Awards & Engraving

September '16

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A&E SEPTEMBER 2016 • 63 by Jim Sadler Graphic Design CORELDRAW FROM A TO E OLD DOG Nodes are like the dots in those connect- the-dots puzzles. Looking at the uncon- nected dots is confusing, but as soon as straight lines are drawn between the num- bered dots, an image appears. Beziers take that one step further by allowing the lines used to connect the dots to be curved as well as straight. The line connecting the nodes (curved, straight or both) can be just that—a line in a space, or it can become a closed shape by joining the last node with the beginning node. The completed lines or closed shapes are referred to as objects that can be combined with other objects to create simple or complex images. (fig 1) Learning to use the Bezier tool, then, is learning how and where to place the nodes for maximum effect and how to manipu- late the lines traveling between the nodes using special tools built right into each node. Generally speaking, this is a more calculated process than that of drawing with a pencil; in fact, the resulting images are refined more through the editing pro- cess that occurs after the initial placement of the nodes and connecting lines. What keeps most folks from mastering the Bezier tool is the frustration and dis- appointment that happens when trying to draw using vector tools—it doesn't feel any- thing like drawing with a pencil on paper. In that sense, the Draw in CorelDraw (or the Illustrate in Adobe Illustrator) sets us up with expectations that are dashed as soon as we attempt to create images the way we are used to. If it were called something like Image Builder, then we might be more open to learning how the process of building an image works right from the start. Image building in CorelDraw utilizes the Bezier tool. There is a Freehand tool avail- able for more spontaneous and familiar drawing methods, but the initial results often look awkward, unrefined, and gen- erally not what was intended; that's best reserved for use after you understand better how vector graphics are constructed. Vector images are images created from lines and outlines called objects. For instance, if I were building an image of an apple with a stem and leaf, I would create one outline for the apple, one for the stem, and one for the leaf. Each of those lines and outlines is a separate object that can easily be manipu- lated (moved, enlarged/reduced, rotated, distorted, etc.) once created. Each object line can also be assigned a simple or com- plex color, and in the case of closed shapes, simple or complex color fills. So I could assign my apple object a thin black outline and fill it with red and do the same with the stem and leaf, filling those with brown and green. I could make vein lines a dark green and arrange them inside the leaf for detail. (fig 2) I just built an image. It didn't feel like drawing, but it does look like a drawing or illustration. The process by which the computer makes this possible is math- ematical at its core (though no math skills are required)—that makes vector graphics a little harder to create and much easier to manipulate with great accuracy, and without using up much memory. As you can see in the illustration, the shapes are built using a few well-placed nodes connected by straight or curved lines. The nodes are not at all apparent in the final Nodes: Old Dog, New Tricks ALL IMAGES COURTESY JIM SADLER I f you haven't yet mastered the Bezier tool in CorelDraw, then you are missing out on all the fun... well, maybe fun is a stretch, but you are missing out on the ability to have "sky's-the-limit" control over your own vector creations or imported vector artwork including the letter shapes that make up a font. Working with Beziers is the heart of CorelDraw and being a master of Nodes is essential to working with vector graphics.

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