Phantasm CS review

The curiously named Phantasm brings a set of colour manipulation plug-ins to Adobe Illustrator CS, up to and including version 3. The flagship vector graphics program has its own filters built in – but nothing quite so comprehensive as those provided by Phantasm. These beauties offer designers the same control over colour, contrast, hue and saturation as you get by default in Photoshop.

It's unusual to find bitmap-style editing tools in a vector graphics package, but once you try the plug-ins in Phantasm, you quickly wonder why you tried to live without them. For example, you can edit colours using Curves – just like Photoshop – or edit hue, saturation and lightness levels.

The plug-ins themselves are as easy to use as they are powerful and will be familiar to anyone who has used Photoshop. In fact, we're hard pressed to explain why some of these don't come as standard.

Of course, there are some tools you won't find in bitmap editors. “Shift to Colour” enables you to define a base hue and add in a percentage of that colour to a selected object onscreen. The Halftone and Duotone plug-ins are more sophisticated than similar bundled add-ons, producing precisely calculated results.

You may have noticed that we've avoided calling this a suite of either “filters” or “effects”. That's because they're both. You can apply colour edits using Phantasm in filter mode, changing the illustration at file level, or you can add changes as Live Effects. The latter remain editable, so you don't have to commit until you're ready to print.

OUR VERDICT

The suite ships in three versions – and we checked out Phantasm CS, a set of tools so reasonably priced at £25 that we can't think on any reason why Illustrator users wouldn't want to snap up a copy right now...

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