By Rob Carney

While Illustrator doesn’t have as many plugins as its raster brother Photoshop, developers take the application very seriously when it comes to building new tools, effects and workflow solutions.

Extending the abilities of Illustrator isn’t usually necessary, but, as with Photoshop, plugins can save time and effort. These plugins won’t cause a mini-revolution in your studio, but they will enable you to do certain tasks quicker. Plus, many of these are designed for older versions of Ai, adding some functionality of newer versions like Creative Cloud without the additional expense of upgrading.

You’ll find a couple of collections in the following list, so there are actually way more than 17 Adobe Illustrator plugins here – enjoy!

01. VectorScribe v3

  • Price: $83.70
  • Compatibility: CS6 to CC

Take control of your vectors with VectorScribe, described by its creators as a vector Swiss Army knife. You can use it to manage points, paths and handles, making your work easier to edit and reducing file sizes at the same time, you can create and edit shapes as well as applying different styles of corner to your work, and with VectorScribe’s dynamic measurements you can quickly and accurately measure everything from simple lengths to angles and path areas, removing any guesswork when you need to get things exactly the right size.

02. Gold Rush

Add some sparkle to your Illustrator designs with Gold Rush
  • Price: $18
  • Compatibility: CS3+

Give your work a classy, presidential look with Gold Rush, a plugin providing all the metallic, glitter and foil effects that you’ll ever need. Containing 218 swatches in raster format and 35 brushed elements, it’s ideal for anything that needs a bit of bling and includes hot foil effects, crumpled foil, gold leaf, bokeh, metallic paint, and much more, not just in gold but also rose gold, black, silver and copper.

03. Hot Door Control

Ramp up your productivity with Hot Door Control Plug-ins
  • Price: $98
  • Compatibility: CS6 to CC 2015

Control is a set of seven plugins for Illustrator that enable you to ramp up your productivity with new techniques for editing, organising and labelling your work.

Available for $20 each – or $98 for the whole set – the various plugins can help you select artwork with custom search criteria, create layer groups for organisation and printing, nudge artwork at less than 1pt increments, log your time spent on documents, call out artwork and document attributes and attach tags to artwork for counting and tracking materials.

04. Concatenate

Concatenate is extremely useful and just $20
  • Price: $20
  • Compatibility: CS3 to CS5.5

Concatenate is a plugin filter that connects multiple paths into one continuous path, similar to the Merge Path command when using the Blob Brush tool in Illustrator CS4 and CS5.

However, Concatenate adds a few extra features including an ‘assimilate’ function, which scans a selected area or layer for unselected paths, and adds them to the merge. The ‘connect’ function then enables users to subsequently add lines or extra segments between open paths.

05. ColliderScribe v2

  • Price: $30.33
  • Compatibility: CS to CC

ColliderScribe provides a simple toolset for Illustrator that lets you position shapes accurately, placing any object precisely next to another when they touch, and enabling you to quickly and easily arrange shapes in formations and patterns.

The release of ColliderScribe2 brings with it a new Rotate To Collision Tool, plus several new features and improvements – including a New Space Fill feature, which lets you fill the container path with selected objects, distributing them evenly within the shape.

06. ArtBlue Gold 2.53.3

Simultaneously edit paths belonging to the same group
  • Price: $159
  • Compatibility: CS6 to CC2014 (Mac OS X only)

For a more pricey but sophisticated shape-creation option, Amazon Canvas’ ArtBlue Gold 2.5 comes with a range of tools and a custom shape feature that lets you import and export formations between ArtBlue and Photoshop.

A new Shape Transform Matrix tool – amongst other features – means you can convert a simple shape into common shape formations or complex geometric sculptures, and objects placed in 3D space can be edited and tracked.

07. Graffix Path Area

  • Price: Free
  • Compatibility: Ai 7/8/9, CS, CS2, CS3, CS4, CS6

If you need to calculate the length or area of interlocking or singular Illustrator paths, there is an inbuilt option, but it involves accessing the debugging dialog box and scanning for the appropriate info.

Graffix Path Area makes the process speedier. Users access it via the Filters menu, and it gives the length of a selected path, or area of conjoined paths and shapes, making precise calculations for printed graphics far snappier to retrieve.

08. EskoArtwork Data Exchange Plug-in

  • Price: Free
  • Compatibility: CS6 to CC2015

ArtiosCAD is a mainstay application in the packaging design industry, and this Illustrator plugin acts as the perfect bridge. It enables users to open native ArtiosCAD files in Illustrator without the need to convert and flatten them, position them on the artboard and then apply swatches, objects and full Ai files upon the ArtiosCAD design. You can then manipulate guides and paths of the Illustrator artwork directly on the ArtiosCAD object.

09. CADtools 10

  • Price: $349
  • Compatibility: CS5 to CC2015

As the name suggests, CADtools adds CAD functionality to Illustrator. Very useful features include the ability to snap objects and project art onto isometric grids, which can save hours.

CADtools also adds many tools to the Illustrator toolbox. It’s a well-thought-out plugin that can boost efficiency dramatically. Download the free trial and see if it suits your needs, because it’s not cheap.

10. MultiPage 4

  • Price: $79
  • Compatibility: Ai9 to CS4

MultiPage is about as simple a plugin as you’ll find. But, as is often the case, this simplicity makes it very effective and very usable. MultiPage cleverly uses layers, in combination with its own palette, to set up the effect of having multi-page documents in Illustrator. You can even use master pages.

The plugin is handy for the occasional longer …read more

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