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Illustrator CC2014: Adobe continues to add refinements that benefit illustrators

Chris McVeigh | Aug. 4, 2014
Adobe continues to refine its flagship illustration tool with Illustrator CC 2014, a minor update with just a handful of feature additions. Interestingly, many more new features were introduced to the vector app with the mid-cycle Illustrator CC 17.1 update in January. A number of these earlier additions merit discussion, and combined with the enhancements in CC 2014, they address one of the longest-standing complaints I've had with the application.

The feature is not without caveat. Shear the rectangle or reposition a single corner anchor, and it regresses to a standard object with Live Corners. And for the moment, Live Shapes is a feature that only applies to rectangles, leaving polygons and stars still relatively basic (save for Live Corners enhancements). I look forward to the day when stars and polygons are equally intelligent objects, allowing users to quickly reconfigure the number of points/sides and stretch the objects without corner distortion.

The Illustrator CC 17.1 update also introduced a significant and very sensible change to the perspective grid. Previously, an object attached to the grid stayed in place if the grid was repositioned, requiring the user to remove and re-attach objects to the grid to alter the perspective. Now you can lock the Station Point and reposition both the horizon line and vanishing points, and all artwork attached to the grid will change perspective along with it. It's another small but significant change that lets users make minor changes without a major effort.

Another series of small but meaningful changes come to the Pen tool in Illustrator CC 2014. The most obvious of these changes is new automated preview. As you lay down anchor points, a blue preview line extends from the most recent point you've drawn so that you can see the exact shape of the curve before you drop your next point. Additionally, holding down Command after you drop a point allows you create unequal paired handles, giving you much more control over the shape of an object as you draw. A further refinement to the Anchor Point tool allows you to convert just one side of a corner point back to smooth, a much-needed change that preserves one half of the original curve instead of obliterating both sides. And finally, control handles no longer snap to grid, offering you much more freedom when you must work with grid-based workflows.

What was left out

One thing that struck me as odd was that Illustrator CC 2014 did not import presets from Illustrator CC, whereas Photoshop CC 2014 offers to import presets from Photoshop CC. So once again the tedium falls to user to bring over items such as Variable Width Line presets and Actions. It was refreshing to see this respect for continuity finally added to Photoshop, and Adobe would do well to add it Illustrator as well.

However, it's worth noting that neither application inherits the workspace layout or preferences of its predecessor. Upon installing Illustrator CC 2014, I was required to rearrange panels and reconfigure settings to match my preferred workspace in Illustrator CC. Given that Adobe allows you to sync many settings via the Creative Cloud, it was disappointing that these were ignored upon the launch of the new app (which is of course tied to the same Adobe ID).


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