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The new features in Illustrator CS6 concentrate on making the program faster, better organised and easier to work with. Tracing and creating patterns, in particular, get big improvements.
Illustrator is in three CS6 suites — Design/Web Premium (£1,509 ex. VAT; upgrade from £298), Production Premium (£1,509 ex. VAT; upgrade from £298) and Master Collection (£2,223 ex. VAT; upgrade from £397). On its own, Illustrator CS6 costs £476 (ex. VAT; upgrade from £190). Illustrator CS6 is also available via a Creative Cloud subscription (£38.11 ex. VAT per month on an annual contract).
64-bit and GPU-accelerated performance
With a venerable program like Illustrator that already has a significant range of features, adding new tools isn't always the most important thing. In Illustrator CS6, Adobe has concentrated on improving performance with a 64-bit version of the application (important for dealing with large files that can have thousands of objects and layers). Even on older systems, the Mercury performance engine should speed up complex files, especially when you preview effects. This image has a large number of objects — the hair alone is made up of ten layers. Changing colour fills and blurring the effects isn't real time on an older PC like a first-generation Core i5, but it's fast enough for you to experiment until you get the effect you want.
Screenshots: Mary Branscombe/ZDNet UK
The other main area of improvement is the interface, from the overall look to customisation options. Acknowledging that Illustrator is used with both image editing in Photoshop and video work in After Effects and Premiere Pro, the interface is similar enough not to be jarring next to either of them. You can even change the interface colours, picking from the same four shades of grey and black as Photoshop CS6 or using the same custom slider to get the same brightness as After Effects. And if you want a white canvas you can now set that, whatever shade you chose for the interface.