Selasa, 21 April 2009

3-D and 2-D

Realistic 3D handling takes your 2D drawings into new creative territory.

A few months ago I looked at the importance of 3D handling to realistic illustration and the ways in which the major 2D drawing apps have begun to embrace the fact. There’s still a huge way to go however, so is there an alternative way of bringing your vector drawings to realistic life?

The ideal would be to simply extend your existing 2D skills into the third dimension and there’s one program that promises to do just that – SketchUp 3 from @Last Software ($475). In many ways SketchUp operates like a traditional 2D vector application with its Drawing toolbar providing the basics of rectangles, ellipses, curves, polygons and lines. As you draw, coloured dots and coloured lines keep appearing to help you align your work to the existing geometry by snapping to existing edges, midpoints, tangents and so on. Once you’ve drawn your objects you can select and group them and reposition, scale and rotate them with the tools on the Edit toolbar. This also provides the Paint tool with which you can apply flat colours and tiling bitmap textures.

So far so ordinary. Where SketchUp moves into entirely new territory is with its Views toolbar. Here it becomes apparent that so far we’ve been working in Top view looking down on our artwork from above. If we switch to the Front, Back, Left and Right views there’s not much to see as of course our artwork is completely flat. If we switch to ISO view, however we get an isometric projection which by default shows a perspectivized view just as it would look to a human observer looking at the artwork laid out flat on the ground. And using the tools on the Camera toolbar, in particular the Orbit tool, you can interactively and instantly set up this perspective view exactly as you want it.

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Vector Transparency

vector transparency via EPS

Recently I've been thinking a lot about the question of vector-based transparency inspired by Macromedia's FreeHand 8. The much-trumpeted new feature that this latest release offers is the ability to make objects partially transparent. The implications of this are enormous and the reason is all around you - the real world is not made up purely of opaque objects. To begin with glass and see-through plastic are everywhere, but more importantly all objects cast shadows and shadows are partially transparent. In other words, to create a truly realistic image you need to be able to create transparencies. That's why, as Macromedia puts it, transparency has "commonly been referred to as the holy grail of professional vector-based design tools."

  • The Difference between Bitmap and Vector

If this is the case, the obvious question is why hasn't FreeHand offered transparency before? After all, in pixel-based bitmap editors transparency is an everyday staple. To see transparency in action in Photoshop, for example, you simply have to create a new layer and then set the level of its opacity. If your background colour is red (100% yellow, 100% magenta) and you put a 100% cyan square over it on its own layer and then set its opacity to 20%, the resulting visible colour will read off as 20% cyan, 80% yellow, 80% magenta - ie 20% of the top layer's pixel values added to 80% of the bottom's. The final visible colour is determined by looking at all relevant image layers and calculating the final value at every single pixel position.

You might think that for a vector program to offer similar transparency control would, if anything, be easier as the consistent colour values for each uniformly filled vector shape would seriously cut down on the necessary number-crunching. In fact the reason that vector - and DTP - programs haven't offered transparency in this way is far more fundamental than the processing required. The reason lies at the very heart of the difference between bitmaps and vectors. Drawing packages have been designed with commercial print in mind and this is based on the Postscript-driven object-based production of colour separated plates. Postscript processing is built on a very different system to the pixel-based layer model. Instead the page is constructed upwards from the bottom to the top with every vector-based object opaque and obscuring those below it. Only those objects on the top of the stack make it through to the final page.

So does this Postscript stack-based approach inevitably rule out the possibility of transparent vector effects? Not necessarily. For some time now designers have been forced into finding workarounds. In Illustrator, for example, it is possible to take advantage of the PathFinder filters to create a new overlying object where two objects overlap. It is then possible to manually set the correct fill and stroke. It's hardly state-of-the-art and, while it might work for the odd logo or headline effect, it's not going to be much good for a realistic illustration with hundreds of objects and complex blends. Worse, by its nature, the workaround is fixed. Move the transparent object and you will have to recreate all of the objects it overlaps.

  • FreeHand 8 Lens Fills

In comparison the new FreeHand solution is simplicity itself. All you have to do is select an object and then the Fill Inspector. From here you select the Lens fill option and the Transparency sub-option, select a colour and set the opacity percentage. The object is automatically filled with the correct colour and all underlying objects become visible and correctly coloured. The effect can be eye-opening. If you have a typical lifeless clip-art image of an opaque glass of opaque red liquid in front of a bottle, for example, making the glass and liquid partially transparent suddenly makes it look like real wine - you can even read the wine label. Even better, FreeHand lets you clone the lens and add a slight magnifying effect just it appears in real life. Best of all, if you move the lens, the effect updates automatically and instantly.

The difference to the Illustrator workaround is immense, but is it as revolutionary as Macromedia claim? Corel Draw users in particular will be less than awe-inspired. After all, Draw has offered similar features for nearly four years since the Lens special effects were introduced back in version 5. In fact looking at the small print, Macromedia do qualify their claim saying, "FreeHand 8 is the first high-end, Postscript-based drawing program to offer true, dynamic transparency capabilities while preserving documents in an editable vector format." In other words, it might not be the first to offer transparency per se, but it is the first to offer it safely and reliably in a professional Postscript-based context. Reading between the lines the implication is clear - don't touch Corel's transparencies with a barge pole.

