tool to select any point, all of the path editing tools are now displayed in the Control panel for fast access. You can delete or add points and cut or join paths without going to the object menu. One click hides or shows handles or converts anchors from smooth to corner or vice versa.


Point Alignment

Use the Direct Selection tool to select two or more points and the Control panel will display the same alignment buttons you see for objects. Points can be aligned to the artboard or to a crop area.


Multi-Threading Advances

Work faster than ever. Speeds have been increased for scrolling and zooming, and you will see faster refresh rates and greater responsiveness even when working on complex illustrations. Computers with multiple CPUs will even greater performance improvements.

Control Panel

The Control panel has added functionality, putting more tools and settings within easy reach. Because the Control panel is context sensitive, it displays the options that are the most fitting for the current selection. Settings that were previously only accessible from menus or palettes like anchor point controls, clipping masks, and envelope distortions and more are all accessed right in the Control panel. Clutter is reduces and you work more efficiently.


Eraser Tool

Illustrator CS3’s new Eraser tool make modifying objects intuitive. Remove areas of an illustration in Illustrator just as easily as you erase pixels in Photoshop. As you drag the Eraser tool the object reshapes and new points are laid down preserving the integrity of the curve without adding unnecessary points.

The Eraser tool lets you set diameter, angle, and roundness, and even takes advantage of Wacom Tablet settings like tilt. Isolation mode lets you segregate grouped objects for editing. This works not only on regular object groups but on Live Paint groups or symbols as well. The Eraser tool can be used on the group of objects without altering the rest of the illustration.


Document Profiles

You’ve always been able to select various document profiles but Illustrator CS3 takes it a step farther adding new profiles for the new way designers work, with new profiles for illustrations destined for video, the web, and film as well as print.


Crop Area Tool

Use the Crop Area tool and pull open any size rectangle to crop. The Control panel even lets you enter a specific size and position, or select from preset sizes that fit the output medium you need. It also lets you view or hide areas and delete cropped areas.

Isolation Mode

With new Isolation Mode designers can easily work on what they need to work on and protect the rest, and provides a quick way to select and protect without hiding or restacking layers, grouping, and locking objects.


Illustrator users since version 10 have enjoyed the convenience of symbols. Now they are more versatile than ever with better Flash integration and options to define a symbol as a movie clip or graphic symbol, assigning the symbol a Flash registration location and enabling guides for 9-slice scaling. Similar interface elements to the ones in Flash will also facilitate working back and forth between the programs.


Availability and Pricing

Adobe Illustrator is available standalone or as a component in these Suites:

Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium
Adobe Creative Suite Design Standard
Adobe Creative Suite Web Premium
Adobe Creative Suite Production Premium
Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection

In the United States and Canada, Adobe Illustrator CS3 for Mac OS X on Intel®-based or PowerPC®-based systems and for Microsoft® Windows® XP and Windows Vista™ is expected to ship in the second quarter of 2007. Adobe Illustrator CS3 will be available in North America starting in Q2 2007 for an estimated street price of US$599, directly from Adobe or through Adobe Authorized Resellers. To order directly from Adobe, visit the Adobe Store at, or call 1-888-724-4507. Licensed owners of Illustrator CS2, Illustrator CS, or Illustrator 10.x can upgrade to Adobe Illustrator CS3 for US$199. Licensed owners of Illustrator CS2, Illustrator CS, or Illustrator 10.x are also eligible for special upgrade pricing to certain edition of Adobe Creative Suite 3. A complete description of upgrade eligibility and pricing is available in the Pricing Overview document. Estimated street prices do not include taxes, shipping, handling, or other related expenses. Information on pricing and support policies outside of North America and for Education customers will be available separately. Different pricing may apply for Education customers and in other geographical regions.


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©2005-2008 Sara Froehlich