Illustrator CS6

Illustrator CS6

Illustrator CS6 is shipping! I’m sure most of you know and have already downloaded the the trial version, but if you haven’t, go and get it already! In the following post I breakdown some of the new features in CS6 and it’s not quite a review, just an overview at what is new. I want to use CS6 for a solid month in production work before I put up my review.

Adobe Mercury Program

The most significant change in Illustrator is the the Mercury Performance System. With the Adobe Mercury Program, Illustrator has native 64-bit support on Mac OS and Windows. You can access all the RAM on your computer to easily open, save, and export large files and preview complex illustrations. Mordy Golding has a good breakdown of what 64-bit Illustrator CS6 actually means and you can read more about the Mercury Performance System over at Adobe.

Illustrator CS6 Mecury Program

Flexible Interface

On the surface, Illustrator’s new interface looks darker, but there is a lot more going on under the hood. Now that Illustrator has a new 64-bit framework every panel had to be rewritten. Now a bunch of old issues have been taken care of and we can benefit from new technology. For example: inline editing of layer names, precise color sampling, UI brightness, and a lot more. Mordy has another great post on these enhancements.
[youtube width="600" height="335"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohIxs6UmsGA&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

Pattern Creation

Creating patterns in Illustrator can be a tedious process but in CS6 the pattern process is greatly improved. Now pattern creation and editing is quicker and more intuitive.
[youtube width="600" height="335"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YahZpJLv4Ok&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

New Image Trace

Illustrator CS6 comes with a new Image Trace engine tailored to create cleaner tracings with less paths, anchor points, and better color recognition than in Live Trace.
[youtube width="600" height="335"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gdPpG8pEx0&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

Gradients on Strokes

In CS6 you can add gradients on a stroke along the length, across the width, or within the stroke itself. You will also have complete control over gradient placement and opacity.
[youtube width="600" height="335"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xH70xkHM04&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

Gaussian Blur Enhancements

Gaussian Blur and effects such as Drop Shadows and Glows are applied significantly faster than before. To improve accuracy, preview directly on the artboard rather than in a dialog box.

Illustrator CS6 Gaussian Blur

Panel Enhancements

Below are some of the panel enhancements thanks to the new 64-bit framework and interface changes.

Inline editing in panels

Efficiently edit names in layers, swatches, brushes, artboards, and other panels directly in the panels themselves without using intermediate dialog boxes.

Illustrator CS6 Inline Editing in Panels

Color panel enhancements

Sample colors faster and more precisely using an expandable color spectrum in the Color panel. And now, copy and paste hex values into other applications more quickly.

Illustrator CS6 Color panel enhancements

Transform panel enhancements

One of my favorite enhancements is the Scale Strokes and Effects option, thanks to its new availability in the Transform panel.

Illustrator CS6 Transform panel enhancements

Type panel improvements

Use arrow keys to change fonts in context for selected text. Glyphs for caps, superscripts, and more. It can now be accessed in one place, the Character panel.

Illustrator CS6 Type panel improvements

Control panel enhancements

Quickly find what you need in a more efficient Control panel, now with consistency across options, anchor point controls, clipping masks, envelope distortions, and more.

Illustrator CS6 Control panel enhancements

Dockable hidden tools

Tear off and dock previously hidden tools, such as the Shape and Pen tools. Dock tools horizontally or vertically for a more efficient workspace.

Illustrator CS6 Dockable hidden tools

Workspaces with rooms

Move fluidly from workspace to workspace with support for rooms. Achieve consistency across your work areas and maintain layout changes until you actively reset them.

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18 thoughts on “Illustrator CS6

  1. I usually get rather excited about the new Adobe program versions, but I have to say I am a little disappointed with CS6 all together. Photoshop is the only program (bar After Effects’ new 3d tracker) that has been upgraded significantly. In my opinion, it should have been more of a ‘half’ upgrade, like a “.5″.

      • Sorry to be pedantic, but it’s a 9/10 upgrade as the previous version of Illustrator was CS5.1 (confusing part of the Creative Suite 5.5 release). The only real upgrade from 5.0 was new licensing mechanisms.

  2. Seems that there is more things under hood than we can see. And few lovely features too. I didn’t spend my buck in CS5 but this is something I want and need.

  3. @William

    Well for me the 64bit part is a MASSIVE difference and shouldn’t be overlooked. However the way I use Illy may be different to you and so I can see/will/should get an improvement to my working environment.

