Adobe Illustrator 9.0

"Illustrator Finally Goes Transparent"

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type of productIllustrator 9.0, by Adobe Corporation, is a major upgrade. The new version has: (1) robust, built-in Web graphics creation and optimization tools so you can create and edit logos, buttons, line art, and other Web graphics with greater flexibility and speed; (2) new transparency covercapabilities so you can apply transparent effects to any object; (3) new creative and productivity features such as object and layer effects, graphic styles, customizable keyboard shortcuts, nested layers with thumbnails; and (4) tighter integration with other Adobe products such as Photoshop, InDesign, GoLive, and LiveMotion. Illustrator has been an excellent product for working with vector graphics for print production, but with its new Web features, it clearly is a powerful tool for anyone designing vector or raster-based graphics for the Web. (If you are not familiar with the program, you might like to look at our review of Adobe Illustrator 8.0, which covers the new features and options for that version.) Available for both PC and Macintosh. Price: $399; upgrade $149. Registered users of Adobe products such as Photoshop, InDesign, and PageMaker can purchase Illustrator 9 for $249, as well as users of CorelDraw and Macromedia Freehand. Web site:


user levelBeginning, Intermediate, or Advanced Users. Anyone familiar with other interfaceAdobe products will find this program easy to learn and use. It has extensive help for individuals new to drawing or illustration software (an informative User Guide; extensive on-line Help; tutorials from Adobe; third-party Web sites with additional material; and books) but is robust enough for the advanced professional. (See image on the right for view of interface.)


new featuresAdobe Illustrator 9.0--The new and enhanced features in this version fall into four main categories:

Vector and Raster Web Graphics

  • Flash and SVG output
  • Pixel Preview
  • Instant drop shadows and glows, and live shapes
  • Release to Layers command


  • Unlimited transparency capabilities
  • Opacity and Layer mask
  • Feathering
  • Overprint preview


  • Effects
  • Graphic styles
  • Enhanced layer controls
  • Native support for Adobe PDF

Tight Integration

  • Integration with Adobe's print publishing programs
  • Integration with Adobe's Web design programs
  • Expanded file format support

reviewInstallation, Manual, & Help: The installation for Illustrator 9.0, as usual with Adobe products, is easy and quick. There is a hefty 435 page User Guide, as well as a Quick Reference Card that contains basic information about tools and palettes, and shortcuts for using them. Adobe also includes complete documentation in an HTML-based help system, which covers all of the information in the User Guide plus keyboard shortcuts, full-color illustrations, and other detailed information.

Enhanced Web Workflow: The program offers a number of new and enhanced features to aid in the creation of graphics for the Web.