  • Head to Head

As I've also just finished getting to grips with the latest release of Draw which prides itself on its improved Postscript support this seemed like a useful challenge. Transparency is clearly a must-have effect so I wanted to find out which of the two contenders offered the most power and the most reliability. To investigate I set up a simple test in both programs. First I created two overlapping rectangles the lower of red (0%C, 100%M, 100%Y, 0%K) and the higher of 100% cyan. Then I copied the objects and turned the cyan rectangle into a 20% cyan transparency. As a slightly harder test I created some simple red text with a 100% black outline and then covered this with the same semi-transparent cyan rectangle. Then I exported the results to an EPS file from Draw and saved the results as an EPS within FreeHand.

Next I imported both files into PageMaker 6.5 and printed out the CMYK separations. The FreeHand plates came out exactly as I expected with 20% rectangles on the cyan plate, a mix of 100% and 80% rectangles and text on the magenta and yellow plates and 100% solid outlines on the black plate. The Draw separations though were bizarre. All the objects with no transparency came out just as expected, but the colour handling in the transparent areas was mysterious to say the least. The overlapped rectangle and text both knocked out their supposedly overlying 20% cyan rectangles to white, there were percentage tints on the black plate and worse there were tints on the yellow and red plates in areas that should have been purely cyan!

The only thing I could say for certain is that the plates would not have produced the effect I was expecting. At this stage I nearly threw in the towel thinking a barge pole wasn't nearly long enough. Fortunately the results were so strange that felt I had to check them, so I went back into Draw to check my EPS output options. Sure enough there was a "use printer colour profile" option selected that I hadn't noticed. When this was turned off and the pages printed again the results were very different. The cyan plate still had knocked out areas and the black plate still had its percentage tints, but the magenta and yellow plates had lost their colour cast. I was definitely making progress and I was also intrigued. The areas of transparency were clearly being treated very differently to the rest of the drawing, but how and why?

To understand I really needed to get into the EPS files themselves to see what was happening. As both programs claim to open Postscript files for editing I didn't think this would be too much of a problem. However when FreeHand opened its EPS file all the transparent fills were there in place just as they were when saved to its native *.FH8 format file. As Postscript doesn't allow transparent objects the program must somehow be recreating the effect on opening. Very clever but, in this instance, not very helpful. Trying to get Draw to open its EPS was even less enlightening. An error message appeared saying that the file had an invalid format despite the fact that it had created the file itself! Another black mark for Draw, but potentially the end of the investigation.

Illustrator to the Rescue

Fortunately this is where Illustrator showed its greatest strength, its bombproof Postscript handling, as it had no problem opening either file for editing. The results were a big surprise in each case. I had expected FreeHand to take an approach similar to the Illustrator PathFinder method with a whole series of new objects created where they were overlapped by the transparent rectangle. Instead the effect was produced by copying all of the relevant objects as they stood, changing their fill and stroke properties appropriately and then masking them with the transparent object so that only the desired area was visible. In many ways it's a wasteful method built on processing unnecessary information, but it has two great strengths. No information is lost and all objects, even the text, remain fully editable.

The areas of transparency in the Draw EPS were dealt with very differently. The overlapped text was not created as true letters, for example, but simply as a whole series of shapes and curves. As future editability isn't considered an issue, Draw is free to recreate the effect as it sees fit. In other words Draw is only interested in the end results not in the means. This is particularly obvious when it comes to the question of colour. Checking Illustrator's colour palette showed that the overlapped rectangle and text that should have been 20%C, 80%M, 80%Y, 0%K was in fact 0%C, 60%M, 60%Y and 20%K. Suddenly the strange results with the knocked-out cyan and the black tints became clear. In creating the EPS, Draw had automatically applied Gray Component Replacement (GCR) when dealing with the areas of transparency, moving all shared percentages of CMY onto the black plate.

  • In Practice

What this means in practice is that despite the completely different methods for creating the transparency effects - both in the EPS and on the plates - both the FreeHand and Draw files would theoretically produce exactly the same results. Given this, Draw is certainly not the lame duck that it had seemed regarding the commercial printing of its advanced effects. In fact it could be argued that Draw's approach is superior as its automatic GCR could prevent over-inking an obvious danger when colours are being mixed. In practice though most bureaux would almost certainly prefer the FreeHand approach. To begin with GCR is never perfect so there would be an inevitable slight colour shift. More importantly the resulting knock-out effect could lead to potential trapping problems if registration wasn't perfect. Most fundamentally of all, no designer likes things happening outwith their control.

Perhaps the central rule of design is to keep things simple and predictable. Because FreeHand is always thinking in Postscript - remember its native files can be saved directly to EPS - it can be relied on to get the message across as simply as possible when it comes to speaking Postscript during output. Because Draw manages things its own way and then has to translate back into Postscript the complexity involved is inevitably greater - presumably this is why it was unable to parse its own file - and there is more scope for errors and misunderstandings to be introduced. As such it's fair to say that, for the creation and outputting of simple transparency effects, FreeHand 8 is definitely the program of choice as Macromedia claims.

