Expert Design Strategies

Corel Series Part 3: by Steve Chittenden


This archived article is most ideal if you are using CorelDRAW 9 or 10. Version 8 should still be similar enough to make the information useful, but version 9 had significant advancements. If you are using CorelDRAW 11, 12, X3, or higher, my updated version of this article will be much better for you.

If you work in a design environment where every project you create is produced in-house, you can get away with almost anything. If someone shares a file with you, or you share a file with them, you will derive great benefit from the information in this article. Since many of us label ourselves as "independent design professionals" or some other fine sounding title, file sharing is a necessary evil.

In my previous article I promised to share a single principle that will make you look like an expert, a strategy or concept that will work in most situations. We will start there. If you get nothing more from this article than that single element, it is enough to set you on the path to success.

The Magic Formula

The magic word is Wireframe. Wireframe is a term used by Corel. In other design programs, it is often called Keyline or Outline, but Wireframe is the same thing. If you are having a problem with a file, this is often the best place to start.

If Wireframe is the magic word, then this is the magic concept: if the file is to be shared, the more the Wireframe resembles the graphic, the better off you will be. You might be saying, "Huh?" Don't worry, this will make sense in a few minutes.

Many of you reading this may be familiar with Wireframe without realizing its value; others require a little more explanation. Either way, I will illustrate this whole concept so everyone can benefit from it.

For the most part, there are two ways to view a graphic on the monitor: Preview mode, and Wireframe mode. Wireframe is that unexciting view that shows plain black outlines and no colors. Preview mode shows the way a graphic is supposed to look when published, though Corel does have three Preview modes: Draft, Normal, and Enhanced views. Wireframe is not very exciting to look at, but it is very useful in troubleshooting a graphic.

To access these views, choose View from the Menu bar, then you have the choice of Wireframe, Normal, and a few others. See the notes below where I will tell you how to access shortcut icons using the technique I described in my first article, Using Corel to Conquer.

Let's move on to real world applications and illustrate this principle.

Solving the Most Common Problems

In my previous article I mentioned that missing elements, which are usually hidden rather than actually missing, are among the most common problems in file sharing. Wireframe is an easy way to check for this problem. Notice the two views below. They are the same graphic, but in Wireframe view, the "missing" element is actually there.

Normal view Wireframe view

Don't forget the importance of a "hard copy" so this kind of problem can be detected! The oval is supposed to have text in it, but it appears to be missing in Normal view.

Here is the solution as well as a design strategy to avoid having this problem. No solution is foolproof though. I read once that if you make it foolproof, someone will design a better fool. This problem can be minimized and is usually caused one of two ways.

  1. The text was placed on top of the oval, but in translation, they got reversed so now the oval covers the text.

  2. The stacking order is correct, but in translation, the text filled in solid, and is the same color as the oval.

Either way, the design strategy and the solution are essentially the same:

  1. The order you select the objects in will determine how the following procedures work. Let me say that again in a different way. You will get different results if you select objects in a different order. Using an oval and text as shown above, select the text first. Then, while holding the Shift key, select the oval. Do not click and drag to select because you cannot control the order objects are selected in. You can verify that both objects are selected by viewing the Status Bar which should be at the bottom. It will tell you, "2 Objects Selected on Layer 1." The Status Bar was discussed in my previous article, Using Corel to Conquer, and is shown below.

  2. With both objects selected in the order stated above, go to Arrange from the Menu bar, then choose Combine from the drop down menu. See illustration below. That's it. It is that simple. Be aware though that once you Combine these objects, the text is automatically converted to Curves and cannot be edited as text.

  3. Let me clarify what is being done here and the difference it will make. You could place white text over a red oval and it will look exactly the same. By Combining, the text is "knocked out" of the oval. In other words, it is the difference between having the text placed on top of the oval versus being able to stick your finger through the text inside the oval. By Combining, you have turned two objects into one and there is less chance of something going wrong.

