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How to Use Your Friends

CorelDRAW Series Part 5: 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.

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 graphics 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 often 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 chaos as shown below.

Coffee bean clip art shown Enhanced view in CorelDRAW     Same coffee bean clip art shown Wireframe view in CorelDRAW

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 restaurant menus, there is still a risk of problems. Does it look good on the screen in Enhanced view? Yes, but looks are deceiving, and Wireframe view reveals this potential for trouble.

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 designs correctly with minimal time. So let's start fixing the file above.

This coffee bean graphic is from an older version of Corel clip art, but you can download the coffeebean.cdr file here for this practice exercise. After opening this file with CorelDRAW and making changes, you may get a message about saving in a newer version when you try to save; just click Yes or OK. I've kept this file in the older format so it will open in any version from 9 on up. If you are using CorelDRAW 9 or 10, you would be much better off with the archived versions of these articles.

Let's Get Started

As a general rule, not only in sign graphics but in most forms of graphic reproduction, 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 “stacking order” as if you are in a plane looking down on your objects.

Here is the starting point; with the coffee bean graphic selected, Duplicate the graphic (Ctrl+D, or Edit from the Menu bar, then Duplicate), then move the duplicate away from the original using your arrow keys. Click on the first graphic to select it again, then Ungroup (there should be an Ungroup icon on your Property Bar, otherwise, Arrange from the Menu bar, then Ungroup). The duplicate is a safety net, and should be a standard practice. No matter what changes are made, especially if you mess something up, the duplicate is always there 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 these “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. 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 contour line inside the original outline as shown below. If you can see the screen shot below, you can use the controls to zoom in for a better view. Otherwise, hover here.

  2. With the Contour Group still selected, use the CorelDRAW Break Apart icon Break Apart icon on the Property Bar, or, Arrange from the Menu bar, then Break Apart. This will separate the object from its contour.

  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, and now both objects are selected. NOTE: The order you select these objects in is important! It's a good idea to check your Status Bar to verify that both objects are selected. It will tell you, “2 Objects Selected on Layer 1.”

  4. With both objects selected, click the CorelDRAW Trim icon Trim icon on the Property Bar, or, Arrange from the Menu bar, 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.

    Trim command after Inside Contour in CorelDRAW shown Wireframe view Trim command after Inside Contour in CorelDRAW shown Enhanced view

    I have shown both Wireframe and Enhanced view here, but you may want to alternate between Enhanced and Wireframe to see the effect. Don't worry about the color of the inside contour object; as you can see, mine is white. The idea here is that if you lay the coffee bean on top of the starburst, the coffee bean will slightly overlap the starburst behind it. This overlap is most apparent in Wireframe view.

  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.

  7. Wireframe view in CorelDRAW after Trimming to Inside Contours Enhanced view in CorelDRAW after Trimming to Inside Contours

  8. Note that the beans now overlap the starburst. CorelDRAW X3 maintains the “stacking order” so the starburst is still behind the coffee beans. I'm not sure about version 12, but version 11 and older will place the overlapping starburst on top of the coffee beans. You want this the other way around. If this happens, right click on the starburst (Enhanced view is best for this), choose Order, then To Back. If you have a To Back command on your tool bars, that method works too after selecting the starburst.

  9. 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. Sign cutting equipment would cut these lines unnecessarily. You don't want that, do you?

  10. Select the outline of both coffee beans. The order you select them in does not matter in this case, 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.

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

  12. Using selection marquee in CorelDRAW to select only marquee enclosed objectsIf you go into Enhanced view, you may discover a surprise (in CorelDRAW 11 and older, you WILL have this 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. IMPORTANT: Be careful not to select the outside of the coffee beans. Stop dragging before your selection marquee has the beans completely enclosed (as shown on right). Corel will only select objects completely enclosed in the marquee using this selection method (I will tell you how to override this in the More Cool Time Saving Tips below, but you don't want to do that in this step). When you “welded” the two coffee beans, they became a single object, so you can select just the inside detail as long as your selection marquee does not enclose the coffee bean outlines.

  13. With the details inside the beans selected (your Status Bar should tell you 8 objects are selected), click the To Front icon on your Standard tool bar if you have it. Otherwise, right click on one of the selected objects (it's important to do this right click over a selected object), choose Order, then To Front. Now when you see it in Enhanced view, everything is fixed. It also looks much cleaner in Wireframe, and sharing a graphic created this way will be much less prone to problems.

If you read the article on Expert Design Strategies, you will see the connection to the hidden details problem inside the coffee beans like older versions have in Step 11 above.

For a printing job, I would “knock out” holes for the details inside the coffee beans just to be safe. 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 and click on the coffee beans to add them to your selection (this order of selection does matter). Now the Combine command will punch “holes” in the beans to avoid covering the inside 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 inside detail colors would just be applied on top of the coffee beans. For many printing methods, you can skip the bleed, and the colors will butt up against each other. Some printing methods require that colors have 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 also 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 am mostly laying out principles because I think you will explore the program further on your own, and learn even more using this information as a launch point. The next article will build more on the material we have covered. I promised some information on Node Editing, and 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.


© 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.