  • Graduated Transparencies

That's not the end of the story, however, as Corel's break with the pure Postscript object approach opens up other possibilities. In particular, since version seven, Draw has offered an interactive transparency tool which enables a whole new range of effects. Most importantly transparencies no longer have to be solid, but can vary in opacity. In many ways this is as big a breakthrough as the introduction of partial transparencies in the first place. Again to see why all you have to do is look around - the transparent shadows that define our world are all graduated. Draw's new controls are not only essential when it comes to producing photo-realistic results, the other options for applying patterned or textured transparencies and for choosing blend modes can also be used to create some amazing effects. Using a fractal water ripple pattern set to apply only to the blue channel of an underlying photo, for example, I was able to give myself a pretty realistic Maori-style face tattoo!

Such power leaves the other drawing programs standing. If Draw can output such effects reliably, FreeHand's much-vaunted new capabilities are going to seem very puny indeed. To test whether it could, I created an EPS with three lines of red text each covered by a graduated, patterned and textured cyan transparent rectangle respectively. I then brought the file into PageMaker and printed off the separations. This time the cyan plate was completely empty, the yellow and magenta plates had been knocked out by the transparent boxes and all the blend and patterned effects were on the black plate! What's more the quality of the text in the transparent boxes looked very poor. This time there could be no GCR explanation. If the EPS had gone off for commercial print like this the effect would have been disastrous.

To find out what was happening I again loaded the EPS into Illustrator. The explanation was very simple, each of the transparent effects had been created as a bitmap. To be honest this didn't come as too much of a surprise as there is simply no vector-based way that such effects could be described. This move to bitmapping immediately explained the relatively poor quality of the text on my laser-produced separations. With the higher lpi of an imagesetter the effect would not be so pronounced, but some loss in smoothness would still be inevitable especially as no anti-aliasing had been applied. After a little thought it also explained the failure to colour-separate correctly. Draw must have created the bitmaps as RGB files and as PageMaker is unable to convert RGB files to CMYK on the fly it had instead dumped them all onto the black plate.

Unlike PageMaker, Illustrator is able to separate RGB bitmaps so I tested its separations of the file. This time the four plates were produced exactly as expected. Draw too is able to convert RGB to CMYK on the fly so in fact the most likely outputting scenario of producing separations directly from Draw would not have encountered the same problems. Being able to output the graduated transparency effects then is by no means impossible, but I'm very glad I looked into the matter before jumping in. It's certainly clever, but I'm not really comfortable with Draw's switching between vector and bitmap processing especially as its unacknowledged. The translation can never be seamless - as seen in the poorer quality of the halftoned text - and it can lead to problems - as seen in the PageMaker RGB problem.

For absolute reliability when outputting professionally there's a lot to be said for sticking with the lowest common denominator. That's what Illustrator offers with rock-solid Postscript handling but no transparency control at all. For more adventurous users, FreeHand pushes the Postscript envelope but never strays outside. For the user interested purely in power, Corel ignores all external constraints choosing to translate its effects retrospectively into whichever format is most appropriate whether vector or bitmap. So which approach is best? For the standalone user outputting directly to their own printer there's no question that the Corel approach offers maximum power and with enough quality in nine cases out of ten. For the professional designer, however, quality is crucial ten times out of ten.

So does that mean I'll be playing safe and ignoring Draw's advanced graduated transparency features? Not necessarily. Now I understand how the effects work I'll be happy to use them, but within the right context. Essentially they are bitmap-based effects. This means that they are ideal for outputting not directly to EPS, but to TIFF. That way it is possible to keep tighter control of image quality by setting export features like resolution, colour mode and anti-aliasing. Even better effects can then be checked and if necessary fine-tuned in Photoshop before being brought back in to the drawing or DTP program for final outputting.

designer corel

corel designer 12 suite

Existing Micrografx Designer users were in for a shock when the first major release under the Corel brand was launched – it was unrecognizable. The DESIGNER 10 interface was radically different and so was the program’s functionality with many welcome new features – gradient meshes, fractal fills and so on - but some core technical capabilities gone awol – hatching, filleting and so on. It wasn’t clear whether this was an upgrade or an entirely new release. In fact it was neither: rather than developing the Micrografx program, Corel had instead reworked its existing DRAW engine to target the more technical user!

Corel’s dual development approach is immediately apparent in the new DESIGNER 12 (version 11 has been skipped to bring the numbering into line) which sports a host of features imported directly from DRAW 12. For example, when you first load the program, you are now presented with a small dialog in which you can choose your preferred workspace with options provided to mimic Adobe Illustrator, Microsoft Visio or Micrografx Designer. Behind the scenes DESIGNER 12 benefits too from Corel’s recent work on enhanced Unicode and double-byte text support and dynamic language switching.

The most obvious change, and another direct lift from DRAW 12, becomes apparent when you begin drawing. As you move your cursor, you can now pull out Dynamic Guides at set angles from existing objects’ snap points - center, node, quadrant and now text baseline too. This makes it much easier to align the objects in your drawing and to draw objects in relation to each other. Particularly useful here is the brand-new ability to hover over an existing line to pull out a dynamic guide to ensure that the current line is being drawn parallel to it. Combined with existing features, such as virtual segment delete and node reflection, dynamic guides really do make DESIGNER’s core drawing environment well suited to technical illustration.

