How to Use Your Friends

Corel Series Part 5: 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.

Now that we have reached this point in this series of articles, it is time for some real, down to Earth exercises to illustrate the principles we have discussed so far. This will be a nuts and bolts article to build a file that is not prone to problems.

We begin with a real-life type of situation. I will take you step-by-step through a process to convert an average piece of clip art into a usable file. In my last article, I introduced you to some "friends" and promised we would be learning to use file sharing friendly commands. These commands play a key role in setting up any type of graphics file.

Our exercise will assume that we are making a graphic for a sign. The benefit to setting up a sign graphic is that it is easily converted to any other use. This means it is the best way to set up a file. Keep in mind that I am referring to conventional sign making that uses vinyl cutting equipment. When digital sign making is implemented, the rules are different.

Turning Chaos Into Order

The clip art below is all too typical of what you usually have to work with. I suppose the benefit is that you are still earning your pay when you use clip art. As is, this artwork is mostly only useful for one thing... Printing on paper. If you want to do much else with it, you will need to modify it. Wireframe view reveals the real picture, see below.

Coffee beans in Normal view     Coffee beans in Wireframe view

These are both the same graphic, but anyone who has worked with sign cutting equipment will immediately identify with the problem. As for file sharing, even if this graphic was being shared to print on restaurant menus, there is still a risk of problems. Does it look good on the screen in Normal view? Yes, but looks are deceiving, and Wireframe reveals the chaos.

Even though I did not create this graphic, I can tell it was done using the easiest, quickest methods. The time saved in creating it pales in comparison with the grief you might experience in trying to share it for production use.

If you adopt the principles I am laying out here, you will invest little extra time creating a graphics file. When you need to modify or share the file, that initial time investment will pay dividends back to you. CorelDRAW provides some powerful tools for doing it right with minimal time, so let's start fixing the file above.

This coffee bean graphic is on the CorelDRAW 8 clip art disk under Food\Fruit, and might even be on earlier versions of CorelDRAW. If you are using version 9 or higher, download the graphic here.

Let's Get Started

As a general rule, not only in sign graphics, but in most graphic reproductions, the lightest colors go down first. That would mean that the starburst background should be the first layer. Another consideration is to determine what is in the foreground (the top most object) and then what is sequentially under each object. Think in layers as if you are in a plane looking down on the object.

Here is the starting point; with the coffee bean selected, Duplicate the graphic (Ctrl+D, or the Edit menu, then Duplicate), then Ungroup it after moving the duplicate away from the original (there should be an Ungroup command on your Property Bar). The duplicate is a safety net, and should be a standard practice. Now no matter what changes are made, the duplicate is always available to revert back to.

This tutorial will work best if you set up your tool bars with the "friends" I suggested in the previous article. We will be using some Arrange commands to optimize this graphic. If you do not have our "friends" added to your Property Bar, you can use the Arrange menu where all of the commands are also available.

We could do this with "tight registration" between the colors which is easier, but I would rather cover some quick methods of creating a "bleed" or overlap of colors. Since this hypothetical job is a sign graphic, it has more bleed than printing would. Understanding these procedures will empower you with better graphic design skills.

  1. Select the outside edge of one of the coffee beans, and then create a contour "inside" using the Contour icon and methods covered in the last article. The offset amount depends on the size you are creating the graphic (if you downloaded from above, a 5 px offset will be good). Getting the principles is all we are really concerned about right now. In Wireframe view, you will now see a line inside the original outline.

    Inside Contour in Wireframe view

  2. With the Contour Group still selected, click the Separate icon Separate icon on the Property Bar or Arrange from the menu, then Separate.

  3. Click off the objects to deselect them. It is best if you are in Wireframe view for this part. Select the inside line from the contour you just created. You can tell it is selected because it will show all the Nodes like a dot to dot drawing. Hold down the Shift key and click on the starburst background, now both objects are selected. NOTE: When using Wireframe view in version 9, you need to click directly on the outlines to select an object. The order you select these objects in is also important! It's a good idea to check your Status Bar to verify that both objects are selected.

