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Apparel Design Resources: Adobe Illustrator Plugins

At a Glance:

What is an Adobe Illustrator Plugin?

Where do I Find Plugins? 

How do I Install Plugins?

Recommended Plugins for Design 

Implementing Plugins into Design Workflows

If you’re a seasoned designer working in a familar vector program called Adobe Illustrator, you may already know that there is more beyond the base software you use.

However, if you’re designing in Illustrator and don’t know what plugins are, where to find them, or how to use one, buckle up because you’re in for a crash course! This article will show you a variety of plugins you could actually incorporate into an apparel design process. It’s not just a list of graphic design extensions for illustrator.

What is an Adobe Illustrator Plugin?

Think of Plugins as extensions or modifications of Adobe products. These can add new or editable features, automate workflows, or connect the app to external services like font databases.

Some of the most popular plugins you may have heard of include Fontself, Cineware, and Phantasm from Astute Graphics. Using plugins like these can let you use 3D objects as references for vector drawings, create your own fonts, or create a 100% scalable halftone effect.

Where do I Find Plugins?

There is a gamut of plugins for the entire Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. There are a couple of ways to find them, both through a browser and the Creative Cloud app.

Before you install a plugin or extension, ensure you have installed the Creative Cloud app to which you are adding it.

The first option is to go to the Adobe Exchange: An App Marketplace that offers thousands of apps to enhance customers’ experiences with products across all Adobe Clouds:

  1. Open
  2. Click on Discover the Cloud Marketplace
  3. Sort the App type by Plugins
  4. Filter down your search to Illustrator

The second option is to open up the Creative Cloud desktop app:

  1. Click on the Stock & Marketplace Tab
  2. Click on the Plugins Tab
  3. Click on All plugins
  4. Filter down your search to Illustrator
  5. Search to your vector-based heart’s content

How do I Install a Plugin for Adobe Illustrator?

To install an Illustrator plugin, you have to be logged into your Adobe Creative Cloud account. After following the steps above you can download as follows:

For downloads from the Adobe Exchange Desktop Site:

  1. Click on the title of the plugin to view more details
  2. Click on the “Buy / Free” button
    1. If you are not logged in, you will then be prompted to do so

For downloads from the Creative Cloud Desktop App:

  1. Click on the title of the plugin to view more details
  2. Click on the “Get” button
    1. There are many Free Adobe plugins, but always be aware of download requirements and pricing before downloading plugins from the internet

What are Some Time-Saving Plugins for Illustrator?

When it comes to choosing the right plugin, it really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Illustrator is the most popular vector-based design tool in many industries, so there are also plugins that serve very specific purposes.

In this case, we will recommend a few well-known and reputable plugins/plugin creators for fashion design and development.


Fontself makes you a font creator in Illustrator & Photoshop, allowing you to create professional fonts in minutes. Now, you no longer need to save your brand’s custom font separately.

  • Create OpenType-SVG fonts that feature colors, shades, gradients & opacity
  • Turn any shape or lettering into a glyph by drag and drop
  • Export actual OpenType fonts

Fontself Maker for Illustrator Only: $39 (one-time fee)

Fontself Maker BUNDLE for Illustrator & Photoshop:$59 (one-time fee)

Plugins by Astute Graphics

Astute makes imaginative and innovative tools for vector designers. Ranging from plugins that help with color adjustment, to live effects, and adding vector halftones.


Instantly locate + modify objects

  • Locate or select objects based on visual attributes
  • Select objects in complex artwork to modify natively
  • Ideal for imported artwork, prepress and repetitive work


Instant symmetry

  • FREE when you download Astute Manager
  • Apply symmetry to a layer or selection
  • See the symmetry effect in real time


Instant color control

  • 12 color adjustments
  • Apply as non-destructive live effects
  • Photoshop compatible settings


Image crop + editing

  • Interactive image cropping
  • Trim off blank image areas
  • Relink multiple embedded images


Shape + manipulate

  • Avoid Bézier handles for complex reshaping
  • Create and save custom profiles
  • Avoids the need to individually adjust multiple anchor points

Bundle of 21 Astute Plugins: $149/year

Cineware (Cinema 4D) for Illustrator by Maxon

Intuitive 3D for Graphic Designers it allows you to add and edit 3D objects directly within Adobe Illustrator. Cineware can apply your label artwork to 3D packaging or incorporate 3D elements seamlessly into your 2D artwork.

If you have a workflow that utilizes software like CLO, this could help bridge the gap between the 2D and 3D world, and using similar assets between the two programs.

Cineware Illustrator Plugin: $60/mo

Backbone PLM for Adobe Illustrator

Designers for apparel brands will benefit from a simple, easy-to-navigate integration system that allows them to sync Adobe Illustrator files directly into Backbone PLM.

It helps to produce tech packs faster, increase speed to market, and centralizes product information.

Within the plugin you have visibility and direct access to your style libraries which helps teams with coordination throughout the stages of product development all the way to design and production.

  • Upload artboards directly to Backbone PLM
  • Removes manual export, upload process
  • Real time tracking of version history and editors

Backbone Adobe Illustrator Plugin: $199 per user/mo (included in Backbone core offering)

Check out Backbone’s Adobe Illustrator Plugin below: 

How do I use a Plugin to Improve my Workflow?

When it comes to working smarter (and faster), not harder, you need to look at what tools are at your disposal. Do you have one tool that does it all or do you have 20 tools for 20 tasks?

Sometimes you make sacrifices for speed and others for quality, but the ideal workflow strikes a balance between both.

If your process involves a lot of jumping back and forth between Excel sheets, manual exports/uploads, and spending all day splitting hairs over minutia, try testing out a few of these and building a new process around them.

Here’s an example of how you could leverage just the plugins that were mentioned:

Example Illustrator Workflow

Step 1: FontSelf

Begin by uploading your turning your brand’s logo into a font using Fontself

Step 2: MirrorMe

Create your technical sketch using MirrorMe to ensure it is perfectly symmetrical

Step 3: ReForm

Using Reform, make small adjustments without bothering with anchor points

Step 4: Backbone PLM

Connect to Backbone PLM to get access to a Pantone library swatch

Step 5: Phantasm

Change your tech flat colors or saturation using Phantasm to match Pantone swatches or your own custom colorways

Step 6: Cineware

Upload 3D trims like buttons to your artboards using Cineware that matches your Bill of Materials

Step 7: Fontself

Add brand-consistent text from Fontself you created in step 1

Step 8: Duplicate (No Plugin)

Duplicate your designs to a new artboard for different product colorways

Step 9: Reform

Trim your artboard using Reform to fit in your tech packs

Step 10: Backbone PLM

Upload to Backbone PLM and generate your final tech pack

Although all of these are not free adobe plugins, they greatly simplify and standardize design processes into repeatable and editable steps.

Streamline your design process with Backbone PLM and the Illustrator Plugin

Fashion PLM software like Backbone makes collaboration easier. Long gone are the days of repeating the same upload process over and over. Cross-functional teams can upload their work on Backbone or the plugin, and the collaborators can make edits right on the file.

If you’re looking for a smarter way to turn design into product, Backbone can help! Get a demo today and try the platform FREE for 14 days.