And DESIGNER 12 adds a host of new technical features too beginning with new dimensioning options and an enhanced Object Manager. Rather more eye-catching are DESIGNER’s projection capabilities designed to help create the illusion of 3D objects on the 2D page. Here, the Transformation Docker has been enhanced to enable objects to be easily projected onto, and now unprojected from, Top, Front or Right drawing planes. And DESIGNER’s new Drawing Plane toolbar lets you select one of the three customisable planes and interactively add correctly projected objects to it (even the Pick tool’s marquee is projected to help selection).

corel designer 12 technical

Designer12technical.png: DESIGNER 12 boasts a host of advances in technical drawing.

Particularly important for DESIGNER’s technical market – and especially so as Micrografx Designer used to offer it – is the new B- Spline tool, which lets you draw absolutely smooth lines between set control points. The same is true of the new Fillet / Chamfer / Scallop docker window which enables corners to be instantly and accurately rounded, beveled or notched. It might not sound that significant but it can save the technical illustrator hours of painstaking work.

DESIGNER 12 also catches up with the old Micrografx Designer when it comes to technical formatting with two major additions or rediscoveries. Enhanced line styles let you choose from a fixed range of outline pattern presets such as zig-zags and waves and specify the pattern width precisely. Particularly welcome is DESIGNER 12’s new support for vector-based hatching patterns which are a staple of technical illustration where they are commonly used for indicating different material types. Corel provides the Micrografx Designer and AutoCAD preset hatch patterns as libraries and you can also create your own.

A successful technical illustration package must be able to work as part of a wider workflow and DESIGNER now supports no less than 75 import/export filters. For output, DRAW 12’s Export to Office capability has been added along with its support for the Acrobat 6 PDF format. Even more focus has been paid to import and especially to the major technical drawing standard formats with seriously enhanced CGM (including version 4) and DXF/DWG support – a number of test DXF files that failed with DESIGNER 10 opened happily into 12. Of most relevance to longstanding users will be the improved – though still not perfect - support for Micrografx Designer 3.1-9’s own DSF files which now preserves hatch fills and enhanced line styles.

corel designer 12 suite

The bundling of TRACE, CAPTURE and PHOTO-PAINT turn DESIGNER into a suite.

The comprehensive improvements to DESIGNER represent a major overhaul but the biggest change in this latest release, or at least the most trumpeted, is Corel’s decision to upgrade the program to become a full Technical Suite of connected applications – though less attention is being drawn to the accompanying price hike. Particularly useful in the technical context is TRACE, a powerful bitmap-to-vector conversion utility, though the impression Corel gives that this will be able to instantly turn scanned plans into precision drawings is misleading. In any case TRACE was already bundled with DESIGNER 10 which means that the additional applications justifying the new Suite status are CAPTURE, a basic screen capture utility, and Corel’s longstanding bitmap editor PHOTO-PAINT.

PHOTO-PAINT is certainly a capable performer and integrates well with DESIGNER enabling features such as one-click image opening, direct application of special effects and combined VBA-based scripting. However the program has been allowed to fall behind the competition in recent years. More to the point, existing users will almost certainly already have their own preferred bitmap editors - most probably Photoshop or Micrografx Designer’s old partner, Picture Publisher. As such to see a price hike of 50% to pay for a supporting application most users don’t want and won’t use is galling.

Ignore the marketing and the sour taste however, and look at the end product and it’s a very different story. The major holes have now been filled in and if you compare Corel DESIGNER Technical Suite 12 to Micrografx Designer 9 there’s no comparison – the Corel product is a better, more efficient technical package and one with some amazing creative power to call on too. In fact in many ways Corel’s underlying drawing engine now seems better suited to DESIGNER and its technical requirements than it does to DRAW

Tutorial corel

Corel Draw


Corel Draw was the first of the Windows-based drawing programs and has built on this early start to become far-and-away the dominant drawing package on the PC. Its biggest strength - and its biggest potential limitation - is its all-encompassing approach. In the past this has led to accusations of unfocussed bloating, but with version 7.0 Corel have addressed the criticisms with a far tighter and better rationalized program. Even so, there's a huge range of functionality to cover.

Real World Project

Essentially this functionality falls into two main categories: the creation of design-intensive illustrations and the production of page-based publications. We're going to tackle both aspects by looking at a typical real world project, the creation of a logo and its incorporation into a brochure. Designing the logo will cover all the fundamental skills of adding elements and transforming, arranging and formatting them. Creating the layout will build on these skills and involve setting up the page grid, managing imported text and graphics and preparing final output.

Our project is based on the launch of a new scheme called "Building The Future", an initiative by Volunteer Development Scotland designed to help organisations wanting to encourage the involvement of young people. Broadly then, our job is to create a logo and brochure with a young and progressive feel and with overtones of construction and bridge building. For the logo, we might only have three words to play with, but we need to attract the eye and also to get over these subliminal messages. Fortunately, the artistic handling of text through the text tool (F8) is one of the central features that sets Corel Draw apart from both DTP and bitmap editing rivals.

Type Matters

Typeface is absolutely crucial so it's essential to have a look at our text in a full range of different typefaces. One of Corel Draw's strengths is the huge range of over 1,000 fonts that it comes with, provided in both TrueType and Postscript Type 1 format. As our final publication is going to be typeset, it's preferable to stick to the latter, which will mean having to install Adobe Type Manager if it is not already set up on your system. Corel Draw's Format Text dialog (Ctrl + T) previews the first few words of any selected text so it allows the quick choice of likely contenders. In our case, elaborate or serif faces would obviously clash with the simple and youthful theme, but that still leaves all the sans serif faces.

