Adobe Illustrator CS3 (for short, AI) is the top software for creating vector artwork, that's infinitely scalable with perfectly crisp edges (as opposed to bitmap images, like JPGs, that become jagged when their size is increased). AI is capable of some gorgeous effects -- not just objects or typography but "painterly" gradient shadings -- that can be scaled in size from a tiny drawing to a billboard without any loss of perfectly smooth edges. The trouble comes in learning how to use the daunting AI, which feels much less intuitive than, say, Photoshop. Enter Adobe Illustrator CS3 How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques, by David Karlins and Bruce K. Hopkins. Through a hundred concise chapters, covering every important aspect of AI with clear hands-on directions, the authors have made AI as "user-friendly" as, say, Dreamweaver CS3 How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques by David Karlins (I also gave it a 5-star review here at Amazon), and for many of the same reasons.
Adobe's software can achieve the miraculous... if you know how to use it. BIG "IF"! But I do not like their built-in Help items, that more often than not send you down one rabbit hole after another, before (maybe) giving the information needed to accomplish a particular task. (The fact that the process usually turns out to be "simple" -- go to this menu item, do that -- never makes me feel any better.) And scrolling through the massive manual in PDF format to look up what you need is equally un-fun and time-consuming. But this AI CS3 How-Tos book is great because it can go into much more detail than the built-in Help items, yet it's much more flexible and comprehensive than even the massive Adobe Classroom in a Book (CiB). (Those ponderous tomes, which I'd tried using with earlier versions of AI, turned me off of the software, since what I needed to learn wasn't part of the few large-scale projects CiB uses as learning devices.)
Now, when I need to know how to do something, I immediately turn to the How-Tos book... and almost always find what I'm looking for in a matter of seconds.
With AI CS3 How-Tos, my comfort level is increasing rapidly -- meaning I'm getting some practical/creative use out of this wallet-emptying software -- as the authors clearly walk us through every important aspect of AI. The book explains all of the basics (creating a new document; setting up your workspace; printing (not as straightforward as you'd think!); drawing with lines, shapes, brushes; editing paths; working with layers; using transparency, blending, 3-D and other effects; more), as well as the many advanced features, both old and new. Each of the innovations in AI CS3 gets at least one chapter, as with the brand-new Live Trace (lets you convert bitmap to vector images for scalable use), Live Color (to explore countless variations in hue), eraser tool (at last!), advanced typography, Adobe Flash integration, and more. These are not step-by-step projects, which is not their purpose; they are simply clear guides on how to use a particular feature or set of features -- this is a BYOC (Bring Your Own Creativity) kind of book.
One of AI CS3 How-Tos' many strengths is that you can check the index for exactly what you're searching for. Most chapters are self-contained, but if it requires some background information, the authors tell you where, in this book, to find what you need. There are also many useful subsidiary tips, included in gray-colored sidebars, throughout the book -- these allow the authors to keep a tight focus within the main chapter, while still giving valuable 'bonus' information.
I wish all instructional works were this well thought out, clear, and useful. Five stars, for this indispensable guide.