  • Pixel-based units and preview--Since much of the vector artwork created in Illustrator will be rasterized when used on the Web, it's useful to monitor your work in terms of pixels. The Units & pixel dialog boxUndo preferences panel lets you specify pixels as a global measurement unit for sizing, editing, and laying out your graphics (see image to the left for view of Preferences dialog box). You can also choose the Pixepixel displayl Preview to see your vector objects as they will appear in a Web browser. When you work in Pixel Preview mode, objects will snap by default to the nearest pixel edge in the document, which helps prevent anti-aliasing on horizontal and vertical lines (see image to the right for view of different display modes). This mode streamlines your Web production as you no longer need to copy and paste paths into Photoshop to see how they look as rasterized output; nor do you need to export raster Web graphics, view them in different Web browsers, and then return to Illustrator to make adjustments. Everything is done right in Illustrator.
  • RGB and Web-safe color support--Enhanced color options let you work with documents in RGB mode and specify Web-safe colors for painting. When creating a new document, you have the document dialog boxoption of setting the color mode to RGB (see image to left for view of dialog box); you can also convert color palettedocuments to RGB mode. New options also make it easy for you to paint with the subset of RGB colors that appear in the standard 216 color Web safe palette. You can set the Color palette to display Web safe RGB sliders that let you mix Web colors by dragging or by entering hexadecimal values, and the Color Picker contains an Only Web Colors option that automatically selects the nearest Web safe equivalent of the color you pick. You can also set the Info palette to display the RGB or hexadecimal values of colors in your work. (See image to right for view of Web safe RGB sliders and Info palette.) It is great to have all of these color options easily accessible.
  • Path simplification--You can use the Simplify Path command to remove unnecessary anchor simplify palettepoints from selected paths without changing the shape of those paths. This command produces smoother paths and smaller file sizes. The values for curve precision and angle threshold can be set to specify how closely the revised path follows the shape of the original path and how cleanly it preserves corners. There is a preview option that lets you see the results in the dialog box. (See image to the right for view of dialog box with a preview. The red-brown outline indicates the original path.)
  • Instant drop shadows, glows, and editable shapes--The commands under the new Effects menu make it easy to embellish your artwork and type with drop shadows and glows to create flexible, editable buttons and banners. Drop shadows include settings for x and y offset values, darkness, blur, and color. (See image to left for view of drop shadow dialog box.) With glows, you can set the effect to appear on the outside edge of drop shadow boxan object (outer glows) or on its interior (inner glows). Shadows and glows will maintain transparency, and even support blending modes, and you don't have to convert your Illustrator objects to rasters before you can use these effects. Even after applying drop shadows and glows, you can modify the underlying object freely, and change the shape of an object, editing what it says (if it's a text object). By using the live shapes feature in Illustrator 9.0, you can apply rectangles, rounded rectangles, and ellipses to live shape buttonsselected text and other objects. You can choose whether its size is absolute or relative. A shape with a relative setting will automatically grow and shrink to accommodate changes to the other object. The live shapes feature is so easy and fun to use, it seems sinful, and it is wonderful for those individuals who are indecisive when designing buttons. I created the buttons in the image on the right using the drop shadow effect and the live shapes feature. I started with different colors and rounded rectangles and easily changed the colors and shapes after the buttons were made. I quickly made the series of buttons by duplicating the first one and then changed the text for the subsequent buttons. The shape of each button expanded or contracted to fit the new text. (The image to the right shows the buttons and the Appearance palette which you use to work with live shapes.)
  • Instant layer generation--The Release to Layers command lets you quickly organize objects on separate layers, a feature useful for preparing files for Web animation. For instance, you could prepare different frames of an animation by first applying blend options to objects or by using the scatter brush to paint repeated copies of an object along a path. You could then release each object in the blend or scattered path to a separate layer and export the file as a Flash (SWF) file or to Adobe Photoshop to set up the animation.
  • Polygonal image maps--Illustrator 9.0 supports polygonal, as well as rectangular, image maps. A new option in the Image Map menu in the Attributes palette lets you image map dialog boxcreate an image map with a polygon enclosing the selected object. By entering a URL, you can have Illustrator automatically generate a linked polygonal image map when exporting the file to a Web file format. You can test that a URL is correct by clicking the Browser button in the Attributes palette after you assign the URL. Illustrator will then launch your default browser, log you on, and link you to the appropriate Web site. (The image to the right shows the Attributes palette where you choose the shape and enter a URL.)

Optimized Web Bitmap Export: The new Save for Web command provides comprehensive yet easy-to-use controls for previewing and exporting artwork files in bitmap form. Anyone familiar with Photoshop 5.5 will recognize these features, and all the options available in the Save for Web window work the same way as those in Photoshop 5.5, so you can apply what you know about one program in the other and move between them easily. These features are an excellent inclusion in the program and allow you to complete all of you work right in Illustrator, if you want, rather than switch to Photoshop.

  • Optimization controls--Illustrator 9.0 supports GIF, JPEG, PNG-8, and PNG-24 optimization formats for reducing file sizes. You can choose the optimization format that's appropriate for your image based on its colors and tonal for web
  • LiveView panels with choice of 2-up or 4-up views--With Illustrator 9.0, you can look at an original and optimized version in 2-up view, or an original image along with three optimized variations in 4-up view. (See image to right for view of Save for Web dialog box with 4-up view.)
  • Color controls--If you want to reduce GIF or PNG-8 file sizes while maintaining image color controlsquality, you can minimize the number of colors saved with an image by using the controls in the Color Table tab. You can add, delete, edit, or lock colors. Locking a color will ensure that the color will remain untouched as you eliminate other colors. You are able to easily shift colors to Web-safe equivalents, and also view RGB and hexadecimal values for colors at a glance. (See image to left for view of color options.)
  • Image size controls--The program includes options for resizing graphics as you optimize image size boxthem. You are able to specify a new height and width or reduce the image size by a percentage. With the Constrain Proportions option, you can ensure that the relative height and width remain the same. To export only what's positioned on the artboard, you can choose Clip to Artboard option. (See image to right for view of image size options.)
  • Preview controls--With the Save for Web window, you can preview browser dither by selecting the Browser Dither option from a popup menu, or by setting your computer display to 8-bit and then previewing the optimized image in the Web browsers dither options you specify. You can also check out the download speed for different optimization settings at different modem speeds, and you can preview the graphic in a Web browser by selecting it from a menu in the Save for Web window. (See image to right for view of options for Browser Dither and download rates.)

