Adobe Illustrator CC 2017 review

The newest version of Illustrator CC has some stellar features to speed up your creative workflow.

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Our Verdict

Illustrator CC 2017 doesn’t set the world on fire – it’s not a huge update by any means. But it does tweak the application, bringing a host of workflow-orientated tools that will speed up your everyday design work. We’re particularly impressed with the added typographic options and the new range of templates. In fact, the new Color Themes panel is pretty damn good, as well. If you’re still on CS6, Illustrator CC 2017 is a whole new experience, and one that will undoubtedly help you go from concept to completion in record speeds.

For

  • Great new typography tools
  • Color Themes panel is ace
  • All-encompassing toolset for, well, designing anything

Against

  • Expensive (both as a single app and part of CC)

Buy Illustrator CC 2017 or sign up to Adobe Creative Cloud here

Illustrator has long been the standard when it comes to vector illustration and design. Since its first release way back in 1987, it’s been the go-to for anyone wanting to create infinitely scalable graphics. During its journey to its current CC 2017 incarnation – a mere 30 years after the original release – the application has evolved into much more than an ‘illustration’ tool. 

Whether you’re working with type, on branding projects, or designing icons for apps and the web, Illustrator has pretty much everything you need. The 2017 releases (we say releases because there was one update to the 2017 app last November, and another update this April) bring many new features. 

These come along with a slicker feel to the UI, which is customisable – you can choose the brightness: dark, medium dark, medium light, or light. So let’s take a look at what’s new and how these features can speed up your creative workflow.

More templates

Illustrator CC 2017 offers a wider variety of templates

If you’re coming to a CC subscription from an older version of Illustrator – perhaps CS6, for instance – when you first open the app you’ll notice that everything is rather different. The welcome screen of the app is comprehensive, giving you options to create a new document, open a recent one from your hard drive (or indeed from your CC storage, or from concepts you’ve created in Adobe’s range of mobile apps). And when you create a new document, you’re presented with various templates according to the discipline you’re working in – mobile, web, print, film and animation, and art and illustration. 

Of course, you can specify your own document setup, but having templates for, say, iPhone, can speed up the process. Templates are of course nothing new in the creative world, but their depth in CC 2017 has to be applauded – and will undoubtedly speed up your projects. 

Also, if you’re using a touch-based device, Illustrator will ask if you want to switch to the simplified touch interface, so you can easily use your Windows 10 tablet or hybrid as a digital sketchbook.

New Crop tool

The new Crop tool is a welcome addition

A neat new feature that came in April this year is the Image Crop tool. OK, so it’s not strictly a vector tool, more a feature that enables you to crop placed images without moving into Photoshop. 

Bear in mind that when you crop an image Illustrator will embed it – so you’re not actually messing with the original placed file. It’s a small addition, but useful.

New Color Themes panel

Access your colour themes directly in Illustrator with the Color Themes panel

Let’s talk about themes for a moment. Colour themes to be exact. At color.adobe.com, you can create all sorts of colour themes and swatches, based on different harmonious colour models. 

Now you can access all your saved themes – and create new ones – directly in Illustrator, in the Color Themes panel. It’s a very cool addition, made even better by the fact you can quickly add your selected colours to Illustrator's Swatches panel, using the small icon below the swatches in the Color Themes panel. 

We also love the fact that you can browse themes from the Creative Cloud community directly in the panel, and add them to your favourites for reference at a later date. If you’re knee-deep in a branding project and need some colour inspiration, this panel could well prove a huge time-saver.

Improved typography features

Mark your favourite fonts by starring them directly in the Control bar

Typographic control has been ramped up in the CC 2017 release of Illustrator, giving you more options when creating layouts and compositions in the app. For instance, when you create a text box using the Type tool, it’s automatically filled with lorem ipsum placeholder text – the idea being that this helps you visualise a design or layout more quickly. It’s not a game-changer and it can actually be quite annoying; luckily you can turn it off in Preferences. 

The same goes for type on a path and vertical type fills. We’d say you’re better off getting the real text first, if possible, rather than using this (unless you’re working on very early concepts). You can also now place text from a file directly into a shape. We don’t know how often you’d use this as you wouldn’t want to work with too much long form copy in Illustrator, but it’s there.

And your type choices have been made a little easier, now that you can mark favourites by starring them directly from the Control bar. What’s more, you can also search for fonts based on visual similarity. And being able to search by classification – serif, sans serif and so on – is really nice. 

You can preview your type designs live in Illustrator – handy

Rounding it off is a new live preview, which is potentially the most useful thing in the new type features. Select your text, then from the Control panel cycle through your fonts. The type will update on the Illustrator canvas to reflect your type choices as you do this. It’s fast. Super-fast. 

Additional updates

Oh, and a few other minor additions. There’s now in-context alternate glyphs (meaning you can quickly add them as you set your type). You can also add more special characters from the Type menu. And there are keyboard shortcuts for adding hidden characters, such as em dashes – don’t get too excited, will you?

Pixel-perfect precision is key to those working on, say, icon designs. In November last year, the Illustrator 2017 release brought new pixel grid tools for this very reason. You can choose to align an existing object to a pixel grid by using new snapping options (using the drop-down in the Control panel). Again, it’s an example of Adobe tweaking the application, making it a little easier for you to use. 

Another example of this is the Zoom to Selection feature. When you zoom in and out – by manually using the Zoom tool or using keyboard shortcuts – Illustrator centres your selected object. Again, it isn't life-changing, but it can be useful when working on finer details.

System requirements

Mac

  • Multicore Intel processor with 64-bit support
  • macOS version 10.12 (Sierra), Mac OS X version 10.11 (El Capitan), or Mac OS X version 10.10 (Yosemite)
  • 2 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended)
  • 2 GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on a volume that uses a case-sensitive file system or on removable flash storage devices)
  • 1024 x 768 display (1280 x 800 recommended)
  • Optional: to use GPU Performance, your Mac should have a minimum of 1 GB of VRAM (2 GB recommended), and your computer must support OpenGL version 4.0 or greater

PC

  • Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon 64 processor
  • Microsoft Windows 7 with Service Pack 1, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10
  • 1 GB of RAM (3 GB recommended) for 32 bit; 2 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended) for 64 bit
  • 2 GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on removable flash storage devices)
  • 1024 x 768 display (1280 x 800 recommended)
  • To view Illustrator in HiDPI mode, your monitor must support a resolution of 1920 x 1080 or more
  • OpenGL 4.x
  • To use the new Touch workspace in Illustrator, you must have a touch-screen-enabled tablet/monitor running Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 (Microsoft Surface Pro 3 recommended)
  • Optional: to use GPU Performance, you need an Intel, NVIDIA or AMD video adapter from those listed below (medium/high-end recommended), 1 GB of VRAM (2 GB recommended) and the latest drivers for optimal performance

Buy Illustrator CC 2017 or sign up to Adobe Creative Cloud here

The Verdict

9

out of 10

Adobe Illustrator CC 2017 review

Illustrator CC 2017 doesn’t set the world on fire – it’s not a huge update by any means. But it does tweak the application, bringing a host of workflow-orientated tools that will speed up your everyday design work. We’re particularly impressed with the added typographic options and the new range of templates. In fact, the new Color Themes panel is pretty damn good, as well. If you’re still on CS6, Illustrator CC 2017 is a whole new experience, and one that will undoubtedly help you go from concept to completion in record speeds.