Illustrator on the Fast Track

by Nathan Graham

Because of the power of the Internet and the e-life trend, web design becomes broader and more important every day. Many software applications ease the production of web projects. Adobe Illustrator has become popular because its fast flexible tools can transform creative ideas into sophisticated web graphics. Many businesses rely on Adobe Illustrator to create products such as technical drawings, detailed maps, web graphics, and logo designs.

Creating Graphics: Web graphic designers and technical communicators can choose among three options when creating an image: Vector-based graphics, Raster-based graphics, and Web-ready workflow.

A Vector-based graphic creates a point, line, or polygon that has distinct boundaries in an image. For instance, imagine a room with a ten degree temperature variance. In a Vector-based situation, a temperature change would be delineated and obvious, as though an invisible curtain separated the room. See the precision of the example.

Using a Raster-based graphic means the image consists of cells where color can be faded throughout the image. Rasterizing graphics gives an image a more mysterious and grainy look. In a room with a ten degree temperature variance, the temperature distribution would blend throughout the room, as opposed to having definite points where the temperature changes That is how Raster-based graphics behave. They blend together, as in the above example.

Using Web-ready workflow allows users to see what an image looks like as a Vector graphic and as a Raster graphic.

Tools used in Illustrator: Illustrator uses numerous tools to help create specific graphics to suit almost any need. The main tools used are the following:

  • Bezier Pen Tool allows the user to create lines and polygons with            maximum precision.
  • Smooth or Erase Tool helps the user to perfect the bezeir pen by removing and/or smoothing unwanted bumps in the path created by the pen.
  • Star, Spiral, Ellipse, and Rectangle Tools help professionals create special shapes. An option exists of placing text onto a path, then wrapping it around a shape or other text.

Features in Illustrator: Adobe Illustrator 9.0 integrates new features to aid the countless tools on its previous versions. Illustrator offers a new feature to produce transparency effects such as soft shadows, glows, mist, and reflections in water for web graphics and printing. Illustrator 9.0 includes all the relevant blending modes from Photoshop. This allows the user to combine blending modes with transparency settings to create special effects.

Adobe also offers the importing and exporting of formats. Illustrator allows the dragging and dropping of graphics into other Adobe programs, such as InDesign, Photoshop, PageMaker, or even into third party applications such as MS Word.

Since typography holds such importance in technical communication, Illustrator has features that permit professionals to specify point size, leading, kerning, tracking, baseline shift, hyphenations, and many other text attributes. Illustrator also has a smart punctuation feature that double checks grammar for users.

The 9.0 version of Illustrator contains an additional feature called layer management.

Related layers can be nested to streamline their organization. Layer masks can also hide or show portions of any layer. This allows users to arrange artwork in different layers for improved control. Graphics can also be easily transferred from one layer to another.

Finally, users of Adobe Illustrator can edit their graphics precisely and professionally by using the navigator pallet. This pallet allows magnification up to 6400%. Objects at any level of magnification can be transformed, positioned, aligned, or even created quickly and accurately using smart guides and a snap-to grid.

Illustrator enables technical communicators to produce high quality products that can be tightly integrated with all of Adobe's professional web and print design programs, as well as other third party programs. This works well because of the prominence of Adobe's other programs.


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