13 best Adobe Illustrator plugins 2020

Illustrator plugins
(Image credit: Astute Graphics)

Illustrator plugins can save you time and effort. They add onto Adobe's vector tool and can be an extremely useful extra. In this article, we have collated the best ones around. The plugins we've found are unlikely to cause a revolution in your studio (although they might). However, what they will do is help you to carry out certain tasks quicker, and smooth out your workflow – and we all know how valuable that can be.

Lots of these were created for older versions of Ai, adding some of the functionality of new versions like Illustrator CC (opens in new tab) but without the expense of upgrading. While Adobe Illustrator doesn't have as may plugins as its raster brother Photoshop CC, (opens in new tab) the ones that are available introduce new tools, effects and workflow solutions into the program.

To up your game even further, take a look at our pick of the best free Illustrator brushes (opens in new tab), or our roundup of top Adobe Illustrator tutorials (opens in new tab).

01. Astute Graphics Illustrator plugin bundle

(Image credit: Astute Graphics)
  • Compatibility: Illustrator CC
  • Price: $119/year for 16 plugins 
  • Download here (opens in new tab)

This bundle of Illustrator plugins from Astute Graphics is definitely work a look for illustrators. There are 16 included at the moment, all with great names and handy functions. There's DynamicSketch for intuitive vector sketching, Stipplism introduces a live stipple effect, and VectorFirstAid deals with cleaning up vector documents. 

This bundle will set you back $119 per year, but for that you get every single Illustrator plugin Astute Graphics sells, including any updates or new ones released during that year. These add-ons are well respected within the industry, and you can be sure you're getting a quality product. 

02. Fontself: Make fonts in Illustrator

  • Compatibility: Illustrator CC
  • Price: From $44 
  • Download here (opens in new tab)

Fontself Maker does exactly what it says on the tin – it turns your lettering into actual fonts. Fontself explains: 'Just drag & drop any letter, icon or symbol to the Fontself Maker panel, and BOOOM, you've just created a font.'

03. Super Magic Eraser

(Image credit: MAI Tools)
  • Compatibility: Illustrator CS 6, CC
  • Price: From $7 
  • Download here (opens in new tab)

This Illustrator plugin is designed to help you crop your images, by automatically cutting and deleting vector objects and paths outside the artboard. It works without affecting anything on the artboard itself, and your work will remain editable after use. The 2019 update introduces a new Crop by Shape feature, which essentially does what it says on the tin – enables you to crops your image based on a particular shape or even masked object.

04. QR code generator for Illustrator

(Image credit: metisigor)

This is a useful tool that enables you to create QR codes in Illustrator. It has the capability to create multiple codes at once, corrects errors automatically and has 40 versions of QR code available. 

05. Cineware for Illustrator

  • Compatibility: CC 2017-2018
  • Price: Free
  • Download here (opens in new tab)

Start working in 3D with this free plugin by MAXON (opens in new tab) in partnership with TurboSquid. This entry-level piece of software is perfect for designers who have felt intimidated by 3D tools in the past but still want to experiment with the medium. The Illustrator plugin works by allowing users to import any Cinema 4D (opens in new tab) file and adjust the view, lighting and textures to integrate 3D elements with 2D design.

With Cineware you don't have to leave Illustrator to start rendering. This streamlines the workflow for product designers, especially seeing as changes can be made at any time and the image will re-render automatically.

06. Mandala Creator Pro

  • Compatibility: CS5, CS6, CC
  • Price: $20 $12
  • Download here (opens in new tab)

Created by VectorNomad, Mandala Creator Pro is an Illustrator plugin specifically designed to help you create intricate, mandala-style line drawings easily. The 2018 update includes over 70 new patterns – brining the total up to over 170 – and an improved toolkit. you can also make your own designs or combine existing options for something more unique. There's a narrated video tutorial to help you get started, too.

07. Gold Rush

Adobe Illustrator plugins: Gold Rush

  • Compatibility: CS3+
  • Price: From $16
  • Download here (opens in new tab)

Give your work a classy, presidential look with Gold Rush, a plugin providing all the metallic, glitter and foil effects that you'll ever need. Containing 218 swatches in raster format and 35 brushed elements, it's ideal for anything that needs a bit of bling. 

The set includes hot foil effects, crumpled foil, gold leaf, bokeh, metallic paint and much more – not just in gold, but also rose gold, black, silver and copper.

08. Magic Isometry Light

  • Compatibility: Adobe Illustrator CS6, CC
  • Price: $7
  • Download here (opens in new tab)

This handy Illustrator plugin makes it easy to create isometric drawings (opens in new tab). It operates as a compact panel in Ai, and you use it to add isometric projections to your flat shapes. Other tools include a symmetry function for speedy symmetrical designs, and a reverse tool to turn your isometric design back into a flat image. 

09. Neon Realistic

Use this Illustrator tutorial to turn any curve, shape or outline into a realistic looking neon tube. The process is simple and just takes a few clicks. Perhaps this kind of thing isn't often required in your workflow... but if it is, this handy plugin will be a great effort-saver. It's the work of Leezarius Design. See it in action in the video above.

10. Hot Door Control

Adobe Illustrator plugins: Hot Door Control

  • Compatibility: CS6+
  • Price: $20 each, $98 complete set of seven
  • Download here (opens in new tab)

Control is a set of seven plugins for Illustrator that enable you to ramp up your productivity with new techniques for editing, organising and labelling your work.

Available for $20 each – or $98 for the whole set – the various plugins can help you select artwork with custom search criteria, create layer groups for organisation and printing, nudge artwork at less than 1pt increments, log your time spent on documents, call out artwork and document attributes and attach tags to artwork for counting and tracking materials.

11. VectorGlitch

(Image credit: Spinturnix)

Add a grungy glitch effect to your vector art with this Illustrator plugin from Spinturnix. This add-on includes 60 styles to choose from, which can all be applied with just a single click. If you're using it on text and wondering why you wouldn't just go for a layer font, the advantage here is that this plugin will create different glitch variations on repeated letters. It's not just for text, though – you can use it on symbols, icons, illustrations or anything else.

12. CADtools 12

Illustrator plugins: Cad12

(Image credit: Hot Door)
  • Compatibility: CS5 to CC 2018
  • Price: $379
  • Download here (opens in new tab)

As the name suggests, CADtools adds CAD functionality to Illustrator. One of the most useful features is the ability to snap objects and project art onto isometric grids, which can save hours. CADtools 11 also adds 92 new tools, organised into 10 groups, to the Illustrator toolbox. 

It's a well thought-out plugin that can boost efficiency dramatically, but it's not cheap. Upgrading from version 8, 9 or 10 costs $229, or newcomers can get the full version for $379.

13. Magic Exporter

Adobe Illustrator plugins: Magic Exporter

Jeremy Marchand's Magic Exporter simplifies the process of exporting objects from Ai docs to web-ready PNG files. Instead of having to manually slice or hide layers to export the object you need, all you have to do is mark the object you need and export it using the dedicated menu.

Helpfully, it can automatically create several PNG copies of the same object scaled to screen sizes. If you're creating UI elements for the web in Illustrator, this will save you valuable time.

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