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Review of Adobe Illustrator CS4

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

By Tom Nelson and Mary F. O'Connor

Review of Adobe Illustrator CS4 - Multiple Artboards, Improved Interface, Painting Capabilities

Adobe Illustrator CS4, Courtesy of Adobe

Adobe product box shot reprinted with permission from Adobe Systems Incorporated

The Bottom Line

Adobe Illustrator CS4 is the oldest application in the Creative Suite, but it shows no signs of age. Thanks to a number of new and enhanced features, Adobe Illustrator CS4 retains its status as the best vector graphics software program around.

The most exciting new feature is multiple artboards, something that's long been on the wish list of Illustrator users. A close second is the Blob tool, which not only adds painting capabilities, but also lets you draw in a way that feels more natural than creating and manipulating vector-based lines.

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  • Improved interface.
  • Supports multiple artboards in a single document.
  • Improved gradient transparency.
  • Blob Brush adds painting and more natural drawing capabilities.
  • Improved Smart Guides.


  • Non-standard way of handling multiple pages.
  • Can't create individual printing setups for multiple pages.


  • Available in Mac and Windows versions.
  • Available in several Creative Suite configurations as well as standalone products.
  • Well integrated with other CS4 applications.
  • Supports multiple artboards.
  • Enhanced Clipping Mask, Smart Guide, Type on Path, and Gradients.
  • New Blob Brush provides a painterly experience.
  • New separations preview helps prevent unpleasant surprises at the printing stage.
  • Enhanced Smart Guides make it easier to precisely place and align objects.

Guide Review - Review of Adobe Illustrator CS4

Adobe Illustrator CS4 has a number of new and enhanced features, but the big news is that it finally supports multiple artboards. Illustrator users have been clamoring for this feature for years, and Adobe finally gave in and added it. You can now create multiple pages in a single document, instead of creating individual files for each page, and copy common elements from one page to another. If you're a CS3 user, this timesaving feature alone is worth the cost of the upgrade. You can also create artboards of different sizes, shapes, and orientations in the same document, which lets you work on related projects without switching from file to file. You can save and export artboards, as a group or individually, in a variety of common file formats, as well as export artboards to multi-page PDF documents.

Our other favorite new feature in Illustrator CS4 is the Blob Brush, which lets you draw and create objects as if you were using a paint brush, including brush-style settings such as variable brush stroke widths and pressure sensitivity. The Blob Brush is a more intuitive way to create and manipulate vector lines, and a lot more fun.

The Type on a Path tool has always been a bit problematic to use. Illustrator CS4 offers an enhanced Type on a Path tool that is both easier to use and more precise.

Enhanced Smart Guides make it easier to precisely place and align objects.

A new Asset ID feature lets you assign unique IDs to assets, which simplifies the process of asset management.

The new tabbed document view adds tabs across the current document for other open documents. You can quickly switch between documents by clicking on the appropriate tab. If you want to copy an element from the current document to another document, you can click and drag it to the target document's tab.

The Gradient tool has been enhanced to make it easier to apply gradients. It also now supports transparency in gradients, a long overdue feature.

The Live Trace feature lets you easily and accurately trace bitmap images, including photos, and convert them to vector drawings.

Other new and improved features include separation previews, enhanced clipping masks, enhanced typography tools, spring-loaded panels, and a redesigned user interface that provides a consistent experience across other CS4 applications.

Adobe Illustrator CS4 is a well-established, well-designed, and versatile vector drawing program. It hasn't reached perfection yet, but it offers exceptional value for the money, whether you're upgrading, buying it as a standalone product, or buying it as part of one of the CS4 collections. If you currently use an older version of Illustrator, the new artboard feature and the new Blob Brush tool are worth the cost of upgrading; the other new and improved features are a bonus.

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