Flexible Web Vector Export: Illustrator 9.0 provides support for exporting files to Flash (SWF) format, as well as to the new SVG Web vector standard. Both Web vector formats maintain high-quality artwork and fonts, while producing smaller file sizes and faster download times than bitmap formats.

  • Flash (SWF) format--Flash is widely used to design vector-based Web pages and Web swf dialog boxanimations. To export your Illustrator file to Flash format, you specify the Flash (SWF) format in the Export dialog box, where you can choose whether to export the entire graphic to a single SWF file; export each layer to a separate frame in a single SWF file; or export each layer to a separate SWF file. (See image to right for view of SWF Export dialog box.)
  • SVG format--Illustrator 9.0 has a variety of SVG export options available (See image to the left svg dialog boxfor view of SVG dialog box). SVG is an emerging, open standard that was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and numerous industry players, including Adobe Systems, IBM, Netscape, Sun, Corel, Hewlett-Packard, and others. This standard provides all the benefits of the Flash format, plus support for the following features: Type 1 and TrueType fonts, extensible markup language (XML), cascading style sheets svg palette(CSS), interactive actions, and dynamic HTML animation. When you prepare SVG output, you can assign scripted events to objects using the SVG Interactivity palette and then export that information with the file. Illustrator also ships with the SVG Viewer plug-in, which works with different browsers to play back SVG graphics and Web pages. For example, you could use the SVG Interactivity palette to enhance your SVG output by writing a JavaScript command that causes an object to display with a glow effect when the mouse pointer moves inside the object boundaries. (See image to right for view of SVG Interactivity palette.) Also to see a wide range of examples of SVG in action, browse the SVG Developer Preview on

Versatile Transparency: The new transparency capabilities in Illustrator 9.0 are flexible, versatile, and robust.

  • Transparency palette--The new Transparency palette allows you to apply transparency to any graphic object, bitmap image, or type to partially or fully reveal underlying objects. The transparencytransparency palettetransparent objects and type remains fully editable. (See the image to the left for a view of the Transparency palette.) You simply select an object and drag the Opacity slider or enter an opacity percentage to assign the desired level of transparency. The Transparency palette displays a thumbnail preview of the selected object. By displaying the checkerboard transparency grid, you can monitor the opaque and transparent areas of you image as you work. (See the image to the right for a view of a graphic before transparency is applied and then the same graphic after transparency is applied to the blue shape and to the glasses. You can also see the transparency grid.)
  • Flexible transparency targets--You also have the option of limiting transparency to a layer,layers palette a group of objects, a knockout shape, or an object's stroke or fill. To apply transparency to a group of objects or to a layer, you first target the group or layer in the Layers palette, and then specify an Opacity value. When you apply transparency to a layer as a whole, the transparencies of the individual objects on the layer are not affected. (See image to the right for view of the Layers palette where you select a layer for transparency.)

Blending Modes: Blending modes let you blend the colors of graphic objects, type, and bitmap blending modesimages with underlying artwork. By experimenting with different blending modes from the Transparency palette, you can create unique effects in the overlapping areas of stacked objects. Illustrator 9.0 provides many of the same blending modes offered by Photoshop. For the blending mode image to the right, I used a section of the sunglasses image used above; hid the Sunglasses layer; opened the Curved Edge layer and selected all ovals; changed opacity to 70 percent; then selected different blending modes on the Transparency palette for each oval.

