Beating Graphics Into Submission

CorelDRAW Series Part 4: by Steve Chittenden


This article is most ideal if you are using CorelDRAW 11, 12, X3, or higher. Those using older versions like CorelDRAW 9 or 10 will find my archived version of this article much better.

If you ever have a graphic that plagues you with file sharing problems, this article will lay out some strategies for combating the situation. As a bonus, you will learn successful design principles that work well for many reproduction techniques; sign production would be a good example, and that is something often overlooked in graphic design.

In Part 3 of this series, we looked at some very common problems in file sharing and the solutions. I promised we would continue with that, and look at even more ways that Wireframe will make your life easier. Wireframe is still an integral part of determining a good design from one that will merely get you by. It allows you to troubleshoot a junk file that you inherited the responsibility to fix. At the same time, you can use it to reduce the chance of being haunted later by files you can do correctly in the first place.

The Wretchedness of Outlines

I have dedicated plenty of emphasis to principles, probably more so than mechanics, and this subject will be no different. Last time I mentioned that the more a graphic looks the same in Wireframe as it does in Normal or Enhanced view, the better off you will be. We are going to build on that principle.

If a graphic is properly designed from the start, it may take slightly longer to produce (I know you did not want to hear that). The benefit however is that each variation, each version, will be easier to manage. Changes will be easier, and troubleshooting will be more efficient.

A problem that I find to be relatively common is outlines. In keeping with the continuity with previous articles, I will use an ellipse to illustrate this principle. This was not deliberate until now, it just occurred to me that I have been doing everything with ellipses. Somewhere there is probably some psychological explanation for that.

CorelDRAW ellipse in Enhanced view
Enhanced View
CorelDRAW ellipse in Wireframe view
Wireframe 1
CorelDRAW ellipse in Wireframe view using Contour
Wireframe 2

The Enhanced view above shows the ellipse with a thick outline as it is intended to look. In Wireframe 1, it has only a thin outline, while in Wireframe 2 it looks like the Enhanced view without the color. So what is the difference here? They are all the same graphic, but produced two different ways.

The usual procedure to create a graphic like this is to merely add an outline and choose your thickness and color. That is exactly what the first example is. In Wireframe view, you do not see this outline. If you had to produce a sign with this graphic, the sign cutting equipment would not “see” the outline either (oops). I have seen enough designs misinterpret outlines to say that they pose a definite problem.

In Wireframe 2, a different and better technique was used. It is called a Contour. Here is how to use this technique:

  1. Select your object, choose a fill color if it does not already have one, and make sure your graphic has No Outline. There is an icon in your default toolbox that looks like the tip of a fountain pen. When you click and hold the mouse button on it for a second, you will get a flyout as shown below. Click on the X icon for No Outline.

  2. CorelDRAW No Outline command

  3. CorelDRAW Contour DockerWith your graphic selected, click on Window from the Menu bar, then choose Dockers, and select Contour from the Dockers flyout menu.

  4. The Contour Docker will appear on the right side as shown here, and then the fun begins. By default, the radio button next to Inside is selected. Select Outside instead. If you have an ellipse that is approximately 5 inches long, the default Offset of 0.1 will be fine. The Apply button will give you a live preview, and you can make changes until the desired look is achieved. After you click the Apply button, you will notice your Property Bar changes to give you more options. We will cover some of these options later.

  5. As long as you are now experiencing the Dockers in CorelDRAW, in this case the Contour Docker, notice how these have a minimal effect on reducing your work area. They easily collapse using the double arrows in the upper left corner, or you can close them with the X icon (either one at a time or all Dockers at once if you have multiple Dockers open). You can also detach and drag Dockers to another location using the double line “handles” if you want to, and collapse or expand floating Dockers with the up/down arrow icons. Go ahead and play with the Dockers, this adds a lot of productivity to your work flow.

  6. When finished, go to Wireframe view and your ellipse should look like the Wireframe 2 above (as long as you leave the Steps set at 1, and the Offset is adjusted correctly).

After creating a Contour, you should see a Break Apart CorelDRAW Break Apart icon icon on your Property Bar. If not, click Arrange on the Menu bar, then choose Break Contour Group Apart. If needed, you can add this icon to your Property Bar using the methods previously outlined. By using this command, you can work with the object and its contour separately because they become two separate objects. It also has an added benefit noted in the following hint.

