VectorScribe Plugin for Illustrator Review - Powerful path manipulation tool filter from Astute Graphics > VectorScribe review

VectorScribe filter - Version 2 (as well as 1) review for Illustrator

The filter works in CC CS6 (with recent updates) CS5 (VectorScribe 1 also CS4 and CS3 ) - PC and MAC OSX / MacOS. I am using the CS5 PC version for the purposes of the review - there are no differences between the OS versions. VectorScribe filter review for use with Illustrator superb, totally recommended plug-in set from Astute graphics Also for this review, I am using the studio version - there is a different (less filters) version in the designer section


VectorScribe 2

There is now a new version, VectorScribe 2. The new version add many new features to the existing tools as well as the introduction of some new plugins such as the Smart Remove brush and extend path plugin tool. Please note that the many of the image examples are of VS 1 and not VS 2


Initial thoughts

I love Astute's Phantasm CS filter set - the halftone tool is amazing, also the color tools have proved very useful. This filter also has proved very useful - this time in the manipulation of paths. Manipulation of paths is key to the application and the vector Scribe filter path manipulation is achievable with the standard tools 'but' (and it is a big but) the VectorScribe tools are super easy to use and much faster (and instinctive) than the main application's cumbersome point tools.


Toolbox / panels

The filter set adds a few new tools to the tool box as well as some new panels to the window panel. To get the full tool you need the toolbox and the panels, and there are an awful lot of settings available on those panels but they are generally all well laid out and fairly obvious in their use.



A powerful tool to manipulate segments, you can drag segments and re-shape a path in 1000s of different ways. Instead of the standard technique of working from the points, this filter works on paths so you can click anywhere along the path and manipulate the path - in most cases this works really well and you can pull and push the paths to create some truly unique shape decorative graphics without adding any additional points. All very effective and very useful. Already used it to create many weird and wonderful shape decorative graphics. You can also manipulate the path / points using the numerical input. The only thing I would love to see there is an up-down control so I can shift the points 1pt at a time. Just entering numbers is such a cold way to approach path editing. You can also smooth points, split paths - all very useful features. If you select a symbol and then expand via the object menu, you can then use the plugin to manipulate all kinds of symbols


Dynamic measure

Interesting tool, certain there are many great uses for it. Great for showing distances between certain parts of a path, as well as angle. Neat. The generated measurements can also be converted to standard paths which are then locked. The preferences dialog alone comes with more options than you find in many filters.



A quick way to modify the constraining angles used by the main application. Not exactly certain I will ever use this but I am certain there might be times. I use smart guides but generally only in 45 degrees but perhaps I would like them to be in 30 degrees (why not 10 degrees?)


Dynamic Shapes

Have to say this was the least useful tool for me. Allows the creation of a donut, rectangular which is fine but I can create those easily enough with the tools at hand. Still, the tools allow for the dynamic manipulation of the design which is certainly a step beyond the existing tools - I guess there are times when I might want to re-size the outer diameter / inner diameter / number of points of a design. Begs the questions, with CS5, why are these features not in the standard tools - what with smart objects / live effects, all the toolbox tools seem to be very much stuck in the old pre-effects world. Anyway, the results were OK but I did struggle with the tool to generate various designs (not that the tool was difficult to use, it just found it a lot harder to generate a path with the tool than using the default tools) though perhaps with more time spent on the tool I would have a greater understanding and instinctive feel to what the tool will generate. This tool definitely does require the panel before any use. It offers the shape, size, corner settings as well as the option to pie slice the shape (which was quite a useful feature). Most of the inputs were numeric but as you can interactively modify the control points of the dynamic shapes an up/down option is probably not so useful - the sides did allow for the dynamic modification via an up / down control. Also, I would love to see more shapes.. the shapes selection is basic and matches the ones that come with main application (other than the donut / ring) - but then again, the application has always had a limited range of shapes and that has barely changed since whenever. I would love to see more basic core shapes such as L-shaped designs, T-shape decorative graphics, connectors,. All of these surely are possible and could be dynamic, would be an even better addition to the toolbox. The end results were good but it was for me like working with treacle but perhaps with time and familiarity with the tool I might be able to create some truly awesome masterpiece made out of the dynamic donuts - at the moment, I just couldn't see it. With VS 2, there is also shape recognition - which works really well with circles, stars etc and is a quick way of converting standard shapes into dynamic shapes.


