What are they and do we need them? – by Graphical Lead, Chris Chadwick.
In the land of computers, plug-ins are software components which ‘plug into’ existing software applications. They add specific features or abilities to existing programs. For illustration, the industry standard software is Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator is a vector based drawing application used by digital artists across the world for most areas of graphic design. I have tried multiple Illustrator plug-ins but my personal favourites are in the Astute Graphics suite, consisting of 12 very powerful applications.
Astute Graphics plug-ins can be used, not only, to edit illustrations but also make them. I have found they make Illustrator more efficient but also more enjoyable, natural and intuitive to use. Drawing feels smoother and modifying much more dynamic. This set is an invaluable addition to any creative’s arsenal and is used here at Totem Learning.
Critically acclaimed illustrators such as Von Glitschka & Mike Rankin are huge fans of the Astute Graphics range and for good reason. They make life easier.
When trying to do something for the first time most people turn to the internet, searching to find a quick and easy guide for what they are trying to achieve. Chances are, whatever you are trying to do others have tried to do too. This can turn up communities of people searching for the same need and when this need can’t be filled by the stand alone application it creates a demand for a plug-in
New comers to Illustrator, already have a lot to learn and may not see the benefits of plug-ins. Thinking; surely a long established Adobe product with a premium price tag, must have everything I need to do my job. Right? And this is true. Illustrator is amazing and I prefer it to all other vector drawing software available today. Remember most plug-ins don’t make the impossible happen*, they take what might be a long and difficult procedure and make it faster, intuitive, more accurate and accessible.
Intimidate + users will have, on more than one occasion, said to themselves;
“I wish illustrator could do X, and do it like Y. This would make creating Z as easy as A,B,C.” - Or something to that effect - creating the desire for a particular plug-in.
Illustrator isn’t perfect, we all just got used to a certain way of working and thinking, and that became the norm. So when something new comes along it’s always worth approaching it with an open mind.
To conclude plug-ins add new functionality to existing software. ColliderScribe for example adds a toolset which allows users to position objects accurately next to another when they touch, or to an assigned distance. This is only one feature of this plug-in. However, it is one of those X,Y,Z questions graphic designers have been saying to themselves for years. So yes, they help. But no, you don’t ‘need’ plug-ins. But then again you don’t ‘need’ a graphics tablet to do graphic design, but it sure makes life easier doesn’t it?
*some do make the impossible happen, using black magic and graphic goblins