New Illustrator CS4 Tools and Panels
The Graphic Styles panel is another panel that will be very helpful to your workflow, especially now that Illustrator CS4 allows you to apply multiple non-destructive graphic styles to an object. In CS4, you can apply a second or subsequent graphic style to any object without destroying the previously applied style. The styles are added together onto the object. The Graphic Styles panel displays small thumbnails for each style and if you right-click on the thumbnail, you get a small preview of how the style will affect the selected area. You might want to set the options for the thumbnails to Large View List in order to get a bigger preview. At the smaller settings, this preview is a little too small to be helpful. The thumbnail can be toggled between the default square thumbnail and the text preview.
The Clipping Mask feature has been made much easier to work with. One would think that if an object was masked, the invisible parts of the object would be locked in some way so as to prevent them from being edited. In previous versions, this was not the case. However, the mask feature has been improved so that these areas are "dead zones" unless you right-click to make them available for editing. You will also like that the Isolation mode has been greatly improved. It is now possible to isolate individual paths as well as groups.
For those of us who find painting in Illustrator less than intuitive, you might want to check out the new Blob brush that works much more like the brushes in Photoshop. As you paint with the other tools in Illustrator, each brush stroke becomes an individual path. This can get a bit messy when you have several strokes overlapping or close together. It also is not a very realistic way to paint. It is more realistic if the brush strokes merged together to create one path. This is just what the Blob brush does.
Using gradients in vector art is one way to make it look less computer generated, especially now that Illustrator has added transparency to gradients. But working with gradients can be somewhat difficult. The Gradient tool has a new on-image widget that makes working with gradients so much easier. As you can see in the example, the on-image widget displays the same information as the Gradient panel. You can use the controls in the widget the same way as the Gradient panel but because it is right there on the image, it is a much more natural way to work with gradients.
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