Illustrator plugins can go a long way towards making your life easier as a designer. Whether it’s through adding new drawing tools, speeding up and simplifying your workflow, or by extending and connecting Illustrator with other programs, there’s no doubt that a good plugin or extension can be a huge time saver.
We’ve taken the time to thoroughly research and assemble a list of the top 10 most useful Illustrator plugins and extensions that are currently available. We only considered full-fledged plugins and extensions that aren’t just simple scripts, actions, brush or asset packs, etc. These plugins offer a wide variety of functions across the board, including tools for pattern creation, randomization functions, halftone effects, importing data to be used in graphics, and much more. Take a look below.
19 different, powerful plugins that do just about anything you need them to. From tools, to effects, to textures — Astute has extended Illustrator’s capabilities handily.
The undisputed king of Illustrator plugins, AstuteGraphics has been in the business for a long time. From precise alignment that’s almost impossible to achieve with just native Illustrator, to intuitive path drawing, to halftone generation, to multi-axial symmetry functionality, AstuteGraphics has developed some of the best plugins out there.
Some of our favorite plugins of theirs include VectorFirstAid and Phantasm. VectorFirstAid allows for efficient cleaning of your documents by eliminating redundant information. This means that it can convert outlined text back into point text, simplify complex paths by removing unnecessary anchor points, and more. Phantasm adds photoshop-like color effects such as hue, saturation, and lightness adjustments to your entire document, and has a halftone creation function as well. This just barely scratches the surface of what these plugins have to offer. We recommend checking out their full suite over on their site.
While a bit pricy at $119/year, the time saving potential and sheer amount of tools that these plugins add to your arsenal make it worth it.
All-in-one randomization script for Adobe Illustrator. Randomize almost any property across a set of objects. Perfect for generating patterns, textures, and more.
Randomill is a recently released plugin that takes every available randomization script and plugin out there, and rolls them all up into a single pixel-perfect plugin panel. It’s the ultimate randomization plugin for Illustrator. Randomill features 10 separate randomization features:
- Color: Randomill allows you to randomize the color of all selected objects within the document. You can randomize from a set of colors that you choose, or by setting minimum and maximum values on a set of hue/saturation/lightness sliders. You can import gradients, spot colors, CMYK or RGB colors, grey colors, and every other kind of color supported by Illustrator. Even patterns. Strokes and fill colors can be randomized independently of each other.
- Stroke Weight / Line Width: Randomize stroke weight of all objects in a selection. Specify a minimum, maximum, and increment to really dial it in. Compatible with all units in Illustrator.
- Scale: Randomly change the scale of all objects in a selection between a specified minimum and maximum, at a desired increment.
- Rotation: Randomly rotate all selected objects between a specified minimum and maximum angle, with an optional step size.
- Opacity:Randomize the opacity across all selected objects. You can set the range and increment to really hone in on the desired result.
- Blend Mode: Assign random blend modes to all selected objects. Blend modes can be excluded from randomization as desired, so you only apply the blend modes you want.
- Position: Shift each selected object randomly relative to its original position. Specify a minimum and maximum range for horizontal and vertical directions. A step size can be specified. Compatible with all units in Illustrator.
- Order: Randomize or reverse layer order of all selected objects. Objects will be randomly re-ordered or reversed within their parent layer.
- Selection: Create a random sub-selection from your selected objects. Can be a random percentage of your current selection or a specific number of objects that will be randomly selected.
Combining and using all of these features in tandem allow you to make some truly spectacular designs and patterns in just a few clicks. We’ve found that it’s really useful for pattern generation and background or texture creation. The developer of the plugin also runs a YouTube channel showing various ways that the plugin can be used. At $25, this one is a steal.
Drafting and AutoCAD-like tools brought to Illustrator. Perfect for technical drawings, blueprints, etc. Work in scale, create floor plans, etc.
A necessity for those who spend a lot of time making any kind of technical drawings in Illustrator. CadTools 12 brings a suite of measurement and drafting tools into Illustrator that mimic the functionality of AutoCAD. This suite of plugins is extremely useful for floorplan or elevation drawing, technical drafting, creating notes, labeling objects in the document, working with different scales, and more.
Users can set different scales and precisions, and work in different measurement formats. For example, you can set the document to be in fractional inches at 1:10 scale and the Cad Tracker plugin will show you the size of all selected objects in fractional inches at 1:10 scale.
Price: $19/month OR $379/license
Powerful, but simple 3D functionality from within Illustrator. By the makers of Cinema 4D.
Cineware is definitely one of the more interesting Illustrator plugins out there. It allows users to add and edit 3D objects directly from within Illustrator. Created by Maxon (the same folks who made Cinema 4D), Cineware is primarily meant to be used for generating product and packaging mock ups, and for incorporating miscellaneous 3D elements within your 2D vector scene.