  • Isolate Blending option--When you apply a blending mode to a group, it usually has a visible affect on any underlying objects as well. In some cases, isolate blendsyou may want to isolate this to the group, so the underlying objects aren't affected. You can use the Isolate Blend option on the Transparency palette. When you select this option, the blending mode affects only the interaction of colors in the group. (The image to the left shows a group selected without Isolate Blending and the same group with Isolate Blending option applied.)
  • Knockout Group option--With the Knockout Group option on, the Transparency palette controls how transparent objects in a group interact: when the option is selected, the topmost opacityobject in the group knocks out the other objects in the group to reveal theknockout objects and layers below; when the option is deselected, all of the objects in a transparent group show through the topmost object, along with the other objects arranged beneath the group. (The image to the left shows a group with Knockout Group option off and the same with Knockout Group option on. The image to the right shows a circle with blending mode, opacity mask, and Knockout Group option applied and then with opacity and Mask Define Knockout Shape option applied to a circle.)

Masks: There are two new masking features in Illustrator 9.0, opacity masks and layer clipping masks, which allow you to selectively hide and reveal areas of your work through custom shapes. By editing the shape, placement, and fill of the mask, you can achieve special effects such as variable transparency across an object.

  • Layer clipping masks--Layer clipping masks let you clip what's visible on a layer. Any objects layer clipping maskthat are subsequently added to the layer are also clipped by the mask. Creating and removing layer masks is quick and easy. You just make sure the clipping shape appears at the top of the layer (with the object selected, choose Object > Arrange > Bring To Front). Then you click the Make/Release Clipping Mask button on the Layers palette. Anything that falls within the boundaries of the shape shows through; everything else on the layer is hidden. Clicking the Make/Release Clipping Mask button automatically releases the mask. (For the image to the left, I used a scanned image of a dog; applied an oval mask; then applied an effect to the image.)
  • Opacity masks--To create an opacity mask, you layer two or more objects on top of each other, select them, and click the Mask option on the Transparency palette. The topmost object becomes the mask, and its grayscale values (luminosity) affect what's visible in the underlying objects. For example, if you made an opacity mask from a completely white object, the masked objects would then be completely visible. If the opacity mask was black, the underlying objects would completely opacity dialog boxdisappear where the opacity mask overlapped them. With a black-and-white gradient, the masked objects would appear in the white-to-off-white areas and disappear entirely where the gradient was black. Varying the transparency of the opacity mask modulates its intensity. You can turn any object into an opacity mask. Using patterns, gradients, and gradient meshes as opacity masks can produce compelling effects. Text can serve as an opacity mask, letting you quickly design text effects (plus, the text remains editable). Opacity masks are easy to use in Illustrator 9.0. The Transparency palette displays thumbnails of the original artwork and the mask, along with a link symbol. When opacity maskthat link symbol is fully visible, you can move the mask and the underlying artwork as a unit anywhere in your document. If you click the mask thumbnail, you can move or edit it independently of the underlying artwork. You can even disable an opacity mask temporarily to view and adjust its component parts. Checking the Invert Mask option in the Transparency palette causes the underlying artwork to clip to the shape of the masking object and reverses the grayscale effect. You can undo any mask by selecting it and unchecking the Mask option on the Transparency palette. (See the image to the left for view of Transparency palette with thumbnail of mask. Also see the image to the right for a view of a graphic and text made with a mask. The text was created using the Invert Mask option in the dialog box.)

Feathering Effect: The Feather command under the Effect > Stylize menu softens the transition featheringbetween foreground and background objects. As with other effects, the underlying vector objects remain editable. In the Feather dialog box, you can specify a feathering radius to control how text and path objects blend with objects behind them. (See image to the right for view of feathering effect applied to spiral and to rectangle behind text. You can get some interesting results from using this option.)

Layers Palette Enhancements: The Layers palette has a number of display and ordering enhancements that help you organize, rearrange, and monitor your work. There is the Release to Layers command for automatically generating separate layers and clipping masks for shaping the display of work. You have the ability to target elements in the Layers palette as recipients of style and appearance attributes.

