Astute Graphics Phantasm CS Designer/Studio

A plug-in that's worth a look

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Astute Graphics Phantasm CS Designer/Studio
  • Astute Graphics Phantasm CS Designer/Studio
  • Astute Graphics Phantasm CS Designer/Studio
  • Astute Graphics Phantasm CS Designer/Studio

Pros

  • Easy to use, competitively priced, vector Halftone filter, compatible with Illustrator Actions and Live Effects, familiar Photoshop adjustment tools, advanced pre-flight and separation toolset

Cons

  • Can be slow when working with larger images

Bottom Line

Any designer who uses Illustrator should check it out.

Would you buy this?

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With such a range of Illustrator plug-ins on the market, it's rare to come across one that excels to this extent. Phantasm CS adds Photoshop-style adjustment tools and functionality that seamlessly integrates with Illustrator's native features, including standard gradients, meshes, filters and effects.

Furthermore, Phantasm CS is fully compatible with Illustrator's Actions and Live Effects, which can potentially speed up your workflow.

We first reviewed Phantasm CS 1.5 back in March 2007, when it received our 'Best Buy' award. With the release of Phantasm CS, Astute Graphics has made a great product even better — it's available in two new variations: Phantasm CS Designer and Phantasm CS Studio, each progressively adding hugely to the popular original toolset.

Phantasm CS Designer is aimed at professional freelance designers and publishers who are looking for greater control of their colours. All the filter effects, such as Brightness/Contrast, Curves, Duotone, Hue/Saturation, Levels, Temperature/Tint, can quickly be applied to adjust both vector and embedded raster images.

Phantasm enables you to save these settings for future use, and for loading Photoshop Curves (.ACV), HSL (.AHU), and Levels (.ALV). These edits can be applied as either permanent filters or Live Effects, which can be modified at any time and saved as Graphic Styles.

Without a doubt, the feature that will attract most attention is the Halftone filter/effect that, again, works on both vector and embedded raster images. This opens a world of creative possibilities: designers can experiment with infinite variations, ranging from conventional dot types to custom symbols, which remain faithful to the original artwork mode and preserve any spot colours.

Larger images require some patience, but for such complex effects this is to be expected.

Phantasm CS Studio has all the goodies of the Designer edition, but with advanced pre-flight features. It's aimed at studios of all sizes, and at publishers and printers whose work must comply to specific rules for output devices.

The Studio edition makes light work of pre-flight checks with the help of sought-after colour control and checking tools — including separations, ink coverage and in-line embedded image editing.

It also has the ability to ignore white, rich and pure black, remove white overprint and add overprint to pure black. It's here that the plug-in really succeeds in making these sometimes daunting technical issues user friendly.

Phantasm CS is available for Illustrator CS, CS2 and CS3, although users of CS and CS2 will find outputting Full Separations with spot colours limited, as is selecting spot colour swatches with the Duotone filter using Illustrator CS. However, this is due to the technical limitations of Illustrator's previous releases.

To have all these features available in Illustrator (Adobe take note) and at such a modest price tag puts this product in a class of its own. We wholeheartedly recommend that any designer or studio adds it to their software arsenal.

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