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First Look: Adobe Illustrator CS2

Vector graphics app gains 'Live Tracing,' 'Live Paint' and live Photoshop effects By Dave Nagel
Adobe has announced the new Creative Suite 2, and with it, major new versions of each of the core applications in the suite, including Illustrator CS2. The new version of Illustrator includes a wide variety of improvements and new features on the creative side and in the workflow--from live tracing of raster objects to expanded support for Flash export.

Now, the new version of Adobe Illustrator is nowhere near as far-reaching in new features as the new version of Photoshop. Where Photoshop CS2 has probably a dozen new features that I'd consider truly major, Illustrator CS2 offers maybe two or three. But it also offers half a dozen or so workflow improvements that, while not major, are certainly important ones.

Live Trace
Of all the new features in Illustrator CS2, I'd have to say that the Live Trace feature is probably the most major--not just because it's the most flashy, but because it's a category in which Illustrator has been lagging behind other vector illustration programs for some time. Live Trace lets you take any raster image and convert it into vectors. As with similar features in other programs, Illustrator's Live Trace feature lets you adjust a variety of parameters for the vector conversion, ranging from the number of max colors to path fitting and stroke weight.

It's a feature that's really designed for converting scans of line art (sketches) to vectors for further manipulation, though it can also be used to convert photographic images as well.

Where Live Trace surpasses similar capabilities in other programs is in the area of editability. Once an image is traced, it can still be manipulated in terms of the tracing process itself. You can continue to view the original image or just the converted image; you can still change the maximum number of colors; you can adjust anything in the Trace Options dialog and reapply the trace; you can adjust the dimensions of the output image; and you can view the traced image in various ways (outlines, etc.). It's not until you expand the tracing that you're left with a standard group of vectors, which you can then, of course, continue to manipulate just like any other vector objects.

You can also convert the trace into a Live Paint group. But what's that? It's another of Illustrator's major new features.

Live Paint
This new feature has a dual purpose. First, it allows you to create fills between two separate paths, even when those paths do not necessarily intersect to form a closed object. For example, in the image below, I have two independent freehand paths that do not intersect at all. I've converted them to a Live Paint Object, applied something called "Gap Detection" and filled the entire area with a single color using the Live Paint tool called Live Paint Bucket.

Similarly, in the image below, I have two independent paths again, which this time crisscross one another, though they do not come together to form a closed object. Nevertheless, Live Paint has detected two distinct regions within the two paths and allowed me to fill them independently.

The second purpose of Live Paint is to create paint regions within intersecting objects without the need to modify paths with Pathfinder commands. In this way, for example, you can take two independent objects that intersect, convert them to Live Paint objects and then manipulate all of the sections, including intersections, as if they were independent objects.

Photoshop layer comps and non-destructive filters
Illustrator also takes integration in the Creative Suite several steps forward with Photoshop. Not only does Illustrator CS2 allow you to open Photoshop files directly, including files with layer comps, but it allows you to control the visibility of layer comps as well. Plus it allows you to apply Photoshop filters to images either as standard filters or as non-destructive effects. These include the Filter Gallery effects, as well as blurs, Unsharp Mask, Pixelate filters and Video filters.

Control palette
To make life a little easier, Illustrator CS2 adds several workflow improvements, including a new contextual Control palette. This palette provides you with options for whichever tool, or object you currently have selected. The examples below show the contextual options for working with raster images, a single vector object and multiple vector objects, respectively.

Color management/control
I mentioned before that while the entire Creative SUite 2 gains new synchronized color management capabilities, Illustrator and InDesign also receive their own color enhancements as well. In the category of management, Illustrator can now preserve CMYK numerical values when importing graphics. This way, you can keep color management enabled, but you won't have to worry about shifting colors on imported CMYK images.

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Related Keywords:adobe illustrator cs2, creative suite 2, live trace, tracing, raster to vector conversion, flash export


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