Adobe Illustrator File Format Summary. Storage and interchange of line-based artwork.
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A widely used format for the exchange of 2D objects. Basic files are simple to write. Unfortunately, files created by applications implementing the full AI specification can be large and complex and may be slow to render. Vendor specifications are available for this format. Originally written for the Macintosh platform, Adobe Illustrator is a well-known and widely used drawing application. There are currently Macintosh, Microsoft Windows, and NeXT versions.
Much of the power of Adobe Illustrator comes from its implementation of Bezier splines as drawing objects, and the fact that it presents a simple user interface for precise positioning of spline-based drawing objects. Bezier splines have some advantages for the modeling of natural (and some human-made) objects. AI files are also used to distribute clip art. The AI format encapsulates and formalizes a subset of the PostScript page description language (PDL) in a structured file. Such files are meant to be imaged on a PostScript printer, but may include a bitmap version of the image to facilitate screen preview. PostScript is a powerful and complex language in its full implementation, and this complexity is partly due to its ability to specify almost anything that can appear on a 2D output device. AI, however, is tailored to the storage of graphics data in the conventional sense: drawings, artwork, and lettering used for ornamental and display purposes.
Note that AI files can still be quite complex. PostScript derives much of its power from the ability to define sequences of operations and to later concatenate them using a simple syntax. This hidden complexity is sometimes, but not always, minimized in AI files. Simple AI files are quite easy to construct, and an application can create files that can be read by any AI reader or can be printed on any PostScript printer. Reading AI files is another matter entirely. Certain operations may be difficult for a rendering application to implement or simulate.
In light of this, developers often choose not to render the image from the PostScript-subset line data in the file. Note, however, that almost all of the image can usually be reconstructed using simple operations. If you wish to develop an AI reader, it can be done, and you can get hints by examining the source code of the GNU GhostScript system, which provides a nearly full implementation of the PostScript language. PostScript, and consequently the AI subset, has its own language and conventions. We suggest that you read the PostScript documents prior to working with AI files or perusing the specification document included on the CD-ROM. These are referenced at the end of this article.
File Organization. AI files consist of a series of ASCII lines, which may be comments, data, commands, or combinations of commands and data. Commands in AI files are operators, which may or may not be followed by data. Data is pushed and popped off a stack, and operators use data on the stack in LIFO order.
PostScript is sometimes thought of as a stream-oriented PDL. Lines, however, must be parsed first as full lines and then tokenized. Operator lines usually have the following form:. Key concepts are path, stroke, fill, and the graphics state.
A path is traveled by a graphics cursor. Stroking results in a path or portion of a path eventually being displayed on the rendering surface.
Fills operate on closed paths. The results of stroking and what actually happens during a fill operation (among other things) are determined by the graphics state. Comments are any line where the first non-whitespace character is %. Special lines, known as structuring comments. are designated by the double-comment %%. A + immediately after a structuring comment designator indicates that the data on the line is associated with the previous structuring comment.
In the discussion that follows, llx, lly, urx, and ury refer to lower-left x, lower-left y, upper-right x, and upper-right y, respectively. These are used to denote bounding box rectangles and are similar to how rectangles were specified in the original Macintosh development environment. This can cause problems in other systems because many objects are oriented relative to their bounding boxes.
Developers in other environments should consider themselves forewarned. AI files are organized as follows: a file ID line, followed by a header, followed by the rest of the file in which the graphics objects are defined. In Adobe terminology, the header consists of structuring and other comments known as the Prolog. Following the header is a Script Setup section, which consists of the drawing commands defining the objects in the image, a section called the Page Trailer, and a section called the Document Trailer. Files are terminated with the structuring comment %%EOF. signaling to the rendering application or device that the data associated with the image to be rendered is complete.