We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
Graphic design & publishing software Reviews
15,670 Reviews PC Advisor Gold Award

Phantasm CS Designer/Studio Adobe Illustrator plug-in review

£55 inc VAT (Designer)

Manufacturer: Astute Graphics

Our Rating: We rate this 4.5 out of 5

With such a range of Adobe Illustrator plug-ins on the market, it’s rare to come across one that excels to this extent.

With such a range of Adobe 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.

Our sister magazine, Digital Arts, first reviewed Phantasm CS 1.5 back in March 2007, when it received the ‘Best Buy’ award. With the release of Phantasm CS, Astute Graphics has made a great product even better - it’s available in two variations: Phantasm CS Designer and Phantasm CS Studio, each capable of making a huge difference to the 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 CS 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 Phantasm CS's Halftone filter/effect, which 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 preflight features. It’s aimed at studios of all sizes, and at publishers and printers whose work must comply to specific rules for output devices.

Phantasm CS Studio makes light work of preflight checks with the help of sought-after colour control and checking tools – including separations, ink coverage and inline 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 Phantasm CS 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.

Phantasm CS Expert Verdict »

Windows XP/Vista
Adobe Illustrator CS/CS2/CS3
512MB RAM
2MB hard-disk space
1,024X768 screen resolution
  • Ease of Use: We give this item 9 of 10 for ease of use
  • Features: We give this item 9 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 9 of 10 for value for money
  • Overall: We give this item 9 of 10 overall

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

  • Adobe Illustrator CS4 review

    Adobe Illustrator CS4

    Illustrator Creative Suite 4 (CS4) enjoys a revamped interface, new gradient tools and much, much more.

  • Toon Boom Studio 4.0

    Toon Boom Studio 4.0

    Toon Boom Studio offers many advanced features for animation, particularly among the vector-drawing tools used to create the scenes. It’s here where the majority of enhancements in version 4.0 occur.

  • Adobe Creative Suite 4 (CS4) review

    Adobe Creative Suite 4 (CS4)

    Among the highlights of Adobe Creative Suite 4 are a simplified workflow system, new tools for integrating Flash animations into projects. CS4 also enjoys expanded support for community features.

  • Adobe After Effects CS4 review

    Adobe After Effects CS4

    Just when you thought there was nothing more to add to After Effects, Adobe has crammed a large number of new features and enhancements into the CS4 release of its flagship visual effects and motion graphics software.

  • Adobe CS4 Design Premium review

    Adobe CS4 Design Premium

    Adobe's Design Premium CS4 suite features InDesign CS4, Photoshop CS4, Illustrator CS4 and Acrobat 9 Pro, along with new versions of Bridge, Device Central, and Version Cue (although it replaces the standard version of Photoshop with Photoshop CS4 Extended) and adds Flash, Dreamweaver, and Fireworks.


IDG UK Sites

Nexus 6 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4 comparison: What's the best Android phablet?

IDG UK Sites

The iPhone is doomed. Doomed to be marginally less successful than a very successful thing.

IDG UK Sites

How to prototype native mobile apps without writing code

IDG UK Sites

How to prepare for and update to OS X Yosemite: Get your Mac ready to download & install Apple's...