Adobe Illustrator is a powerful, complex, and highly versatile vector-based graphic design software that has been around for what seems like forever. As such, it has greatly evolved since those early days, has legions of dedicated professional users, and keeps going from strength to strength. Case in point, Adobe released version 27 in October (also called Adobe Illustrator 2023), and we thought we’d check out what the newest features bring to the table.

This latest update doesn’t introduce earth-shattering concepts or features – however, Illustrator was already a very powerful, versatile and stable behemoth. What’s brought to the table simply improves upon an already excellent tool.

Adobe Illustrator 2023: Pricing & plans

  • If you love subscriptions, you’ll love what Adobe has to offer 

Adobe is a subscription powerhouse: all of its professional software can only be obtained that way. The advantage, of course, is you’ll be able to download and use the latest features as and when they’re released. Major releases like this one are only part of the story, as new tools and improvements go live throughout the year. 

The downside of course is you need to pay every month, but if this is your bread and butter, the cost is more than justified.

As usual, you’re able to solely pay for Illustrator on its own, through a monthly subscription ($32 / £31) or an annual subscription, paid monthly for $21 / £20. There’s also a single annual subscription, which runs to $240 / £239. 

However, the incentive is to embrace the entire Adobe Creative Cloud portfolio, which can be yours for a monthly or annual subscription, and offers access to Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Lightroom, and plenty more. Considering these creative apps are designed to work together, going for the full Creative Cloud experience is often the way to go.

If you’re new to Illustrator though, and don’t want to commit just yet, Adobe offers you a 7-day free trial to check it out.

  • Pricing & plans: 4/5 

Adobe Illustrator 2023: Intertwine

Adobe Illustrator graphic design software in action

Creating complex overlapping shapes is now easier than ever  (Image credit: Adobe)
  • A clever feature that can help create more complex interactions between objects 

The new tool that’s getting a lot of attention is Intertwine. As you know, you can design with layers. Adding shapes on different layers allows you to move them around independently, and overlap them. But what happens when you want to create complex overlaps, like a part of a circle on top one, but under others? You could do it before of course, but it involved a lot of copying and pasting.

Intertwine is designed to greatly speed up the process by swapping the layer order solely at user specified sections.

You activate it from the menu bar, which turns your cursor into a lasso. Circle around the area you wish to swap and once the loop is closed, the change is instantaneous. You can do this as many times as you need. There’s also an option to remove all changes or edit them further.

Be aware though that the positions of those swapped sections are fixed on your canvas. They aren’t linked to the affected objects. So, if you move an object after the effect has been applied, and you might see some strange and unexpected results, as the swap starts to affect other parts of the object you’re moving around.

  • Intertwine: 4.5/5 

Adobe Illustrator 2023: Collaboration & cross-app compatibility

Adobe Illustrator graphic design software in action

Allow people to download your work, or simply provide comments and advice – it’s all in the ‘Share’ menu  (Image credit: Adobe)
  • Working while collaborating within the app – shows potential but still in its infancy 

Being able to work with others, and across programs is becoming more and more crucial to our workflows, and Illustrator doesn’t disappoint in the online collaboration stakes.

The blue share button, top right of the interface, grants you access to ‘Invite to Edit’ and ‘Share for Review’ (which is currently in Beta).

In either case, obviously, you’ll need to upload your project to Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Once done, you’ll be offered a link which you can copy and share with others. As expected, you have control over who gains access to your work: those you specifically invite, or anyone who knows the link.

‘Invite to Edit’ allows people to mark your design by drawing on it and commenting, or (if you allow it) lets them download a copy of your file to their own account. They obviously have to be logged into their own Creative Cloud account for that. Commenting can be done as a guest.

‘Share for Review’ is like the commenting part of ‘Invite to Edit’, without any ability to save a copy of the work. You can’t even right-click on the image to save that as a PNG, as you can with ‘Invite to Edit’.

Although useful, it feels weird that those two options aren’t actually rolled into one. ‘Invite to Edit’ already offers all the features of ‘Share for Review’, and you can add all the restrictions you want there as well should you want to prevent the downloading of your work.

That aside, being able to communicate and collaborate with others, with the ability to comment from a web browser without even having an Adobe account, can be extremely useful and valuable.

As for compatibility across apps, you can now copy and paste text between Illustrator and InDesign (and vice versa), while retaining its format. This can be a huge timesaver.

  • Collaboration & cross-app compatibility: 4/5

Adobe Illustrator 2023: Quick Actions

Adobe Illustrator graphic design software in action

An interesting addition, but the paltry number of actions available make it feel more like a gimmick than anything else  (Image credit: Adobe)
  • This interesting new feature can become a huge time saver – when more options are added 

Quick Actions is an interesting one. As the name suggests, you’re able to perform what could be considered complex changes with the click of a button. These range from color alterations, to text modifications. 

They live in the Search panel, they’re fun and easy to use, and once applied, they’re also editable, so that’s a big plus. But there’s only 5 of them. Maybe Adobe will add more of them as time goes on? Until then, it feels more like a gimmick than anything else. 

  • Quick Actions: 2.5/5 

Adobe Illustrator 2023: Other improvements

  • New file format supports and performance improvements are always most welcome 

You’ll also find some under the hood improvements, like support for additional 3D file formats, such as glTF and USDA. These are compatible with Adobe Substance and other 3D apps.

If you work with linked files a lot, especially PNG formats, you’re bound to appreciate the performance improvements in this latest version. Files containing such links now open more quickly, and dragging objects around the canvas feels much more responsive than before.

  • Other improvements: 3.5/5 

Adobe Illustrator 2023: Scorecard

Pricing & plans Subscription-only via standalone sub or All Apps 4
Intertwine A very clever feature designers will love 4.5
Collaboration Shows great potential but needs work 4
Quick Actions Interesting start, with a lot of room to grow 2.5
Other improvements Welcome support for file formats 3.5

Should I buy?

Adobe Illustrator graphic design software in action

Adobe Illustrator’s latest version brings some interesting tools to an already extremely powerful application  (Image credit: Adobe)

Buy it if…

Don’t buy it if…

Adobe Illustrator 2023: Alternatives

Affinity Designer from Serif is an excellent alternative to Adobe Illustrator, seeing some impressive upgrades in the latest version.  

We’ve also tried out the best free Adobe Illustrator vector alternatives if that’s what you need.