By combining the Font command with the Duplicate command (Ctrl + D) it's possible to quickly build up a page of possibilities to choose from. To ensure that the duplications are automatically positioned where we want them, their placement can be set with the General tab of the Options command (Ctrl + J) under the Tools menu. Alternatively, to quickly copy an object you can simply select it and press the + key on the numeric keypad. It will be easier to control the process if we first zoom out to the full page (F4) and then hone in on the most likely choices with the Zoom lasso (F2).

In our case the strong suggestions of engineering and modernity in the phrase "Building The Future" help pick out two fonts. To stress the most important final word we can use the condensed and angular - and so bold and futuristic - Fujiyama, while for the others we can use the lighter and more geometrical - and so more open and inviting - Avalon. For any design to succeed it must simultaneously offer both variety and contrast and coherence and balance, and our choice of these complementary but very different fonts does just that. They are by no means the only fonts that could work, but they do offer the most important principle of successful design, an internal logic. In other words, they have a good reason for being the way they are.


A lot can be done graphically using just text, but other elements can help to give the design a unity and to set it apart. The basic shapes are created with the rectangle (F6) and oval (F7) tools, which can be forced to produce regular squares and circles by holding down Corel's "constrain" key, the Ctrl key. The Shift key is used to draw the shape outwards from its centre. Newer tools that are particularly useful for logo work are the polygon, spiral and grid tools. Version 7's Property Bar is particularly useful for controlling these, for example, to change the number of points in a polygon to make it into a triangle. To make changes interactively, to change the indent of the star for example, the Shape tool (F10) is used.

In the past all polygons, such as our triangle, had to be laboriously created on an individual basis using the line tool (F5). Nowadays the line tool is used far less, but still comes into its own on less structured work such as illustration. Regular straight lines are produced by holding down the Ctrl key and clicking end points. Curves can be drawn freehand by simply dragging on screen, or more accurately by controlling nodes with the Bezier tool. A new and excellent addition is the natural pen tool which works like a thick marker pen. Rather than producing vector-based lines, this tool actually produces shapes that can be given a fill. In practice, this means that it is possible to create much more natural, free flowing designs that escape from the overly computerised look.


With such tools the number of shapes you can produce is literally unlimited, but there is no harm in having someone else do the work for you. Corel obviously comes with a huge selection of over 30,000 clipart images that theoretically could be used, but for professional work the phrase "barge pole" springs to mind. Of course amongst the dross there are still some areas, such as the design-neutral signs or maps, which can prove handy. Far more regularly useful though are the range of graphical devices accessed from the Symbols roll-up (Ctrl + F11). The different categories offered are actually the different symbol fonts that you have installed on your system. Corel allows any of the characters of each font to be dragged onto your design and manipulated like any other shape. With general bullet-style fonts, like Wing Dings or Zapf Dingbats, and dedicated symbol fonts, like Geographic or Sonata, these are an excellent source of pre-built and ready-to-use graphical elements.

Now that we have the different basic components of our logo, we can get them exactly the way we want them with the different transformation commands. All elements can be sized with the handles of their bounding box so that our separate words, for example, can be sized to reflect their relative importance. Generally speaking, as there will be good aesthetic reasons why the typeface is the shape it is, the aspect ratio shouldn't be changed so only drag on the object's corner handles. Holding down the Shift key centres the scaling effect while the Ctrl key means that the selected object's size can only be doubled, tripled and so on. Holding down the Ctrl key and dragging a handle through the object is a quick way of mirroring it.


Any object can be interactively rotated or skewed by first double clicking on it, which turns the bounding box handles into arrows. Dragging on the corner arrows rotates the object, while dragging on the centre arrows skews the object. Again holding down the Ctrl key constrains the transformation, limiting angles to multiples of 15 degrees. More control and precision is offered from the Transform roll-up and in particular from the proxy which allows the centre of rotation or skewing to be set to any of the bounding box handles. The Transform roll-up also has the major advantage that it offers quick access to all of the major options - positioning (Alt + F7), rotating (Alt + F8), scaling (Alt + F9), sizing (Alt + F10), and skewing (Alt + F11),.

Such basic transformations are by far the most useful, but Corel Draw also offers a number of more advanced effects such as perspective, enveloping, extrusion and contouring. Adding perspective is an interactive process of dragging corner handles, but each of the other effects is accessed from a single Effects roll-up. In each case the power is impressive. When creating a 3D-style effect, for example, there are separate panels for controlling the level of extrusion, the object's rotation in 3D space, its formatting and lighting and even the bevel of its edges. Don't let the power go to your head, however. Star Wars-style effects can be striking, but more often than not they are inappropriate and they are always less legible than straight text. One of the basic principles of design is "less is more".

One of the most impressive features of Corel Draw is that even after such advanced effects have been applied, the text remains editable either directly with the text tool or within the Edit Text dialog (Shift + Ctrl + T). Occasionally though it is desirable to edit the actual shapes of the letters. To be able to do this the text must first be converted to curves with the command under the Layout menu (Ctrl + Q) and then broken apart (Ctrl + K) so that each letter is separate. Using the shape tool (F10) it is then possible to select nodes to control individual letter shapes to produce one-off logos such as those for Coca Cola and Ferrari.


