We go back to Illustrator 3, long before the CS thing got started in September 2003. Illustrator CS6 is actually Illustrator 16. Most Illustrator users know Illustrator by its 2 character designation of "Ai."
The big new direction for Ai CS6 was immense. Adobe's Ai team had to rewrite just about every line of code going back to 1987. This makes Ai a 64-bit app, something both Windows and Mac apps have to move toward. At the same time, Ai took on the new user interface (UI) which came into Photoshop CS5. It's sometimes known as the "dark UI" since it looks like Adobe's DVA apps (Digital Video Audio), such as Premier Pro, After Effects, and Audition. When the original Illustrator debuted, how a development team wrote code, in 1987, for little beige Macs with black and white screens has nothing to do with what's needed today. That's something akin going back to cars which did not have radios. Adobe Illustrator CS6 is a brand new app.
In short, Ai CS6 is not packed with plenty of new features. This book's opening summary on what's new is only 4 pages. So, how do authors go about updating a venerable book like "Adobe Illustrator CS6 Classroom in a Book" (CIB) without discussing a huge new feature set? As authors of three books, and collaborators on many others, we're impressed. Brian & Wyndham Wood resisted the temptation to merely repackage the previous Ai CIB and instead filled it with many new and valuable lessons.
At this point, it is fair to ask, "Why is someone who goes back to Illustrator 3 reading CIB, 13 versions later?" CIB is one of those book series which creative professionals look to as the foundation of learning an app's features. If it's in CIB, it must be mastered. So, we write this review comparing Ai CIB CS6 to the CS5 edition.
If you're new to Ai, you may not realize how much you should appreciate the Getting Started section. The concepts of Illustrator are not easy to grasp, for many. Yet, these first few pages provide the reader with all the basics demonstrated with elegant visuals. The same can be said for the first lesson on getting to know your work area.
As much as there is to learn about Ai and as much as this confounds many, by the time you have completed chapters 2 and 3 you should have an excellent understanding of the basic drawing tools. We commend the authors for being able to teach so much in so few pages. If you are new to Ai, don't rush through the lessons. Be sure you understand every aspect. Chapter 2 is recycled from the previous edition but 3 is pretty much all new.
Another completely revised chapter is the fourth one. This is where the lessons begin to help you understand the power of Illustrator as you take simple shapes and transform them into eye-catching visuals. If you have not taken a breather in this book, yet, you'll want to take a break before starting this and give your brain some time to recharge.
The fifth and sixth chapters are pretty much recycled from the CS5 edition. It would be a mistake to breeze through these chapters on pencil drawing and color. It's easy to say to yourself, "I already know how to do some of this in Photoshop and InDesign." But, lodged within their pages are some very important aspects of Ai that you'll not want to skip.
When Adobe put together the original Creative Suite box, in 2003, the concept was for you to learn how to use a tool in one app and apply that knowledge to 2 or more apps. After moving away from that concept, the new UI in Ai has brought much feature parity back between Photoshop and Illustrator. Additionally, in the seventh chapter on type, which has been beautifully redone with new sample graphics, you can see the similarity in type to InDesign. The also wonderfully new eighth chapter on layers typifies the similarity of both apps. However, we must caution that layers and type in Ai has a few features which are unique to it. If you don't work through these lessons carefully, you'll find yourself a little confused when attempting to apply Photoshop or InDesign principles which are not necessarily there in Ai.
Perspective was a big new feature set for Ai CS5. The ninth chapter of this book manages to masterfully teach some concepts which some do not find easy to sort out in their minds. It's near identical to the previous edition but we do not fault the authors for that. It's in the category of, "If it ain't broke..." This is another one to move through slowly.
Dramatically improved for this edition is the tenth chapter on blending colors and shapes. These lessons inspire the mind to break from the typical two dimensional vector art the early days of Illustrator are known for. This might be a good time to take a break after completing this chapter and do a little exploration on your own.
The eleventh chapter on brushes is not easy for an instructor to fit into 30 pages. It could easily be a book in itself with a higher page count than this one. Brushes are what master Ai users work with to create some truly dazzling graphics. Follow this chapter with your creative mind in gear. Take breaks between the lesson segments to ponder how you can further use these tools.
The same can be said for the slightly updated chapter on effects. The very powerful section on 3D is crammed into this twelfth chapter. There is only time for you to learn the basics, here in what could also be another book, so keep your mind open.
The completely revised and expanded thirteenth and fourteenth chapters could be entitled "Using Illustrator for the Internet." If you are not web production savvy, do not allow these chapters to through you for a curve. Concentrate on the graphics. These are very empowering sections.
With the popularity explosion of Adobe's new subscription offering, Creative Cloud, the final chapter on combining Ai with other Adobe CS apps is needed more than ever. We would hope with authors will be able to expand this even further in their next edition. There are some fabulous things Ai can do for the DVA apps such as Premiere Pro and After Effects.
Usually we conclude these reviews by saying something like, "We gave this book a 5 star rating, but..." However, this one is a solid 5. It could only have been made better by adding a few hundred more pages to it, but that would blur the purpose of the learning experience.