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July 20
Virtual Mirror Introduces Vector Studio
Macworld debut for cross-platform Adobe Illustrator plugins

By Tim Wilson
Man About Town™
[email protected]

Macworld marks the debut of Virtual Mirror's Vector Studio, a suite of plugins for Adobe Illustrator. Compatible with versions 8 and 9 of Illustrator, Vector Studio is available for both Macintosh and Windows.

I spoke with Michael Perani, Virtual Mirror's Vice President of Product Development about what he was hoping to accomplish with Vector Studio. "All of us at Virtual Mirror are artists," he said, "so naturally our product development flows directly from the kinds of tasks we want to do better.

"That tends to go in two directions at once. Some tasks, like the creation of gradients or making selections, we wanted to make faster and easier. Others, like morphing and texture creation, we wanted to make more powerful, even add features that are missing from the core of Illustrator's core tools.

"We tried to summarize both directions in the slogan for Vector Studio, which is: 'For the jobs you do everyday, and drawings you've never been able to make before.'

"Our goal with our Illustrator plugins has been to recapture the vitality and gestural quality of hand-drawn illustrations," Perani said. "Vector Studio goes a long way towards achieving that goal."

Following a demonstration by Virtual Mirror's Yong Kil, I have to agree. I'll go even further and say that these six plugins reflect an artist's sensibilities in their elegance and are a delight to use. Look for a full review of Vector Studio very soon, but for now I'd like to introduce some of its features.

Envelope Mesh
Envelope Mesh is the most powerful enveloping tool available in any vector drawing environment. Envelope Mesh allows users to create and edit shape shifting objects based on the familiar and easy to use tools of Adobe Illustrators Gradient Mesh. Envelope Mesh comes packaged with over eighty presets and allows users to save and recall their own envelope libraries.
Morph Brushes
Morph Brushes is truly a product within a product, offering illustrators seven new and simple shape editing tools that go well beyond the capabilities of typical point editors. It offers a collection of seven brushes that allow you to "paint" detail and distortions to vector outlines. Morph Brushes lets you perform shape edits, without ever having to touch a control handle, simply by dragging the mouse! The Morph tools lineup includes: Swirl Brush, Sculpt Brush, Inhale Brush, Exhale Brush, Scallop Brush, Crystallize Brush and Wrinkle Brush.
Selection Hat
Name and save selections, and recall them when you need to. The named selections created with Selection Hat are saved with your document, so you can set up complicated selections once and for all! Gone are the days of carefully selecting a collection of shapes or control points, only to lose the selection when the user must work on something else. Selection Hat lets users name and save selections and recall them when they need to. Selection Hat also comes packaged with 10 artboard navigation utilities for getting around complicated illustrations and getting the most out of Adobe Illustrator 9.0's new transparency feature.
Gradient Factory
Gradient Factory is to gradients as a color picker is to colors. Gradient Factory allows users to specify color shifts in a variety of color spaces and methods for automatically inserting color stops. Gradient Factory creates a collection of gradients based on the users specifications in a floating palette. These gradients, regardless of their complexity, can be applied to an object with a single mouse click.
Gradient Texture
Gradient Textures exhibit the subtle shading characteristics of image-based texturing techniques but are fully resolution-independent. Users can create their designs at a rapid 72 DPI and get the same results when they go out to print at 300 DPI. Gradient Textures ships with 170 preset textures and can simulate the shading and dispersion characteristics of traditional watercolors, as well as a broad range of organic-looking textures.
GlassWorks objects behave like glass lenses as they apply texturing operations to the artwork that lies behind them. It allows users to create lenses that texture areas of a design that lie underneath them with Adobe Photoshop filters. The lenses are live and respond to all the shape editing controls of Illustrator and automatically recreate their textures whenever an underlying object is modified

Vector Studio is now shipping, with a suggested list price of $129. Several of the component products are available individually at $79 for Morph Brushes, $39 for Envelope Mesh, $59 for Grrradient! and $39 for Selection Hat. The Morph Brushes stand-alone product includes all seven morph brushes. Grrradient! includes the Gradient Factory and Gradient Textures plugins For more information, visit http://www.virtualmirror.com.

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