|If you are just starting out with Illustrator, then you SHOULD buy Adobe Illustrator 10 Classroom in a Book as it will take you by the hand and step by step, teach you the fundamentals of using Illustrator. By following the lesson plans presented in the book, you will become familiar with the various tools and functions of Illustrator. I might also add that if you are working with Web design, Flash animations, Dynamic Data Drive Graphics or need MAC OS X Support, or you want to work with scripts or SVG effects, all of which are now supported in Illustrator 10, then you may want to get the book just to be able to get in touch with these new added features.
As with all the Classroom in a Book series, this offering from Adobe comes with its own CD with practice files on it. Starting with the quick tour, you open a pre-made illustration that you modify step by step. This gets your feet wet using some of the various tools in Illustrator. It's all very straightforward although you may get a bit disoriented at first.
Lesson 1 introduces you to the tools and the different palettes. I liked the shortcuts that they explained. I am a hard core pen user (wacom tablet) but by finding the proper keyboard shortcuts, I can integrate the two styles into my work and speed things up considerably.
One of the sections that I really like is Chapter 4 which deals with using the Pen tool. The Pen tool is perhaps the most frustrating and difficult tools to understand and implement for new and not-so-new users. Chapter 4 takes the Pen tool and in a few pages, through some really good basic diagrams, explains exactly HOW the mysterious Pen tool functions and reacts. It had been a good while since I read up on the Pen tool (sometimes we forget that we have the information available to us and this results in lots of wasted time). Re-reading the section for this review made me clean up my act and get back on track with this very useful tool. While the chapter is basic, it will get you started with using this powerful tool. Someone, somewhere, is going to come out with a Pen and Bezier tutorial one day that will REALLY cover this subject, but until then, a couple of read throughs of Chapter 4 will be beneficial.
Illustrator is an incredibly powerful program. One of the most useful properties of Illustrator is that the artwork is Vector based. This enables you to create illustrations that can be ported to other programs with no loss of quality when scaled up or down. This becomes extremely important when using Illustrator files in programs like Adobe Premier and After Effects.
When working in a print based medium, Illustrator enables the graphic designer to create color separations and halftone screens that will simplify getting the project ready for the camera. Illustrator fully supports process color such as PANTONE and TOYO so that when you are working with a printer, you can easily match your artwork to their requirements.
A nice addition in Illustrator 10 is the ability to utilize Symbols. If you are creating content for the Web, or making animations, keeping file sizes down is of paramount importance. By giving you the ability to define and create Symbol libraries, you can reduce the size of your files which makes for faster downloads and smoother animations. Any artwork or element that you create can be saved as a symbol that references the original artwork (including text elements, images or combinations). This creates a Symbol palette which you can use via drag & drop or a new set of symbol tools. If you update the artwork, you can use the redefine symbol and all instances of that symbol will be updated as well.
Also in version 10 is the ability to create slices from artwork and integrate them into style sheets. This is a powerful feature that web designers will love. Again, Adobe is looking to give the user ways to streamline their work-flow and make their projects smoother and faster for the end user.
Illustrator 10 also now supports the export of Flash (SWF) from the created artwork. This alone is worth the price of the book if you are working in that medium. The ability to have your creation tools in one place will make creating Flash much easier. There is now support for integrating Illustrator 10 with MAC OS X ver. 10.1 at the system level with an improved interface and memory management. You may also customize the workspace to your own preferences.
The CD has 15 lessons that correspond to each chapter in the book. The lessons start out quite basic and work their way into more advanced techniques. By following along ( and maybe doing the lessons a couple of times), you will become more comfortable with Illustrator. At the end of each chapter you will find review questions (Yes, it really IS a Classroom in a Book!). The questions cover the concepts discussed in the preceding chapter and serve as a gage for you to judge how much you've absorbed from the lesson. A nice touch is that the answers are right below the questions so you don't have to fumble around if you miss one (no cheating here!).
So the long and short of it is that if you need to integrate Flash, SVG, Slicing and have never worked with Illustrator before, then I fully recommend that you get the book. If you've had experience with Illustrator, take a pass and use the online help and the manual to get the additional information on the newest features. Remember, Adobe's Expert Center is usually quite current with new releases of their software and many example will be appearing there for you to work through.
If you own any of the previous Adobe Illustrator Classroom in a Book versions ( 8.0, 9.0, etc.) take a pass on this book. While there is some new information on version 10, the book is virtually identical to the copy of Adobe Illustrator 8.0 Classroom in a Book. The lessons are the same with some slight variations and the 23 pages of plates are now in color which is nice, but there are other books out there that will be a better buy for your money. I do think that Adobe makes a good effort to be inclusive in their classroom series books, but there is too much repeated information from one version to the next. At $45.00 a copy (discounted through the amazon.com link to the left), this can get expensive and frustrating. Of course, Adobe has to release books that reflect additional functions in the latest version, but the additional new features in a full digit version change don't amount to more than a few pages of information, hardly worth the cost. (Illustrator 8.0 Classroom in a Book contains 410 pages while Illustrator 10 contains 497 pages, not counting the Index).
I give Adobe Illustrator 10 Classroom in a Book (4 1/2 Cows) for New Users and (2 1/2 Cows) for Users with Illustrator experience.