Illustrator CS6

Illustrator CS6

Summary: 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.

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  • Simpler, bigger colour tools
    Drag the colour panel out of the dock and you can resize it to make it easier to pick the colour you want quickly. Use the menu to switch between colour modes, including full RGB and Web-safe RGB. If you know the hex value of the colour you want, you can type that in directly on the panel; alternatively you can mix the colour here and copy the hex value out to use in a web authoring tool. If you find it easier to pick from existing palettes of colours, there's a wide library of swatches — from natural colours based on vegetables to gradients designed to look like gems and jewels.

  • Fast image tracing
    If you want to start an illustration with a photograph, Illustrator has always been able to convert it to a vector version by 'tracing' the edges, but the results have generally been slow and of poor quality. The new Image Trace panel is both faster and more effective than Live Trace. Select a bitmap and use the range of preset tracing options to get quick results that make the photo look like a photo (even though it's now vector art), make it look like a sketch or a greyscale drawing and similar effects.

  • Advanced tracing options
    You can still go in and work with the full range of tracing options. You can drag the slider to control how many of the colours from the original image are reproduced, or click Advanced and choose how closely the validation paths fit the original shapes in the photo, how pronounced the angles of the curves are, whether paths overlap or not, whether to keep curved lines curved or straighten them and whether to simplify the image by ignoring very small shapes. This gives you fine control when you want something more stylised than photorealistic; click the eye icon next to the View drop-down to see the original photo for comparison.

Topics: Apps, Reviews, Software

Mary Branscombe

About Mary Branscombe

Mary Branscombe is a freelance tech journalist. Mary has been a technology writer for nearly two decades, covering everything from early versions of Windows and Office to the first smartphones, the arrival of the web and most things inbetween.

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