Category: Illustrator

VectorScribe takes vector path and shape editing to new levels

Astute GraphicsPlease join me in welcoming The Graphic Mac’s latest site sponsor, Astute Graphics. The first time I heard of Astute Graphics was back in 2008 when I reviewed Phantasm CS, a new plugin suite for Adobe Illustrator. In that review, I called Phantasm CS “the most useful plugin set I’ve ever come across for any version of Adobe Illustrator.”

Today I want to introduce you to VectorScribe, the latest plugin from Astute Graphics. VectorScribe allows you to quickly and easily create and manipulate vector paths in Adobe Illustrator CS3 to CS5 through the use of several new tools and panels.

VectorScribe by Astute Graphics

VectorScribe makes complex path operations easy

Because there are two versions of VectorScribe, Designer and Studio, and the tools are so incredibly powerful and in-depth, I’m just going to briefly overview them here. But before I do, let me just say that if you’re the type of Illustrator user who only opens AI once or twice per month to quickly edit an existing logo, VectorScribe probably isn’t for you. But if you spend a good amount of time in Illustrator, working as a logo designer, architect, illustrator, or cartographer, then you’ll definitely enjoy this plugin! (more…)

Two ways to master Adobe Illustrator’s text Tabs panel

Illustrator's Snap to Units tab feature

Illustrator's Snap to Units tab feature makes it easy to set precise tabs

Adobe Illustrator’s Tab panel offers a little-known feature that helps you set tabs at specific measurement units on the ruler called Snap to Unit. It’s particularly helpful if you want to set several tabs at exactly the same increments.

To use it, simply select your tabbed text and open the Tabs panel (Command + Shift + T). If the Tab panel isn’t located right above your text, simply click the little magnet icon in the panel to line it up. Now choose Snap to Unit under the flyout menu in the Tab panel. Now when you click in the ruler to set your tabs, the tab stops will automatically jump to the nearest tick mark on the ruler as you drag the tab stops around.

If you’re like me and you don’t want to go through the hassle of using the menu, you can simply hold the Shift key down while dragging your tab stops around on the ruler.

Tutorial: Enhance your vector image with Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop enhanced vector art

Enhancing vector art in Photoshop takes your image to the next level

The greatest value in any tutorial you come across on the web is not the actual image you create following the tutorial, but being exposed to the techniques used to create them.

Vector art ready for enhancementVectorTuts has a great tutorial on enhancing your vector art with Photoshop. The image to the right is a piece of vector art created in Adobe Illustrator. It’s flat and boring, and you could use many filters and techniques to enhance it in Illustrator, but exporting the vector file as a layered Photoshop file offers you the opportunity to learn some really useful techniques. The end result can be seen in the image at the top of this post.

As with any tutorial, I encourage you to play with the settings illustrated in the tutorial to suit your taste. The tut makes heavy use of layer effects and gradients. While the tutorial is what I would call intermediate level, it will probably take you about a half an hour to go through.

Aligning multiple objects in Adobe Illustrator

When you want to align multiple objects in your Adobe Illustrator document, there’s no need for dragging guides out and moving objects manually. Here’s a much easier way to align and distribute your objects easily.

Align Illustrator objects

Aligning multiple objects in Adobe Illustrator is easy

Select the objects you wish to align, then click on the object you wish to use as your “key” object that you want to serve as the base object to align the others with (this can be an object or a guide). As seen in part 1 of the image above, you’ll notice that the key object has a thicker selection line around it.

Now open the align panel, and choose how you wish to align the objects. In the case of part 2 above, you can see I’ve chosen to align them vertically by the center of the objects. Click the align icon. As you see above, the objects are aligned at their center points.

Now we’ll distribute the objects evenly between the top and bottom objects using the top of each object as the key points. Keeping all three objects selected, simply click the desired alignment icon. As you see in part 3 above, the objects get evenly distributed.

Note: The same technique can be used in Adobe InDesign and Photoshop.

Create eye-catching charts and graphs with this Adobe Illustrator tutorial

Charts and graphs are still the foundation of most great looking infographics, and Adobe Illustrator is still the premiere application for creates to design them in.

3D graphs and charts in Illustrator

Tutorial9 shows you how to create stunning 3D graphs and charts in Illustrator

Tutorial9 has a fantastic tutorial that shows you how to create stunning 3D graphs and charts in Illustrator. Be sure to check out all the other tutorials and free resources available at Tutorial9.