Dynamic Corners

At first this tool looked the least useful.. sorry, corners! OK, totally unfair - I love this tool. Curved corners added to points is a really useful feature for me as I often generate designs using a rectangle and then work from that into a more complex graphic. Now I can add (at any point of the process) rounding to the corners - creating some truly beautiful curved forms in second. Add and modify corners in seconds - stunning. Offers three options of corners as well: regular, negative and chamfered. The tool did crash but that was with a fairly complex path and one with a mix of other dynamic corners - perhaps the tool was pushed a little too far. One feature that did disturb was when I created a shape and applied the corners, then creating a new shape and then applying the corners again - the previous shape jumps into life with the corners appearing to be re-modified as I change the new shape (even though the shape hasn't been selected). The recent update allows for the remove of the dynamic status - which is quite useful to remove the error but it is also useful when using the path in other parts of the application. I love the dynamic nature but at the same time I like a quick and easy way to remove it when I no longer need the path to be dynamic. So I love the 'remove dynamic status'. Dynamic corners with VS 2 is now even more powerful with far more interactive corners (hold down the ALT key to activate) and the path becomes alive - great for creating even more amazing shapes using the dynamic corners. There is also now in VS 2


Extend Path tool (vectorScribe 2)

One of the new tools with VS2 is the powerful extend path tool. It can also be called a remove / erase path tool as well as the extend path works in both directions and proved to be one of the best and most fun tools of the new version. I love it. I love using the tool with strokes, with width profiles and much more. Start with a basic line and you can create wonderful smooth curved designs in seconds. As mentioned, you can also remove or erase the line which is very, very handy. Just select one of the markers that appear as you hover above the start and end points of the line and drag and the line can be extended or removed with a flourish. You can also stop mid-flow and modify the direction of the curve. The direction of the extend is already visible in a preview line and if that direction is not the intended direction, just stop and modify the curve (such as turn the curve up or down or left to right etc using the standard draw tools or perhaps PathScribe) and then continue with the stroke. You can also use the tool with closed path but the closed paths must be split (to create an open path - use the PathScribe). Very intuitive and just plain fun.


Smart remove brush (vectorScribe 2)

Weird that this is called a brush but then again, I just think of brushes as tools anyway - it is a smart cleanup tool that removes excessive points from paths. This tool can be modified to change the size of influence as well as the tolerance (remove more or less points from the path though this sometimes can make minor changes to the path's curve - you have to decide how far to go with the point removal). The tool can only go so far and some points cannot be removed (I suppose they could but then the path would be radically changed). Found the tool worked very well with my projects and proved very useful in removing a lot of points from expanded width profiles, twirl effects, blobs, etc. The smart remove works, supposedly, with very large complex paths but I never tested it with really complex paths as I found it slightly too slow on my old machine - certain it handles complex paths perfectly well on more powerful machines. A very useful addition to the toolkit.


Panels (vectorScribe 2)

The panels have all been updated for version 2 and there are 100s of great new features - many you might be able to ignore but many have some great uses. The layout of the panels are all generally first rate.


Minor issues

Would love to see the panels include sliders just to aid interactivity, especially with the PathScribe panel. I would also love to see a path selection feature as well as point selections.


Thumbs up

Overall.. 9.5/10 effects tool. I found most of the tools very useful and will use in many different projects such as creating custom shapes, brush designs and more. The new features of VectorScribe 2 are a wonderful topping on top of an already delicious plugin tool set (good enough to eat) To find out more details about the product, astute graphics