  4. With both objects selected, click the Trim icon Trim icon on the Property Bar, or Arrange from the menu, then Shaping, then Trim. Your objects will now look like the image below because the starburst background was trimmed to the inside line of the coffee bean./p>

    Trim in Wireframe view Trim in Normal view

    I have shown both Wireframe and Normal view here, you may want to alternate between Normal and Wireframe to see the effect. Don't worry about the color of the inside contour; as you can see, mine is white. The idea here is that if you lay the coffee bean (the outer outline) on top of the starburst, they will slightly overlap.

  5. Now repeat steps 1-4 above on the other coffee bean.

  6. After trimming the other bean, select just the inside contour of one of the beans and hit the Delete key. Select the other inside contour and Delete that also. Your images should now look like the examples below.

    After trimming in Wireframe view After trimming in Normal view

    Note that the beans now overlap the starburst, however, the overlap is on top of the beans. You want this the other way around.

  7. Next, Select the starburst (Normal view is good). Right click, choose Order, then To Back. If you have a To Back command on your tool bars, that works too.

  8. Although this graphic is now greatly improved, it still needs some fixing. Note in Wireframe view how the outlines of the coffee beans cut into each other where the beans overlap. You don't want that, do you?

  9. Select the outline of both beans. The order you select them in does not matter, but remember to use the Shift key when selecting more than one object. Make sure you are in Wireframe view so you can see what happens next.

  10. With both beans selected, click the Weld icon Weld icon on the Property Bar, or Arrange from the menu, then Shaping, then Weld. The lines in the overlap of the two beans are now gone.

  11. If you go into Normal view, you will discover a surprise. The beans have no detail inside! Go back into Wireframe so you can see the details inside the beans. Click and drag across all the inside detail of the beans. NOTE: Be careful not to select the beans themselves. Stop dragging before your selection marquee has the beans surrounded. Corel will only select objects completely enclosed in the marquee using this selection method. When you welded the beans, they became a single object.

  12. With the details inside the beans selected (your Status Bar should tell you 8 objects are selected), choose To Front from your Standard tool bar, or right click, then Order, then To Front. Now when you see it in Normal view everything is fixed. It also looks much better in Wireframe and sharing a graphic created this way will be less prone to problems.

If you read the article on Expert Design Strategies, you will see the connection to the hidden details inside the coffee beans like we got in Step 11. For a printing job, I would "knock out" holes for the details inside the beans. Here is how to do that. With the inside details of the beans selected, Duplicate them, then Weld the duplicates just like Step 10 above. Next, use the Shift key to add the beans to your selection (this order of selection does matter). Now the Combine command will punch "holes" in the beans revealing your duplicated details. These details cannot be as easily hidden in a file share this way.

If you want to create a bleed for the details in the beans, which is recommended for a screen printed T-shirt, you can use the contouring techniques you just learned. Darker colors will cover lighter colors in screen printing. For the hypothetical sign job we just did, we were done in Step #12 above because the detail colors would just be applied over the beans. For most printing, you can skip the bleed, the colors will butt up against each other, or, some reproduction methods may require no contact, in which case you would use contouring to create a gap between colors.

Whatever the requirements, now you know how to create good files that share easily. You understand some important principles. This knowledge will help you analyze your designs better, plus it will equip you to troubleshoot problem graphics when someone dumps them on you.

More Cool Time Saving Tips

Since you are so creative, I only need to lay out some principles here. I think you will explore the program further and learn even more on your own. The next article will build more on this material. I promised some information on Node Editing. Now you are ready for it.

Here are a few more time saving tips:

Until the next article, keep exploring the possibilities of what we have covered so far.

Next.. So Simple Its Dangerous.


© 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.