Now that all our elements have been added and where necessary transformed, we are ready to arrange them as a composition. Moving objects is a simple case of dragging and dropping, with the Ctrl key used to force movement to either the vertical or horizontal. For fine tuning it is often easier to use the cursor keys to nudge the objects into place, with the Ctrl key's "super nudge" multiplying the effect to produce larger movements. The distances moved by nudging are again set with the General tab of the Tool menu's Options command (Ctrl J). Since Corel Draw's defaults are rather strange it is probably a good idea to change these to more sensible options such as 1mm and 5mm respectively.

When arranging multiple objects you will often find that one object is concealing another. This is due to the stacking order whereby recently drawn objects obscure those created previously. This is easily sorted with the Bring Forward One / Send Back One or the more conclusive Bring to Front (Shift PgUp) / Send to Back (Shift PgDn) commands under the Arrange menu. The most common problem is that because an object is completely hidden it is difficult to select. This can often be overcome by careful lasso selecting or by temporarily switching to wireframe mode and clicking on the outline of the object you are after. As a last resort, tabbing will select each element in turn according to the stacking order.

Alignment and Grouping

For our logo it is best to optically position the various elements, perhaps to have certain letters lining up or to make sure that they don't. Often though you will want to use Corel Draw's Alignment command (Ctrl A). This allows multiple objects to be automatically aligned both vertically and horizontally, or to be evenly distributed. All elements align themselves on the last object selected or, if the objects have been lasso selected, on the bottom element in the stacking order. Alignment is such a common task that it is worth recognising the shortcuts available within the dialog. Selecting multiple objects and typing Ctrl A, Alt C, Alt E, Enter, for example, will automatically centre them vertically and horizontally.

Once the logo elements have been positioned and aligned, they can be grouped together so that they are then treated as a single unit with the Group command (Ctrl G). In fact it is still possible to isolate individual objects within a group by holding down the trusty Ctrl key when selecting. To permanently separate the elements, use the Ungroup command (Ctrl + U). Groups can be nested so that complex illustrations and designs can be assembled with multiple grouped building blocks. As it is often difficult to tell whether you have selected an object or a group, it is always a good idea to keep your eye on the status bar's feedback.


Combining is very different to grouping as it is used to create a single new object. To produce a square shape with a round hole in it, for example, you would draw the two shapes and then use the Combine command (Ctrl + L) to join them into one. Combining creates some very striking and important effects. For example, combining text with a shape will leave any overlapping text as black and text within the shape will be a "clipping path" showing any underlying objects. Corel Draw also now offers a number of variations on the combination theme for creating new shapes from overlapping objects. As you would expect these options - intersecting, trimming and welding - are all accessed from another of the ever-present roll-ups.


So far, to add some variety, I've been applying colours to objects using the on-screen palette down the right hand side of the screen. Now it's time to get a bit more serious about formatting and look at the options offered by the fill tool. If our final output is going to be produced on a colour printer or through full colour process separations our choices are practically unlimited. Uniform fills can be chosen from the palette or mixed to order. There are nine main mixing models to choose from, but the most common are RGB (red, green, blue), HLS (hue, lightness, saturation) and CMYK (cyan, magenta, black). Since our work is going to be output on paper, if we stick to colours created with the CMYK model we will know that they can be reproduced.

Corel Draw also offers a huge range of other fill types. The Fountain Fill dialog allows linear, radial, conical and square gradients to be set up between any number of colours with precise control over parameters such as edge padding and offset. As it's hard to imagine how the effect will look, it's much better to apply simple gradients with the new interactive fill tool. Similar but even more striking effects can be created where objects overlap by using the new interactive transparency tool. This is particularly useful for glass and shadow effects, but does take a lot longer to print and in any case would be over the top for our logo where simplicity is crucial.

The same can probably be said for the other advanced fill options on offer, though for other tasks such as illustration, they can be invaluable. The Pattern dialog hides a wealth of choices. The default 2-colour bitmap patterns are very simple and useful primarily for hatching effects. The vector options supplied are universally garish, but your own patterns can be created by simply loading an existing Draw file. The third bitmap option enables any external paint file to be used as a fill, which enables amazingly realistic texture fills with scans of actual wood grain or marbling, for example. The only problem with such effects is that they are very memory and processor-intensive and so, by preference, Corel offers the Texture dialog which recreates the irregular fills of nature using fractals.

Spot Colour

Such variety and flexibility is impressive, but coming back to the real world, we have to recognise our budget limits. Our brochure is going out to commercial print, but we simply can't afford the costs of full colour separations and printing. Instead we must make do with spot colour, in other words black and one other colour. We want the colour to be striking, contrast well with black and add to our modern feel so an obvious choice is yellow. To select which yellow, it's back to the Uniform Fill dialog and this time to the palettes option. Clicking on the drop-down list box shows the different libraries on offer ranging from Focoltone to Userinks. Each refers to an external standard for recreating a set colour accurately.

