Already bored with the new features in Adobe Illustrator 9.0? Two new plug-in packages should cure your ennui. Although Filterit 3.0 and Vector Studio 1.0 share a bit of common ground, each package provides additional time-saving tools and intriguing effects for die-hard Illustrator users.
It’s in the area of path distortions that these packages overlap, and Vector Studio comes out on top. Filterit’s Roughening tool disrupts paths’ smoothness effectively, but Vector Studio gives you several specialized brushes, with descriptive names such as Scallop, Crystallize, and Wrinkle, for the job. Filterit’s Warp and Wave tools are intuitive and easy to use when you’re distorting entire objects, but Vector Studio’s Envelope Mesh tool offers the ultimate in precision, letting you reshape objects by dragging external and internal mesh points.
The Gradient Texture tool is another Vector Studio standout, creating vector-based textures that resemble bitmaps yet remain resolution-independent. But Vector Studio’s most indispensable filter is the Selection Hat, which lets you save and recall any selection — a lifesaver in complex files.
The handiest tool among Filterit’s touted “eighty-two effects” (“twenty” would be a more reasonable count) is the AlignPoints tool, which earns its name with only a couple of mouse clicks. But Filterit really shines with plug-ins that replicate objects in orderly or disorderly patterns. The MetaBrush tool and live effects — such as Tiling, Explosion, and Galaxy — offer stunning and complex designs. There are a couple of letdowns, however: the Fade tool simulates transparency by fading copies of an object to a color you select, but this seems antiquated next to Illustrator 9’s true transparency abilities. Likewise, Illustrator 9’s live Drop Shadow makes Filterit’s Live Shadow superfluous.
| Morph and Windy Exhale is one of Vector Studio’s dynamic Morph brushes; others used here are Inhale, Wrinkle, and Swirl. |
Vector Studio requires that you increase Illustrator 8’s default RAM by a modest amount, but otherwise both packages run smoothly in versions 8 and 9. Vector Studio’s manual is well written; Filterit lacks printed documentation, and its built-in help is rife with errors.