HINT: If you will be resizing your contoured object, I highly recommend using the Break Apart command noted above. After breaking apart, you may want to Group (Arrange from Menu bar, then Group) to keep the objects together. Then if you resize the objects, everything will stay proportionate. Without breaking apart and then grouping, your contour will appear smaller as the object is made bigger, and bigger if the object is made smaller.

Once the object and the Contour are broken apart, you can let your creativity go wild. With Node Editing, you can distort either object so it is no longer a perfect contour. I will cover Node Editing in another article because CorelDRAW is far superior in this area. Once you get used to the simplicity of CorelDRAW, you may very well curse their competition for the clumsiness in the way they handle this task.

You can use commands like Combine (discussed in the previous article), which in the case of the ellipse example here, would create a hollow center in the larger ellipse. It is a good idea to “Duplicate” your objects before doing this. See below for time saving techniques in working with duplicates.

The real value of Contours shows up when you have more complex graphics. Let's say you have a group of 50 objects and 10 of them have outlines. I hope you know about the “Scale with Image” option and remembered to use it on every one of them. If not, every time you resize the graphic, it will look different. This is a time consuming problem to fix, and Contouring not only solves that problem (see HINT above), it is much friendlier when it comes to file sharing.

Cool Time Saving Secrets

If you are not already aware of these shortcuts, they can streamline your work:

Consider These Guys Your Friends

To avoid having this article too long, I am only going to introduce you to these ”Friends“ right now, but in follow-up articles, we will be getting better acquainted with them.

With two or more objects selected (the separated ellipse object and its contour created earlier will do, or you can just create a couple random objects), open the Options dialog box using the double check box icon. Under Workspace in the left pane, expand the Customization and choose Commands just like you should be used to by now. Now select Arrange in the drop down menu under Commands. If the following icons are not already on your Property Bar with two or more objects selected, I recommend adding them. See below.

CorelDRAW X3 Options dialog with Arrange options

These are the icons I recommend having on your Property Bar:

CorelDRAW - Combine icon Combine. This was discussed in my previous article, and combines two or more objects into one. It also serves to ”knock out“ portions of objects, such as selecting an inner circle, then an outer circle, and combining to create a ”hole“ inside the circle.

CorelDRAW - Break Apart icon Break Apart. Basically the opposite of Combine.

CorelDRAW - Intersect icon Intersect. Creates a new object out of the intersection between objects.

CorelDRAW - Weld icon Weld. Converts multiple objects into one and eliminates any seams.

CorelDRAW - Trim icon Trim. Uses the first object selected to remove or trim portions from the second object selected.

CorelDRAW - Convert To Curves icon Convert to Curves. Converts text to curves and allows standard objects, such as rectangles, ellipses, and others to be easily reshaped.

CorelDRAW - Align and Distribute icon Align and Distribute. Has options for aligning selected objects and distributing the space between them.

After placing these icons on your Property bar, click the OK button in the Options dialog box.

Until Next Time, Just Play

In the next article, I will be providing some examples of how these commands will help you master good file creation. In the meantime, the introduction to having these “friends” will provide you with enough information to brainstorm some of their usefulness.

In your experimentation, remember to use Wireframe view. Use the Duplicate and Nudge features to see how each of these work. Create different objects, overlap them slightly, select each object one at a time and use the command icons outlined above. Change the order you select the objects in and see how it effects the way the commands work.

Here is a specific example of the difference these commands make. Type a few words, or a sentence, using a connecting script such as Brush Script. Now zoom in on the text. Looks great, right? Try Wireframe view though. See how outlines in the letters are overlapping? Now, while you're still in Wireframe, and with the text selected, click on the Weld command. See the difference? If you are only looking at it on a computer screen, you might say, “No big deal.” But to a sign company, this is a very big deal!

Between your creative experimentation, and the information in these articles, you will be able to solve problems with nuisance clip art and junk files that someone gives you. But most importantly, you will be able design files that are not prone to problems. With a little planning, you can make your job easier whenever you need to modify or share a graphic.

Next.. How To Use Your Friends.


© 2016 Steve Chittenden
Steve Chittenden owns and operates Creative Business Services which provides web design, graphic design, writing, and marketing services. If you have a web site that could benefit from this CorelDRAW material, please feel free to link to these pages.