Your commercial printer might work with a number of these models, but the one standard they are certain to accept is Pantone. In fact there are a number of Pantone models, but the one we are after is the basic Pantone Matching System. Clicking on any of the colours in the palette will then show its Pantone number, which is all the printer will need to know to mix up the desired ink. In fact, because the screen representation will never be entirely accurate, the colour should actually be chosen from the Pantone paper reference which shows all the 2,000 or so available colours on coated and uncoated paper. If you are serious about design it's also a good idea to get the Pantone tints book which accurately shows how percentage tints of each of the most popular Pantone colours will turn out.


We've been talking about colour with regard to fills, but exactly the same uniform colours are also available for outlines. Other options include dashes and line endings and line width - which should normally be measured in points rather than Corel's default of inches! To add a bit of movement and flow, so that the line is not the same width throughout, it is possible to produce calligraphic effects by stretching and then angling the nib. Two very important but often-overlooked options are those for scaling the line with the object and for hiding the outline behind the fill. The first option is crucial if you want the proportions of your line to change when an object is resized, the second is particularly useful for outlining text where you do not want the actual letter shape to be obscured. By default both options are set to off but, by ensuring that no object is selected when you call up the dialog, it is possible to change the settings for all new graphical and text objects respectively.

So far we might only have come up with three words, a rotated triangle and a colour, but we've explored a huge range of Corel Draw's basic functionality. All of these skills will come in useful in the second half of the job, producing the brochure. The first stage in this is to set up the page with the Layout menu's Page Setup command. Our brochure is going to be a standard double-sided A5 leaflet and as such we could design it as four A5 portrait pages. However, as the reader is always aware of the double page spread, we will take this into account and design it as a two page, A4, landscape publication.

Setting Up The Page

This means we have to split the single onscreen A4 page into two. In a DTP program this would be a simple case of setting margins and columns, but in Corel Draw the process is considerably more laborious and involves individually adding guides. Horizontal and vertical guides can be dragged from the rulers onto the page where they are indicated as blue dashed lines. This is fine for optical alignment but we need more precision. Fortunately we can use the transformation skills learned earlier.

First we need to draw a rectangle the exact size of our page. We could use the Size dialog (Alt + F10), but in fact this can be done automatically with the Add Page Frame command in the Page Setup dialog. Now we can select this frame and call up the Scale and Mirror roll-up (Alt + F9). Using the proxy (click on the dialog's down arrow if this is not visible) we can select a corner as the origin of the transformation and then set the horizontal scale to 50% and click Apply. Our page is automatically split into two and, after zooming in (F2), we can drag a dividing guideline into place. Now selecting our rectangle again, we can set the centre of the transformation to the centre of the proxy and set both the horizontal and vertical scale to 85% and again click Apply. Now we can drag in four new guidelines to the edges of the resized rectangle that will act as the A5 page's margins.

In fact, as such regular and symmetrical layouts are hardly eye-catching, we're going to create a different grid with thin side columns next to the main body copy. Again the process involved is the same: adding rectangles, scaling them and dragging in guidelines. Making the most of our two colours we can set one side column to be yellow and the other to be black. That's a good start but still a bit regular for the young and active feel we are after. To break up the layout - again adding variety to the symmetry - we can bring in a design motif. The existing Volunteer Development Scotland logo is based on two simple, bridge-like arcs that are ideal for the job if stretched across the full double page spread.

Applying Text

Now that the basic layout is ready, it's time to bring in the text. Corel Draw supports a whole range of WP formats which can be used for importing longer sections of text, while shorter sections can be typed on-screen or in the Edit Text dialog (Ctrl + Shift + T). Blocks of "paragraph text" - as opposed to the single lines of "artistic text" we used for the logo - are created by simply dragging on screen with the text tool. Any text that is then added is automatically word wrapped within the boundaries of this text box. Resizing the box now affects the length of the line rather than the point size of the text. In fact Corel Draw 7 now offers the best of both worlds as, if the Alt key is held down when resizing, the actual size of the text can still be changed.

This flexibility is excellent for standalone items like addresses, but for our main body copy the text formatting must obviously remain consistent. To format a whole block it is possible to select it with the pick tool and then change the point size or typeface, for example, from the Property Bar. It is also possible to interactively change spacing by selecting a text block and then the shape tool (F10). Dragging the vertical arrow that appears will change line spacing while dragging the horizontal arrow will change letter spacing. Holding down the Ctrl key and dragging will change paragraph and word spacing respectively.

Formatting Text

This is fine if all the text in a block is to be formatted identically, but most text will actually include a range of different formatting, in our case, to indicate subheadings and bullets. Remember that, if you do ever regret a change, you can always use Corel's multiple levels of undo (Ctrl Z) to revert to the way you were. To change the formatting for individual paragraphs then the text or paragraph must first be selected with the text tool and the Format Text dialog called (Ctrl T). A typical example would be to automatically add a graphical bullet.

To ensure consistency, so that all bullets are exactly the same for example, Corel Draw's use of styles comes into play. The idea for these has been imported from word processors and DTP programs, but the implementation is slightly different and comparatively awkward as styles can be applied just as easily to objects as to text. Rather than defining a style from scratch it is easier to format a paragraph the way you want it and then to right-click to call up the shortcut menu. This has a Save Style Properties option which allows you to name the style and to choose exactly which attributes, from font and effects through to outline and fill, that you want to be saved in it. To then apply those attributes to any other paragraph you simply right-click again and this time choose the Apply Style option.