  4. This technique works with most objects and the order the objects are selected in will determine the way they are combined. If you do not get the desired result, Undo (Ctrl+Z) and change the order you select the objects in. See additional notes below.

Combining in Wireframe view

Combined in Normal view

After Combining, Normal view shows the text.


Customized toolbars with icons added

Another common occurrence in file sharing is font matching errors. If you are converting a file to another format such as Adobe Illustrator (ai), you are not as likely to make this mistake since CorelDRAW automatically generates a series of dialog boxes. One of these gives you the option to save Text as Curves. I advise checking that option.

Font matching errors are more likely to happen if you are sharing with another Corel user. It is nice that Corel alerts you about it when opening a file and gives you the opportunity to install the font, but it makes more sense to take a simple precaution. Convert all Text to Curves before sharing the file. Since you can no longer edit the Text after conversion, you may want to Save a duplicate file for sharing and retain a working copy for yourself that can be edited if needed.

Unless you are absolutely sure your design job is a one time deal, you may need to make changes later. Having a version that is easily modified will save you unnecessary grief. For example, suppose you need to add or change a phone number or address. The share version should not have any Text, only Curves or Paths. Your working version would have Text so it can easily be edited.

There is also an option on the File menu called Prepare for Service Bureau. This embeds all the fonts used into a job folder. If you opt to use this method, make sure the PDF option is checked. I personally do not use this feature because I have seen too many things go wrong when fonts are not converted to curves.

You can also place a Select All Text icon on your toolbar. This would provide an easy way to make sure your share version does not contain any unconverted Text. You can use the Edit menu, Select All, then Text command, but having the icon is easier than chasing it down the menu structure. The Select All Text command icon is buried a little deeper than most, but here is how to find it:

  1. Once you have the Options open as described in my first article, and you have accessed the Toolbars, click the + next to the Edit and Transform folder.

  2. Inside Edit and Transform, you will find Editing Commands.

  3. Scroll down a little further, there is another folder called Select All. That's it, kind of deep, but it's in there. Another one I like is Select All Guidelines in the same folder. It allows you to easily remove Guidelines when you no longer need them.

  4. You can place these icons anywhere, but the most logical place is on the Property Bar with No Selection. That way, with nothing selected, you are a single click away from selecting all of certain elements on the page. I have included a picture below of what your screen should look like when choosing these command icons. When the icons are placed where you want them, click OK in the Options box.

Options for Select All

Here is a good habit to get into. When preparing a file for sharing, choose File from the Menu bar, then select Document Info. This will give you a report showing details about the file. It will tell you if you have bitmaps, text, outlines, and lots of other useful information. HINT: Right click any open area of your Workspace, and you can get the option for Document Info that way too.

Right below Document Info is Version Control in the File menu. This gives you a more automated, yet customizable, method of having multiple versions of the same file. It is another alternative to organizing file versions that would be shared.

This Is Not The End

I think I have given you more than enough to absorb in one sitting. We will continue looking at the wonderful ways that Wireframe can make our lives easier. As we move along, you will learn some strategies for setting up jobs in almost any kind of reproduction method.

In the meantime, have a little fun. Use this information to experiment with the different ways it can be applied.

If you would like another interesting project, compare the value of CorelDRAW to other programs. Throw an object or two up on the screen. It doesn't matter what, use anything. Now do a Save As, and see how many options there are. Do an Export, and see the nice long list of choices. Try an Import and notice all the formats it will read. If you have other design programs, do the same thing with them. You will see some important differences, some significantly shorter lists.

If you are exporting into ai, which is the most common one to use, you have the option of PC or Mac format. Even Adobe Illustrator itself does not give you this option.

There may come a day when someone gives you a file and Corel will read it where the others won't. That has happened to me. Customers sometimes give you files in weird formats. Picture your competitors, who only have the expensive stuff, trying unsuccessfully to read the file. It just might make you smile.

Next.. Beating Graphics Into Submission.


© 2007 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 9 material, please feel free to link to these pages.