Adobe finally fixes Creative Suite installers

When I installed Adobe Creative Suite 5 Master Collection this past week, the very first thing I noticed was that the installer has been greatly improved over the disasterous installers used in previous Creative Suite versions. Now let me qualify that by saying they still aren’t perfect, but I think most users will agree that they’re well on their way to being what they should have been all along. Simple.

First of all, they actually look like they belong on a Mac. In the past, they screamed of being a Windows port at best. Buttons looked out of place, and the overall layout of the installer options seemed convoluted and overly difficult.

Adobe CS5 Master Collection

Adobe's Creative Suite 5 GREATLY improves the installer application

Furthermore, the install process itself took an obnoxious amount of time to install the apps – and you were likely to end up with an incomplete install if you managed to get around the “Quit all your apps before we proceed warning message.”

CS5 InstallThe new version offers a simple list of icons you can choose to install on the left. On the right, you’re shown components included with the installation of each app you have chosen. You can choose to not install those “optional” components if you wish, but you’ll likely have to do it more than once if you’ve purchased the Design, Web, Production or Master collection. For instance, Adobe AIR is part of the install for more than one app, so turning off the install for one app will simply result in it being installed with another one. To be honest, I don’t think you have any choice in the matter, you WILL have AIR installed.

Another app you’ll have no choice in installing is Adobe Bridge. There’s no way to choose to not install it. That being said, the speed increase and integration with other Creative Suite apps is worth installing it anyway.

Finally, the speed with which the individual applications get installed has been greatly improved. Installing the CS4 Design Premium edition took nearly 7 weeks (or so it seemed). Installing the entire CS5 Master Collection took just over 35 minutes. That’s nearly twice as many apps in significantly less time. And you’re no longer forced to quit your web browser while installation is taking place. Nice!

A better way to get rounded-corner rectangles in Adobe Illustrator

Adobe IllustratorIt’s so easy when you want to create a rectangle with rounded corners in Adobe Illustrator to just click that Rounded Rectangle tool icon in the Tools panel and just click & drag. The problem is, you have no control over those corners once your rectangle is created.

Sure, you could select the Rounded Rectangle tool icon and Option + click to bring up a dialog box allowing you to specify the radius of the corners. But again, once the rectangle is dragged out, that’s it. There’s no going back and changing that radius later, and attempts to resize the rectangle later on actually resizes or stretches the rounded corners.

Illustrator's rounded rectangle tool

Illustrator's rounded rectangle tool isn't the best way to create rounded corners

If you want to keep full control over those rounded corners of your rectangle, use the normal squared-edge Rectangle tool icon in the Tools panel. Once your rectangle is dragged out on the page, go to Effect>Stylize>Round Corners… in the menubar.

In the dialog box that appears, you can specify a custom corner radius amount. And here’s the great part. This is an effect applied to the rectangle, not the actual rectangle path.

Illustrator's rounded corner effect

Illustrator's Rounded Corner Effect offers more flexibility with rounded corners

So now when you stretch that original three inch wide rectangle to nine inches wide, the corner radius doesn’t stretch with it, it stays exactly at the amount you specified. As an added bonus, you can go back later and change that radius amount if you wish via a quick visit to the Appearance panel.

Aligning objects with guides in Adobe Illustrator

Adobe IllustratorBack in November 2009, I told you how to align two objects in Adobe Illustrator, with one of the objects being the “key” objects. I was reminded this past week that this often overlooked and handy trick also works with guides.

Essentially, you do the same thing, only you select a guide as your second object instead of another shape. So if you want to align objects to a particular guide on your page, just select all the objects as well as the guide, then click the guide one extra time to highlight it (making it the “key” object) and click the appropriate icon in the Alignment panel.

Easily select similar objects in Illustrator

If you work with complicated artwork in Adobe Illustrator, you’ve no doubt come across the task of having to select many objects that contain similar attributes, such as same color fill or stroke, Appearance attributes, etc. Thankfully, Illustrator has a few tools that can make your job much easier. If you select an object and visit the Select>Same menubar item, you’ll find several methods to accomplish your goal.

Select similar objects in Adobe Illustrator

Select similar objects in Adobe Illustrator

As you can see in the screenshot above, you have a wide variety of choices to make selecting similar objects easy.