Andrew's Illustrator Plug-ins Pack

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Advanced drawing power for creative control freaks.

Drawing applications such as Adobe Illustrator are designed to release their users' creativity, but this creativity is underpinned by the mathematical nature of vector handling. The shape, size and position of the objects and paths that you draw are defined by their co-ordinates in the same way that their colour is defined by their RGB or CMYK values. And often the best way to produce a creative effect is to take absolute control of these parameters.

That's the theory behind the three packs of Adobe Illustrator plug-ins from Andrew Buckle at www.graphicxtras.com (previously Sapphire Innovations) - but it has an immediate downside. When you load any of the filters, your initial reaction is likely to be sheer confusion as each dialog is based on a whole host of mysterious settings. Take the Round Duplication command which produces the common effect of rotating object copies around a point. Here the dialog contains no less than seventeen numeric parameters to set along with a bewildering choice of drop-down options. And if that's not enough, there are three separate sub-dialogs for controlling factors such as copies and formatting that are just as complex!

The filters are technical but the results can be creative.

This might seem like overkill and for most users it is. However for those users looking for absolute control this is exactly what they need. And there's no question that using the filter to manage an advanced effect is a hundred times easier than trying to control it manually. There's another important saving grace. Thanks to a live preview and sliders under the numeric entry boxes you can quickly change a parameter to see its effect without first knowing what it does. This doesn't excuse the lack of online help - but it does make the filters usable.

So what power is on offer? The functionality in Pack 1 is split into three main areas - origination, formatting and duplication. There are five filters used for producing objects or groups of objects from scratch such as the SpiralCity and StarCreator filters. The remaining six filters are all applied to existing objects with the Basic Random effect offering controlled but randomised recolouring while the Duplication and Round Duplication effects offer advanced control over object copying and transformation.

Pack 2 covers similar ground with the Polygonville filter creating regular and irregular polygons, the Negative Times effect used for recolouring and the Duplicator, Circled and Pyramid plug-in variations offering more attractive variations on the duplication effect. In addition there are a couple of distortion filters effects, Bloater and Random Type. This last effect which works by changing character size, position, tracking and scale is particularly useful with its pulse option producing attractive wave effects in your text.

Pack 3 is very different with all its filters concerned with managing gradients and gradient mesh fills. By their nature both of these types of fill depend on setting colour values for gradient stops or mesh nodes which makes manual editing complicated. This is where Andrew's plug-ins come in offering 14 different ways of automatically changing the value of all stops simultaneously to smoothly or randomly recolourize your gradients and gradient meshes.

Pack 3 offers filters for managing gradient and gradient mesh fills.

Compared to the mainstream and streamlined Vector Studio (see page ), Andrew's filter set is only of niche interest and hard to get to grips with. However, if you aren't afraid of getting technical, they could give your drawings an edge - and save you hours of work in the process.

Features
4
Ease of Use
2
Value for Money
3
Overall
3

ratings out of 6

Tom Arah

February 2001

 


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