Adobe Illustrator CS4 for Mac


$599; $199 upgrade. Educational price $199.
Upgrade requires a previous licensed version of Adobe Illustrator CS, CS2 or CS3, or Macromedia FreeHand 9, 10 or MX software.

Adobe Illustrator CS4 adds a number of appealing features and tools to the Mac-standard vector drawing software. These enhancements, notably multiple artboards, transparency in gradients and the whimsically named Blob Brush, make the application a desirable purchase or upgrade for professional illustrators and graphic artists, as well as for serious hobbyists..
For designing interactive documents that can be exported as SWF files (a file playback format), InDesign CS4 adds panels for Buttons and Page Transitions

The biggest news in this latest version of Illustrator for the Mac is multiple artboards. Prior to CS4, Illustrator was limited to a single artboard in a document, which meant that users could only work on one page at a time. Now you can add up to 100 artboards of varying sizes and shapes to a single document and arrange those artboards however you choose.


The single document approach makes it vastly easier to work on documents with multiple pages and on projects with multiple elements. Each artboard you create can be saved, printed and exported separately, and some or all of the artboards in a document can be combined into a multipage PDF.

Like other CS4 applications, Illustrator’s document windows are viewed as tabs. This means that each new document opens as a tab at the top of a single resizable window, with the Illustrator tools and panels anchored on either side.
For my money, the Workspace Switcher in the Application bar is one of Illustrator CS4’s coolest enhancements. A workspace is a particular arrangement of windows and panels that can be customized to suit your needs and preferences. Illustrator now comes with a collection of pre-made workspaces – Automation, Essentials (the default), Like Freehand, Like InDesign, Like Photoshop, Painting, Painting and Proofing, Typography, and Web. The Painting workspace includes the brushes, stroke and symbols panels, while the Like InDesign workspace includes the swatches, character and paragraph styles panels. You get the picture. These workspace choices are invaluable if you’re accustomed to working with another Adobe application and want a familiar interface, or for particular tasks like working with type or preparing a web-optimized document.

Gradient transparency and on-object gradient adjustments are two CS4 additions that are likely to make designers hearts beat a little faster. Gradient transparency means that you can create gradients of several colors for an object and control how much you want to reveal of what’s underneath. On-object gradient adjustment (Adobe calls it “Gradients Eposed”) means that the controls appear right on the object rather than on a separate panel – very intuitive.

The Blob brush tool is a particularly sweet addition that makes Illustrator much easier for users who struggle with paths and vector outlines. It’s a paintbrush sketching tool that lets you draw an object with multiple strokes, and then melds it into a single filled object. No more wading through a forest of individual brushstrokes to manually combine paths! You can also use the Blob brush to modify objects with one or a series of strokes. Used with the Eraser tool and the Smooth tool, the Blob brush gives a more painter-like (or Photoshop-like) experience.

Spring-loaded panels, which expand when you drag an object on top of them, Spring-loaded tabs, which let you move an object from one document to another by dragging it to the document’s tab, and Smart Guides, which appear on the objects themselves rather than on a separate panel are among the user interface enhancements that put tools and panels where you need them.

At the Adobe website you can download free 30 day trial versions of Illustrator CS4 and other CS4 applications, or request a trial DVD of the entire Creative Suite 4 Design Premium for $10.
Learn more about Illustrator CS4 at, or by watching Introducing Illustrator CS4 and other videos at And be sure to check out the video podcasts by Adobe's Terry White at

–Elsa Travisano

Adobe Illustrator CS4 System Requirements
PowerPC G 4 or G5 or multicore Intel processor. Mac OS X v10.4.11–10.5.4, 512MB of RAM (1GB recommended), 2GB 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 flash-based storage devices), 1024x768 display (1280x800 recommended) with 16-bit video card, DVD-ROM drive, QuickTime 7 software required for multimedia features. Broadband Internet connection required for online services.

Copyright ©2009 by Elsa Travisano. This review appeared in the May 2009 issue of Newsbreak, the newsletter of MUG ONE - Macintosh User Group of Oneonta, NY.