InDesign to merge with Illustrator

ever since Adobe launched their Creative Suite back in 2003 there has been ongoing speculation about when the various elements would be combined into a single application. the obvious contenders right from the start were InDesign and Illustrator since their functionality overlapped in many respects.

the problem has always been, however, that the fundamental architecture of the two products is completely different, even though the user experience is quite similar. the main reason for this is that Illustrator was developed from the ground up by Adobe, but InDesign is basically an expansion of Pagemaker — originally developed by Aldus.

well it appears that the merger is now well and truly in the pipeline with beta testing in full swing. if you’re not yet involved, you can apply to take part in Adobe’s Prerelease Program here

as with most beta versions there is still a lot of clunkiness to sort out, but the developers have also come up with some quite reasonable solutions to the inevitable problems. one example is the tool panel which, by default, is a monster hybrid of the two panels we are already familiar with. but there are also panel presets for just-InDesign and just-Illustrator panels. and now you can also specify your own custom tool panel, just as you’ve been able to do with menus since CS4 :
screen grab of hybrid tool panel

it looks like Adobe are planning to ease users into this new way of working because the new document window will now let you choose ‘artboards‘ or ‘pages‘ as the intent (the rest of the window changes depending on which intent you choose) — effectively keeping the two working styles independent, at least for the time being :
screen grab of new document panel

as with all change there are many who are not happy. generally speaking, it looks like the mainly-InDesign users aren’t too concerned, whereas the Illustrator aficionados are not at all happy (probably because Adobe is attempting to integrate the Illustrator functionality into InDesign, rather than the other way around) — some uncharitable testers have taken to calling the new application IllDesign.

there are also those who, perhaps not without reason, have questioned the timing — suggesting that Adobe had plenty of opportunity during the ten years of the Creative Suite to get this hybrid up and running but that they kept it under wraps to enable them to continue selling the two separately. obviously that is no longer a concern now that everything is integrated into Creative Cloud.

you can read more at the Adobe forums :

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Illustrator Paths : II

this is a continuation of a discussion started in Illustrator Paths : I, which covered two important facts about drawing vectors. this post will touch on how to anticipate the shape of a curve and drawing economically.

when drawing with the pen tool it can be handy to use a driving analogy — the direction you pull the control point equals the direction of the vehicle (that’s pretty obvious), the distance you pull that control point equals your speed. the three curves below use the same two anchor points and only one control point. the direction of travel is the same for all three, but the speed varies. the first is traveling faster and has to travel further before turning sharply to get to where it’s going. the last one is traveling slower, so can make a more gentle turn :
screen grab show three different curves
direction and speed — you are controlling only two things every time you pull out a control point. but what a lot of variation you can get between two anchors with just one control point :
screen grab of three more open curves
you might prefer the rubber band analogy — direction and stretch — same thing :
screen grab showing three more curves using only one control point

now, these are the simplest curves possible — two anchor points and one control point. but any one curve can have two control points — that’s two directions and two speeds interacting with each other — giving us quite complex curves from just two anchors :
complex curves from just two anchor points
join those two anchor points together and you get quite complex shapes :
screen grab showing complex shapes from just two anchor points

and that’s the main lesson for this post — you can get quite complex curves and shapes from very few anchor points. and fewer anchors generally means more beautiful curves.

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Illustrator Paths : I

this is the first of a few posts dealing with drawing vectors in Adobe Creative Suite — which really isn’t as difficult as some appear to find it.

these posts are more about understanding the mechanics of vectors — for the very basics on drawing with the pen tool see Adobe’s site.

let’s start with some observations about curved paths : when you draw a circle with the ellipse tool (holding down shift constrains the dimensions to a circle) you get four anchor points. each anchor point has a pair of equi-distant control points :
screen capture of circle path

delete two of those points and you’ll get an ellipse with anchor points at either end. again the control points are equi-distant from their anchor points — that’s what makes the ellipse symmetrical. with a bit of experimenting you’ll find that you can make exactly the same shape with anchor points on either side instead. what does this show? … that there is generally more than one way to create any given curved shape (note: this is important fact number one).screen grab of elliptical pathscreen grab of second elliptical path

a seriously under-utilised feature of vectors in CS is that you are not restricted to just adjusting anchor and control points — you can also drag the path segments themselves. take that first ellipse and drag the sides out and you’ll find you can create a circle (maybe not exactly perfect, but so close to perfect that it doesn’t matter). this demonstrates important fact number two : any one anchor point can describe a curve up to 180 degrees :
screen grab of 2-point circular path

fully understanding the implications of these two important facts will lead to more efficient curve drawing (fewer anchor points equals more beautiful curves), and a greater love of vector drawing generally :
screen grab of heart shaped path

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