Any individual object from a Cinema 4D scene can be imported into Illustrator, and worked with interactively. Cineware allows for geometry, lighting, and material customization, and comes packaged with dozens of pre-made scenes and objects that are ready to use in your designs. One of the main draws of this plugin is that it is quick and easy to get started with it, and you don’t need to be a 3D pro to use it.
For anything more in depth, you may want to use a full-fledged 3D software such as Blender, 3DS Max, or Cinema 4D, but Cineware might do in a pinch.
Create a font while never leaving Illustrator. Perfect the letter forms, save your file, and export everything out as a OpenType font.
Fontself Maker is a powerful tool to create fonts from within Illustrator, without having to use any external software. Users can get all the standard functions they can expect in a dedicated font-making software, such as alternate shapes and versions of glyphs, ligature support, spacing and kerning adjustments, colors that are stored within the SVG format, and more.
For many font-makers, this is all you may need. The workflow efficiency saved by not having to work between multiple programs is considerable.
Price: $39 one-time-fee
A plugin for making tileable, repeatable patterns in Illustrator. Idea for surface & textile designers, stationery designers, interior decorators, and all other kinds of pattern makers.
SymmetryWorks is a pattern generator that can help with making patterns perfectly tile-able/repeatable. No more pesky seams between tiles. The power of this plugin lies in the fact that illustrators can edit the motif and the patterns and seams rebuild themselves instantly. All necessary rotations, reflections, transformations, etc are all automatically applied. This saves a lot of time and allows illustrators to iterate on their designs very quickly.
This is a very expensive plugin at $364, but at least it’s not a subscription. For those working with patterns daily, it may very well be worth it. For those who aren’t quite ready to shell out that kind of money, check out the first plugin in this list. One of Astute’s plugins — MirrorMe has very similar functionality, but without some of the bells and whistles.
An advanced data visualization plugin that works within Illustrator. Import data from multiple file types and generate charts directly in Illustrator.
Datylon supports and helps chart generation in Illustrator based on XLS, XLSX, and CSV data formats. The data can be updated at any time by changing the source files and clicking a single button within the plugin. It features a large chart library to get you started, and has tons of styling options. All chart elements can be tweaked and kept interactive so that the underlying data can still be changed and reflected in the chart. Charts can also be scaled freely while retaining data integrity. If you’re using Illustrator to create data-driven presentations on a regular basis, then this plugin is definitely worth checking out. It certainly beats Illustrator’s built-in data management system.
Labelling & efficiency tools for Adobe Illustrator. Create labels, make specific custom selections, adjust control points, track time spent on documents, and more.
HotDoor makes their second appearance on this list for their ‘Control’ plugin. What this plugin does is provide a set of 7 tools that are meant to help workflow in a few specific cases, and provide labeling and metadata entry for documents in most other cases. We’ll break all the tools down one by one below:
- ArtLabel: Create labels pointing to elements in the document that specific certain properties of that element such as colors, font styles, artboard, transparency, and more.
- NitPicker: Select objects and elements with certain criteria. This is more of an extension of Illustrator’s ‘select same’ tool. You can select all visible compound paths, all groups with just one object, all closed paths, all locked art, etc.
- FixPix: Nudge and adjust control points on paths with great precision.
- TimeSheet: Track and log time spent working on documents. Export logs as CSV files for billing or timekeeping purposes.
- Particulayer: Create and control Adobe Illustrator layers with layer groups. Adjust group editability, visiblity, and printability.
- ArtTags: Create and attach terms to artwork for counting and calculating objects on the document.
- DocLabel: Add metadata to your document such as size, color mode, paths, file name, etc. This data is added as a visible element on the document in a box with a customizable font.
Price: $28 for a single plugin above, or $98 for the whole set.
Create beautiful mandalas in just a few clicks. Choose over 170 patterns to merge and combine to create a one-of-a-kind mandala design.
This plugin works by merging and combining 170 different pre-made patterns and then applying a radial symmetry to them to generate mandalas. Each ‘pattern’ is an individual element of the mandala, and each new pattern builds the mandala up ring by ring. Users can also make their own patterns, or can buy additional available ones. Good use cases would include creating t-shirt designs, stickers, coloring books, and more. The end result is a fully-editable vector mandala, and the creator even includes a handy script that can be used to flatten it in the event of some fringe uses case like for a laser printer.
Add one of several glitchy vector effects to any vector artwork.
This one is short, sweet, and to the point. Just like in the picture, you can add a vector glitch effect to any text or shape in your document. There are 60 different types of glitches, and it’s one of those things where not many people may need it, but those who do love it.