    Now what about multicore support?

    @Saya

    Following on from my comment to William, the way I use Illy I tend to use blurs etc quite a lot, which means come opening time for the files I can go make a cup of tea before it’s ready (exaggeration).

  4. Good article but wanted to share some bugs for people…

    Using CS6 on Lion here. I have noticed some, shall we say, interesting things in the venrable Illustator CS6. Let me say, I work with Illustrator daily but never profess to be an expert.

    1. Gradients appear banded, not smooth as with CS5. Almost looks like a display issue. Not sure but if I create a square, fill it with a linear gradient gray to black, direction not important. I can actually count the steps. Maybe there was some sort of anti alias before or is a feature I haven’t found? Strange.

    2. Sometimes, in random, or what seems random, situations, I can’t use the handles to manipulate my gradients after pressing the “G” key. This was not the case before. Seems to be most frequent when there are gradients applied to multiple shapes.

    3. Thumbnails in the Layers pallet are not updating. Randomly. a close and open gets them back or a click of the arrow up and down.

    4. Save for web resizing freezes. CS5 had an area to type in a size to save as and then you hit apply. CS6 removed the apply, presumably to make things simpler as it is supposed to auto update. It doesn’t. You have to click on the dimension area below to get the image to resize but after a couple attempts it kept trying resize after I would get “80″ of the “800″ pixels I wanted to size to. Repeatedly.

    Unfortunately, I work Illy pretty hard and to have these random bugs has slowed things down to the point that I had to go back to CS5. Everything AOK on CS5.

    fwiw, there seems to be a lot of strange things going on when the screen is required to refresh. Some things do, some things don’t. Pallets, thumbnails, patterns, etc.

    • I would suggest that perhaps you need to reinstall your version, I’ve gone through each and every example you sited and not found them to be true of my illustrator CS6.
      Not to say say that you don’t have these problems, but they obviously aren’t bugs for everyone. I run an 8core Mac Pro with 24GB RAM, whether your machine is a little under powered could be a factor?
      Hope the bugs get worked out for you in updates or a reinstall Neal.

      My Personal experience so far; is that CS6 is a worthy upgrade to 5.5 (5.1 in illustrator’s case), it runs quicker and smoother than its predecessor -most noticabley in tasks like image trace and handling large files. Menus and interface are cleaner and more practical.

      I’d consider myself a power user, i use it everyday, and already i can see this update being beneficial in terms of speed and time-saving. I had no big feature requests of CS6, so i’m not dissapointed about having fewer new gimicks, but i really appreciate the new 64bit architecture.

    • Neal: the reason you can’t use the gradient tool to manipulate the gradient handles is because you have the stroke and not the fill active on the object being edited. Previously, the gradient tool worked whichever you had active, because you could ONLY have gradient fills. Now, you can have gradient strokes, so the ‘G’ tool won’t let you manipulate the fill unless the fill is active.

      Took me a while to figure that one out…

  5. I am using Illustrator and Photoshop on Windows platform every day @work and 64bit version of Illustrator is big deal for me as I used to get ‘file unreadable’ errors on opening large files in CS5. I had to use 4GB patch for illustrator.exe but it worked with just a few files.
    Illustrator CS6 64bit crashed on me few times on opening multiple files at once(ctrl+a/enter) so I had to change my habit… Other than this problem everything works just fine.

  6. I love the new pattern feature, but i still have the problem with stripes appearing in the pattern. They never seem to disappear(!) Will this be an issue in production? Also, it looks like the pattern changes position a bit if i copy paste an element with the pattern, to do a re-color.

  7. Anyone know how to get shadow an blur effects to resize smaller with the same proportion as with the Scale and Strokes? This does not work if you take an object, say 1×1″ and resize to 25%. Shadows just stay the same and not in proportion. As well, if you rotate, it seems like the shadows keep their relative x y value and don’t follow the rotated object. Is there a way to lock this xy ratio to the object? AND, shadow and blur effects have limited size variations at small sizes, yet seem to respond to increments such as “.0015″ but round upward to “.01″.

    • There are a couple of ways to go about scaling drop shadows and other effects in Illustrator. If you’re simply wanting to apply this to one item, the easiest way to do this is to go to Object > Scale, enter the percentage you wish to scale your item with, make sure that the checkbox for “Scale Strokes and Effects” is checked, then click okay. If you’re wanting to apply this technique to your entire piece, you’ll need to adjust your preferences. Here are instructions on how to do that.

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