Watch Out

Such control is impressive, especially when you add in advanced word processing features such as background spell checking, a thesaurus and automatic correction of typing errors. Even so a strong warning has to be made. Corel Draw has taken a full seven versions to get anywhere near acceptable in its text handling and even now at times it seems unable to cope. Small bugs include obviously incorrect point sizes on the Property Bar and the insistence on changing defaults even when you only want to change the particular selected text. Such failures are irritating but can be worked around unlike the regular but mysterious GPFs. Essentially remember to save repeatedly when working with text and appreciate the program's limitations. For any job over a couple of pages I would always turn to a DTP program.

With logo, layout and text now sorted we're on the home stretch, looking to make fine adjustments and perhaps to catch the eye a bit more. We could try and bring in some clipart, but after all this work we don't want to spoil things with a gratuitous American "celebrity" or Victorian woodcut. Instead we can build on the modern look and clean lines of our existing design by reusing the simple triangle from the logo and making it into a repeating device. On the outside pages this can be used in yellow to highlight the all-important address while on the inside it can be used in white against a yellow tint to give some variety and also to make the most out of our colour options.

Photographs are another matter entirely and it would certainly be nice to incorporate one. Basically people like looking at people and, as it stands, our design is a little impersonal. Corel Draw 7's handling of imported bitmaps is excellent with all the DTP-style options such as resizing and cropping and text wrap. Even better though are the new photo-editing features such as the advanced colour correction and special effect filters that approach and, in many cases, outdo dedicated packages. Corel Draw comes with its own partner program Photo-Paint (see box-out) for pixel level control, but more and more power is now being built directly into the drawing module.

Text on Curves

Unfortunately for our design this is all rather academic. Since the brochure is for a scheme that is still being set up, there aren't any appropriate images to include. The best we can do is to try and find another way of adding a bit of life. Text on a curve is relatively unusual and striking and by crossing our double page spread will help tie the layout together. First the artistic text is added and its letter spacing stretched to give the effect room to work. Next the curve is created. To make sure it is accurate the existing arc is copied and then using the Knife tool the relevant section isolated. To combine the two they are selected and the Fit Text To Path command chosen. This calls up a roll-up for setting overall positioning, while the Shape tool can be used for interactive fine-tuning.

Preparing for Output

Our design is now ready for proofing. Corel Draw offers comprehensive control over the printing process with options for scaling and tiling, for example, that could be useful if we wanted to reproduce the centre pages for an exhibition board. For our brochure though the most relevant options - only available when printing to Postscript printers - are those for producing separations. For process output we would ensure that all colours were converted to CMYK, while for spot colour we can just select our two colours.

Normally colours are set to "knock out" those beneath them to prevent a yellow object over a green background printing as blue for example. Although this solves one problem it leads to another because, unless the press registration is perfect, tiny areas of white will now appear around the coloured object. The way around this is to "trap" them, to imperceptibly expand the colour in areas of overlap. Corel Draw can do this automatically with its auto-spreading capability. While this works well in most cases, it is best to check exactly what is happening by setting a very high auto-spread width and printing proofs. If there are problem areas, these can normally be solved by judicious use of hairline outlines on the objects involved.

Thankfully, for our design we can set black to automatically overprint which avoids these problems at a stroke and leaves our finished master work ready to go for final output and commercial print. That's not quite the end of the job as the typesetter/printer still has to output separations, check them against our proofs, and produce the final printing plates. With everything ready for final print though our job is finished.

Rabu, 15 April 2009


Celebrate 20 years of CorelDRAW!
Find out about the International Design Contest and other exciting events.

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 delivers all the essential tools for today's busy designer. Create powerful designs using intuitive vector illustration and page layout tools. Retouch and enhance photos with professional photo-editing software. And easily convert bitmap images to editable and scalable vector files. Whatever your project, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 will streamline your workflow and inspire you with new creative possibilities.

Create illustrations, logos, brochures, newsletters, flyers, signs, Web images and more.

Minggu, 12 April 2009

Corel Draw

The latest, at the time, the version of the popular software package for work with vector and raster graphics + Service Pack 2 CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 - graphics package that's a lot easier to work on projects of any size, whether the development of a logo, creating a professional marketing brochure or a bright and poster shots.
The package CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 combines high functionality with the most different tasks in the field of graphic design, high speed, ease of use and accessibility, which did not match any other graphics product.
In CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4 includes the editor of vector graphics CorelDRAW X4, raster graphics editor PHOTO-PAINT X4, the program for transforming raster images into vector Corel PowerTRACE X4, the program for creating screenshots Corel CAPTURE X4, as well as e-book to work with the package CorelDRAW Handbook.
New Features in CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4:
Formatting text in real time, which allows us to see how text will appear with the selected options before applying formatting;
Integration with service WhatTheFont, so you can identify the font used on the raster image;Independent layers for each page;
New tool for working with tables to create tables, import them or convert them to text;
Improved integration with Windows Vista, in particular, support fast search capabilities;Integration with an online service Corel ConceptShare, which gives designers created an opportunity to share their projects with colleagues or customers;
Support for new formats, which are used in Microsoft Word 2007, Adobe Illustrator Creative Suite 3, Adobe Photoshop CS3, PDF 1.7 (Adobe Acrobat Cool, AutoCAD DXF and AutoCAD DWG, Corel Painter X)