Illustrator CS6 box

As with many of Adobe Creative Suite CS6 applications, Illustrator has been given a revamp with over a dozen key new features. I’ll cover six here, to give you a sampling of what Illustrator can now do better, more easily, and more efficiently.

Pattern creation
With Illustrator CS6, you can create seamlessly tiled repeating vector patterns that are easy to edit and rearrange.

Adding a new pattern
[Adding a new pattern]

Choosing Object > Pattern > Make turns an original image into a pattern, as well as adding a new pattern to the Swatches panel that can also be applied to an object as a fill. Making a pattern also activates the Pattern Editing mode, enabling you to work on the pattern without disturbing surrounding objects on the artboard.

Changing the pattern image with Pattern Tile tool
[Changing the pattern image with Pattern Tile tool]

The Pattern Options panel offers several ways to refine the pattern, including overlaps and spacing.

Image Trace
A completely new tracing engine in Illustrator CS6 converts raster images to editable vector artwork. You’re now able to get sharper lines with better shape fitting and more accurate color selection. This feature has come a long way since CS2.

Live trace low fidelity preset
[Live trace low fidelity preset]

Image Trace’s controls are now more intuitive and easier to work with. There’s also a variety of presets to achieve a greater range of results.

Clicking Expand to create vector paths from a tracing
[Clicking Expand to create vector paths from a tracing]

When you perform Image Trace and expand the tracing, the new vectors replace your linked image. It’s advisable to duplicate or embed the image to retain a copy in your working file.

The image below shows the original leaf image, with a 6 color preset trace on the right.

Live trace: Original image and 6 color preset
[Live trace: Original image and 6 color preset]

Gradients on strokes
Design creatively with gradients on strokes that can be applied along the length, across the width, or within a stroke.

Applying gradients to strokes
[Applying gradients to strokes]

Gradient across width of stroke
[Gradient across width of stroke]

A simple path can be made into a more complex and compelling visual shape with this new feature.

Inline editing in panels
Transform panel – The Scale Strokes & Effects option is now also available in the updated Transform Effect panel.

Transparency panel – Create opacity masks and work with them more easily, thanks to new Make Mask and Release buttons. All of Illustrator CS6’s masking features are now located in the Transparency panel.

Transparency and Transform panels
[Transform and Transparency panels]

Control panel – A more efficient Control panel has increased consistency across options no matter what the context, including placement of anchor point controls, clipping masks, envelope distortions, and more.

Dockable hidden tools
Drag hidden tools to dock them either vertically or horizontally.

Docking toolbars

Once you click on a menu with hidden tools, it’s easy to click and hold with the mouse until the palette shows a little vertical bar at the right. Clicking on that bar allows the menu to be moved anywhere in the workspace. Floating tear-off menus can be saved along with custom workspaces.

Flexible and streamlined interface
Over 40 new enhancements to the Illustrator user interface make working with your favorite tools smoother, more efficient, and more intuitive.

The tools, panels and controls are still where you expect them, but daily tasks take fewer steps and your interactions are faster and more direct, from inline editing of layer names to navigating the font menu.

Interface preferences

Brightness adjustments and other preferences are now able to be matched to other software work spaces, e.g. Adobe Photoshop.

Hexadecimal values can now be copied and pasted directly into HTML code.

More Adobe Illustrator CS6 features can be viewed here. See my Creative Cloud, Adobe Photoshop Extended CS6, Adobe Acrobat Pro X and Adobe InDesign features covered previously.

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