  • Expanded nesting hierarchy--The expanded Layers palette lets you organize your artwork in nested levels, from top-level layers to individual objects. By nesting layers inside other layers palettelayers, you can better monitor and organize documents that contain many layer elements. You can collapse and expand the display of contents in a layer or group, and you can rename, duplicate, or reorder any layer, group, or object. It's easy to tell layers and sublayers from groups and objects in the Layers palette list: a gray background appears behind all layer and sublayer names in the palette list, while a white background appears behind groups and objects. (See image to the left for view of Layers palette.)layer palette
  • Palette display options--To help manage the screen space required to display the expanded Layers palette, you can choose from a variety of alternate compact views. For example, you can reduce thumbnail and row size, or you can temporarily disable the display of objects and groups under the layer level. (See image to the right for view of Layer Palette Options.)

Effects: Illustrator 9.0 introduces a new concept, appearance, which refers to changing the look of objects without changing the objects themselves. One of the chief ways you change an object's appearance is by applying Illustrator 9's powerful new object and layer effects. These live effects--including Photoshop compatible filters, transformations, distortions, and more--alter the look of an object without changing its underlying paths. You can then edit the original paths (or edit the text if it's a text object), reorder the applied effects, add and delete effects, or change effect parameters in a few quick steps. Thus you can create a huge range of graphical effects, and you don't have to start over every time you need to make a change. When you apply attributes to a selected object, those attributes are listed in the new Appearance palette. An appearance can include any number and combination of live effects, fills, strokes, and transparency settings. Furthermore, an appearance can be saved for on-going use as a named graphic style in the new Styles palette.

  • Easy-to-update artwork--Object and layer effects make it fast and fun to create variations on logosappearance paletteartwork. You could design a distinctive logo using any combination of object and layer effects; then change the effects applied or subtly alter the underlying object without having to redo all of the steps involved. Or you could make multiple copies of the logo and apply different effects to each, without affecting the purity of the underlying paths and text. (See image to the left for view of Appearance palette. See image to the right for views of logos made within a few minutes using live object effects.)
  • Live Photoshop and third-party plug-in filters--In the past, you had to rasterize artwork in punk & bloat effectorder to apply a Photoshop or third-party filter to it. Then, if changes came up, you had to go back to the original artwork, make the change, rasterize it again, and reapply the filter. Live object and layer effects eliminate this process. Now you can apply live effects directly (you need to choose from the Effect menu, not the Filter menu) and then edit the underlying object or change the applied effect instantly. For example, you could apply a mosaic effect to an object and then edit the object's shape directly. (See image to right for view of Punk & Bloat effect applied to stars. I started with one basic shape, then copied and edited the shapes.)
  • Live effects and text--Live object and layer effects work with text just as easily as with anytext other object. You can apply a series of live effects from the Effects menu to text and then edit that text directly. For example, you could distort and feather your text and then spell check it, edit its wording, change its font, and perform other edits without starting over with a new text block. (See image to right for view of live effects and text.)
  • Editable outlined text--You can use a live effect to turn text into outlines. Then anyone can open, view, and print the file, regardless of whether they have the fonts installed or whether they're using Illustrator or another program, such as Adobe InDesign, to print the file. However, the text remains completely editable for anyone who has the font installed. Now you can avoid the font problems that often occur in file handoffs and ensure smooth results.

Graphic Styles: In Illustrator 9.0 there is a new Styles palette that has various predefined styles. You can create, edit, and save styles to this palette and even change the default styles. Graphic styles streamline your design process by creating a consistent, easy-to-maintain look for design clients or projects.

  • Default styles--The Styles palette contains a number of default graphic styles that can be stylesapplied to objects instantly. To apply a graphic style, you select the target object in your artwork, and then click the style swatch in the Styles palette. You can adapt any of these predefined styles to your needs. Renaming, duplicating, merging, and deleting styles are easy to do. (The image to the left shows styles applied to text items. The first one was made with a default style, while the second was made by editing the Roughen and Scribble and Tweak options in the Appearance palette for the default style.)
  • Customizable styles--A graphic style is a saved appearance. You set up the appearance by creating an object; adding any number of fills and strokes; specifying parameters for the object and layer effects you're applying; and setting transparency for any of these attributes, or you custom stylecan specify combinations of attributes without creating an object first. You then click a New Style button on the Styles palette to preserve the selected appearance as a graphic style for on-going use. For example, you could create a compelling line-pattern style by applying multiple strokes to an object, assigning a color and live effect to each stroke, and then saving the combination as a graphic style. (The image to the right shows a custom style for the rectangle that I created and then preserved in the Style palette. I then used the style on the circle shape.)

