Continuing Illustrator CS4 Coverage (Mordy Golding+)

[Editor’s note: Mordy Golding has comprehensive coverage of what Illustrator CS4 means for you. Mordy used to work at Adobe and is still dialed in. He also has video tutorials showing off these features over at Layers magazine has additional coverage showing off the artboards (multiple pages) in action. As I mentioned yesterday, come to Missoula and learn more from the Adobe reps who will be at the NACIS PCD session. If you have not updated since CS2, this is your upgrade.

My top improvements:

  1. Text on Path now fixed like in pre-CS. Have beautiful map labels, again!
  2. Appearance panel more like Freehand: edit attributes directly instead of in 5 different panels!
  3. Isolation Mode works on most objects.
  4. Multiple “artboards” or pages; more flexible but also vexing.

Now for the longer feature summary…]

Republished in vastly abbreviated form in part from Real World Illustrator. Posted there Sept. 22, 2008.


Multiple Artboards. The number one feature request of all time, multiple artboards have finally arrived in Illustrator. Notice the phrase is multiple artboards, not multiple pages.

Blob Brush. Illustrator sports a new brush, named “Blob”. Based on the Calligraphic brush, the Blob brush is pressure sensitive, allowing you to draw expressive artwork with variable thick and thins.


Common Adobe User Interface. Illustrator CS3 featured a new user interface, but apparently it was just a stepping stone to get to what is now truly a common user interface for Adobe applications.

Gradients. There are several major enhancements to gradients in this release. At the top of the list is a long-time request – transparency support. Each gradient stop now has an opacity slider (similar to the Alpha value in Flash).

Clipping Masks. One of the biggest complaints about the masking features in Illustrator has been that when artwork is clipped, you can still select that artwork—even if it isn’t visible. In Illustrator CS4, masked artwork is now truly hidden—from view and from your selection tool. However, this new functionality is only in place for clipping masks, not for layer clipping masks.

Appearance panel 1. A long-standing feature request has been to add eyeballs to the Appearance panel, to allow users to hide or show effects without having to necessarily delete them.

Appearance panel 2. You can now edit and apply attributes and effects directly through the Appearance panel. That means you can change fill and stroke colors, change stroke weights and dashes, add and edit effects, and more, all directly from the Appearance panel. [Ed: Even when the objects only share 1 common attribute, that attribute will be shown and editable.]

Graphic Styles. Two key enhancements here: Graphic Styles can now be added, in a non-destructive way, to objects. Meaning you can now cumulatively apply multiple graphic styles, and each one is simply added to the graphic, rather than replacing the existing attributes. In addition, graphic styles can be created “headless”, meaning a style can contain just an effect and no fill or stroke attributes.


Smart Guides. Remember back when Smart Guides was introduced? Remember how quickly you turned them off? In the past, Smart Guides were more of a nuisance than otherwise. That’s changed now. Smart Guides are more refined.

Snapping Behavior. This is a big little thing that no one will talk about. When Smart Guides are turned on, Illustrator has the ability to snap OBJECTS to each other.

Isolation Mode. [Ed: CS4 allows almost any object to be isolated with a double click. Truly amazing!]

Alignment. Defining key objects is now simple and clear, and small modifications to the align functions make errors appear less frequently. Basically, the Align functions are now much easier to understand and use.

Bleed. Yes, you read that correctly. In addition to multiple artboard support, you can also specify bleed for your documents.

Pathfinder. Now, in CS4, applying a shape mode with Pathfinder creates an expanded shape, and you need to use the Option (Alt) key to create a live compound shape.

Text on Path Issues. Cartographers complained bitterly since Illustrator CS was released that text on a path looked horrible. Kerning and typesetting along a path got a significant downgrade when the new text engine appeared. Now, in CS4, text on a path looks great.

Improved tablet support.

Drag Images from Web Browser directly into Document.

Filter Menu. The Filter menu is now gone. Anything that used to be in that menu has either been moved out or relocated [ed- and been made a live effect].

Enhanced TIFF file format support.

Offset path fixed. Illustrator CS3 “featured” a well-documented issue with the Offset Path command, where extra anchor points were unnecessarily added. This issue is fixed in CS4.


Separation Preview.

Color Blindness Proofing. [Ed-like Color Oracle but real time in Illustrator. I still need to compare results.]

FXG Support. I’ll talk a lot more about this in the coming days, but FXG (Flex Exchange Graphic) is a new file format that can be used with Adobe’s much-anticipated Thermo application.

Gesture Support. [Ed-on newer Apple laptops.]

New Templates and Content. First, the templates have been updated to take advantage of multiple artboards. Also, Adobe has commissioned some GREAT artists who have not only created sample files, but who have also included PDF documents showing HOW they created the sample files.

Online Services. Three specific things come to CS4: Connect Now is a service that allows you to share your screen with others, and is basically a Lite version of Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro. Kuler, Adobe’s community built around color. Finally, each CS4 application now features a Search field directly in the user interface, allowing you to search Adobe’s help files, but more importantly, other articles on the web as well. Adobe actually licensed Google technology for this, and you can almost think of it as Google for Adobe products.

Continue reading the much more indepth review over at Real World Illustrator . . .

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