Vector Effects 1.5 is an update of the popular set of plug-in filters for Adobe Illustrator 7 or later. It contains 13 filters that add a wide range of creative enhancements to Illustrator, creating visual effects from simple shapes quickly, often saving hours.
The Vector Effects interface has a quirky KPT look-&-feel, with a real-time preview of effects, and a number of buttons and sliders. As usual with KPT tools, the emphasis is on tweaking and experimenting, rather than precision.
3D Transform is the most useful, and complex, of the effects – it enables any 2D shape to be turned into a collection of shapes, creating a 3D effect. It has a wide range of options to control how the 3D transform is applied, such as rotation, extrusion depth, and bevel. There are also a number of pre-set distortions, and you can store the transformations you create. Most of the filters in Vector Effects have pre-set options.
With the 3D Transform filter, there are also five components to determine the light and colour of the 3D form, that complete the illusion of depth. The Light Source option specifies the direction and intensity of lighting, while Highlight and Ambient colour controls determine the 3D-objects colour properties.
The second best filter is Warp Frame, closely followed by Vector Distort, both of which allow the distortion of objects, either by determining the shape of the bounding box, or by applying distortion lenses – such as bulge, spherize, and twirl.
Some of the effects are of little use – such as ShadowLand, which creates repeating shadow patterns, and Neon – which creates gradations of colours extending outwards from paths.
Other filters such as LensFlare, Sketch, Shatterbox, Emboss and ColorTweak, all self-explanatory, are slightly more useful – although again, hardly the sort of thing you will use every day. The Point Editor is a sophisticated way to add additional control points to a shape, giving a greater degree of control over shapes. Simplify provides the converse effect, reducing the number of anchor points, to enhance printing effects.
Vector Effects is a rag-tag set of filters – one superb effect, two good utilities, and ten marginal effects that most people will find of little value. Maybe MetaCreations should start selling these filters individually on the Web, as it does with KPT for Photoshop – and let users buy only the effects they need.