Integration with Photoshop, other Adobe Programs and Web-design Programs: Illustrator 9.0 offers improved integration with Photoshop. When opening a Photoshop file in Illustrator, you can preserve masks, blending modes, and transparency, and convert layers to separate Illustrator objects. When exporting an Illustrator file to Photoshop format, you can preserve layers, opacity masks, transparency, blending modes, and editable type. The many new and enhanced features of Illustrator 9.0 make it an even more useful tool in the desktop print publish workflow. The look and feel of the command menus, toolbox, palettes, and keyboard shortcuts closely mirror the standard user interface common to many Adobe programs. The native Illustrator 9.0 format is based on PDF (Portable Document Format) at its core. As a result, when you export artwork to a PDF file, you can choose to preserve the edibility of the file when it is opened in Illustrator. That is, you can reopen an Illustrator-created PDF file in Illustrator and make edits without losing file features such as fonts, patterns, and vertical text. The Web workflow of Illustrator 9.0 makes it easier than ever to export files to other Adobe Web-design programs such as GoLive 5 and LiveMotion. You can place native Illustrator graphics directly in GoLive 5 files for efficient one-step optimization to Web formats such as GIF, JPEG, PNG, SWF, and SVG. You can also bring Illustrator artwork into LiveMotion for further animation, interactivity, and sound enhancements.

Extra Goodies: Adobe products usually ship with additional materials and Illustrator 9.0 is no exception. Here is an overview of what is included with the program.

Adobe Illustrator 9.0 software, plus these other useful programs:

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 software for viewing PDF files.
  • The latest Adobe PostScript printer driver for Windows or the Macintosh, as well as a comprehensive set of PostScript Printer Description (PPD) files.
  • New Adobe SVG Viewer plug-in for viewing SVG pages from different Web browsers.
  • Tryout versions of Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, and other professional Adobe products.

Training and support materials, including:

  • Adobe Illustrator 9.0 User Guide and Adobe Illustrator 9.0 Quick Reference Card.
  • Adobe Technical Notes and developer support information.
  • A list of learning resources, including Adobe certified trainers, service providers, and more.

Versatile artwork and other content, including:

  • Premium Type 1 fonts.
  • Illustrator extras, such as brush libraries, style libraries, action sets, templates, and pattern libraries.
  • Professional quality clip art, stock photos, and textures.
  personal commentsAdobe Illustrator 9.0: Adobe has just made Illustrator better than ever. It is a well-rounded upgrade with new features or enhancements for print, Web, or multimedia designers. It has new options such as the Save for Web window that definitely helps you to be more productive and efficient in the program. Many of the enhancements or new features also reduce the steps involved in creating your artwork The addition of transparency and blending options give you the option of designing all of your work within a vector-based environment instead of going back and forth between raster and vector programs, thus saving you time. Other options, though, enable you to be more creative. The new styles are fun to use and allow you to create artwork that will be consistent throughout a print project or Web site. I found the Appearance palette and live effects useful, easy to use, and get the creative juices running. So, should you spend the money for this new upgrade? If you want to save time in creating your artwork, the answer is yes! If you want to be more inspired by using a program with a variety of easy to use and fun features, the answer is yes!

system requirements

Processor: Intel Pentium or faster
Operating System: Windows 95/98/NT 4.0/Windows 2000
Memory: 64 MB RAM
Hard Disk Space: 105 MB
Hardware: CD-ROM drive; video card that supports 800x600 resolution

Processor: Power PC
Operating System: Mac OS software version 8.5, 8.6, and 9.0
Memory: 64 MB RAM
Hard Disk Space: 105 MB
Hardware: CD-ROM drive; 800x600 monitor resolution

Graphics: Adobe Illustrator 8.0 and 9.0 & Adobe Photoshop 5.5
Web Page Editor: Dreamweaver 3.0
Scanner: Hewlett Packard ScanJet 6250C Professional Series