Book Review: Adobe Illustrator CS4 How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques

by Louellen Coker on April 30, 2010

Adobe Illustrator CS4 How Tos cover imageWhether you’re a new graphics designer or a seasoned expert, David Karlins’ [amazon-product text=”Adobe Illustrator CS4 How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques” type=”text”]0321562909[/amazon-product] is an excellent resource for your bookshelf. Karlins, who has written several books on digital graphic and interactive design, focuses this book on the features of Illustrator CS4 that designers are most likely to use.

Karlins takes you step by step through 100 techniques that will allow you to master Illustrator CS4 features. He offers bite-sized lessons starting with the basics then expanding to progressively advanced topics such as drawing lines and shapes, drawing with brushes, editing paths, fills and strokes, working with layers, creating and formatting text, 3-D effects, and managing your workflow. In addition to clearly explaining each technique, Karlins provides relevant related tips to further enhance your graphic prowess.

Aiming his content at beginning to intermediate designers, Karlins illustrates each tip effectively with large and clear graphics, allowing you to be well grounded as you apply the steps to your project. Tips, presented in the margins almost as asides, point out changes from Illustrator cs3 and how to orient yourself as well as shortcuts and troubleshooting hints for those times you may have some difficulty employing the tip.

For example, for Tip #50 Applying Color to Live Paint Strokes and Fills (p 128-129), Karlins paints a full picture of what you need to know to use the technique as he unobtrusively shares

  • the change in terminology from CS3 to CS4 (Edges and Faces to Strokes and Fills)
  • gives you a heads up that your fill will sometimes flow into nearby faces and how to prevent that by setting your gaps appropriately
  • shortcuts to apply fill attributes to many faces at once
  • how to paint edges in a Live Paint Group

Another reason [amazon-product text=”Adobe Illustrator CS4 How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques” type=”text”]0321562909[/amazon-product] is a great resource is its succinct size. Karlins presents a wealth of information in 233 pages with an easy to use layout. Most tips are 1-2 pages and are presented on facing pages making it easy to walk through the steps without flipping pages. When the steps cover 3-4 pages, he breaks them up effectively to prevent confusion as you turn from one page to the next.

Problematic (using that term in its loosest sense) for those who are easily distracted is the logical presentation of the material. I started out just perusing the book and before I knew it, I had the program open and found myself applying one tip after another to current projects. If I had unlimited time, I could have spent the afternoon working my way through the book with as much enjoyment as I would a novel I would spend a Saturday afternoon reading.

The only disappointment in the book is that it contains no color. But even that is consistent with the title. The essential information is included and the quality of the graphics, even in grayscale,  make the lack of color more of an afterthought than a distraction. This keeps the production cost down, and at list price of $24.99 US, Karlins’ book is one of the least expensive guides out there.

With all factors combined—content, usability, practicality, price point—Karlins’ [amazon-product text=”Adobe Illustrator CS4 How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques” type=”text”]0321562909[/amazon-product] provides a great deal of bang for your buck and is an essential addition to your bookshelf.

[amazon-product alink=”0000FF” bordercolor=”000000″ height=”240″]0321562909[/amazon-product]

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