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Adobe Illustrator CS5 Review – New Tools, Features, and Fun

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Adobe Illustrator CS5 Review – New Perspective Drawing Tool, Bristle Brush, Beautiful Strokes

Adobe Illustrator CS5

Adobe product box shot reprinted with permission from Adobe Systems Incorporated

The Bottom Line

Adobe Illustrator CS5 is a winner. It offers new features that users have been asking for, and refines many existing tools to perform even better. New perspective tools will have you creating dramatic visual scenes, and the new Bristle Brush and Beautiful Strokes tools will create just the flair your images need.

If you’re a fan of the Artboards introduced in CS4, CS5 enhances their capabilities and makes managing up to 100 in a single file a cakewalk. This may be the best version of Illustrator yet.

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  • New width tool makes strokes much more productive.
  • Artboards are easier to use and manage.
  • Realistic painting tools.
  • Lots of general enhancements.


  • Still needs some performance tweaking.
  • Doesn't offer a large number of new features.


  • Requires Mac with an Intel processor
  • OS X 10.5.7 or later
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 2 GB of available drive space
  • Some features need an Internet connection

Guide Review - Adobe Illustrator CS5 Review – New Tools, Features, and Fun

Adobe Illustrator CS5 brings a number of new features to the hands of artists, and just as importantly, updates and revises existing ones.

Feature Updates

Starting with one of the best features from CS4, Adobe updated Artboards. Not only can you have multiple Artboards, you can now manage them much more easily. Artboards can be named, and each Artboard has its own independent ruler and origin point. There's also a new Artboards panel to let you control, navigate, and arrange the Artboards.

Feature updates are often overlooked or not widely talked about. One gem I really like is the new ability to select objects that are stacked below another object. Just hold down the command key when making your selections and surprise -- the objects below your selection are included.

New Features

Is it a stroke of genius or is Adobe just listening to its customers? Either way, the Strokes feature in Illustrator CS5 got an overhaul that's worth the upgrade price all by itself. In previous versions of Illustrator, a stroke was limited to a single thickness. Set the thickness and the stroke was the same from end to end. Strokes now have a new Width tool that allows you to change the width of a stroke at any point along its path. You can change one side of the path's width, the other side, or both. By using the Width tool, you can take a single width stroke and create a stroke whose width changes wherever you like. Best of all, you can save the width profile you created, and apply it to other strokes.

Perspective comes to Illustrator CS5 with the addition of the new Perspective Drawing feature. Starting off with the Perspective Grid tool, you define a 1-, 2-, or 3-point perspective grid, along with each plane's vanishing point. Once you create the perspective grid, most of the Illustrator drawing tools will be constrained to draw within the selected plane of the perspective grid. This means you can add objects to the perspective drawing, and Illustrator will render them with the correct perspective, including the ability to duplicate and distribute objects. Each distributed object will be resized to the correct perspective as it moves towards or away from the vanishing points. You can even add existing 2D artwork and it will be rendered correctly in perspective. If you've built up a large library of shapes, you can use them in your perspective drawings as well.

The other new tool I want to mention is Bristle Brush. This new brush type finally brings realistic paintbrush types to Illustrator. You can define brush shape, bristle length, thickness, painting opacity, and bristle stiffness. If you combine the Bristle Brush with a pressure sensitive tablet, you'll have a very effective painting tool.


Illustrator CS5 is a worthwhile upgrade. The Beautiful Strokes and Bristle Brush tools alone are worth the price of admission. Add in the rest of the new feature set, and the updates to existing goodies, and you have a winner!

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Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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