Designers typically present and visualize their ideas by photographing and Photoshopping or by printing and constructing mock-ups using paper and glue. Both of these are often time-consuming and take designers away from their main focus—designing. LiveSurface is a unique new image library of more than 350 specially constructed image templates that contain 3D surfaces. The pre-built images dramatically shorten the time it takes to create realistic representations of a design idea.

Design can be a tough sell to clients who often don’t know what they want until they see it, and designers often work in the void of the Illustrator Artboard and wait to test their designs on real-world surfaces and materials until later in the design process.

Joshua Distler, Apple alum and creator of LiveSurface, gave us a demo of Context, LiveSurface’s next-generation design tool. Context, now in beta, is a Mac desktop application that integrates with Adobe Illustrator via a plug-in. The application works with Illustrator to allow designers to visualize and present their ideas with just a few clicks…

Users can easily apply artwork with a click and see their ideas in context and side-by-side with their Illustrator artwork. By creating a near real-time solution for visualizing concepts with support for photorealistic inks and materials, Context feels like Illustrator preview on steroids: a reality preview that allows designers to explore and experiment fluidly in a way that feels like the next version of what-you-see-is-what-you-get. The software doesn’t remove the need for physical mock-ups but shortens the time to see an idea realized from 30 minutes to a few seconds (a huge difference).

“Nobody missed having to judge their artwork in black-and-white once they began to be able to work with it in color,” Distler said, quoting an early beta tester. “Once that became possible, there was no going back. This software is like that.”

Context seamlessly combines 2D and 3D to allow designers to use a tool they know well, Adobe Illustrator, to create photorealistic renderings of their ideas with a few clicks. Edit any surface in Context and its artwork contents open in Illustrator. Add your artwork in Illustrator, click Apply, and a photorealistic rendering is displayed in Context’s Live View window.

Access surfaces from one place:

Just drag a surface to your project folder and Context’s built-in Surface Store automatically handles surface downloading for you.

Simulate foils and effects with a comprehensive ink library:

Live Inks can be assigned to any swatch in Illustrator and are specially handled by Context’s rendering engine to simulate a variety of effects, such as: embossing, foils, fluorescents, and silk screen inks.

Rotate and resize surfaces with ease:

Plus Surfaces can be resized and/or rotated to customize dimensions or viewing angle.

LiveSurface Context invite requests can be requested here.