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Corel Painter X : Graphic Techniques - Vector Values

10/15/2011 4:45:30 PM
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Speaking of categories overlapping, there is some common ground between pixel-based programs, such as Painter or Photoshop, and vector-based products (Adobe Illustrator reigns supreme in that arena).

Although all Painter images are ultimately pixels, there are some tools you can use to take advantage of vector-like capabilities, such as dynamic (editable) Stroke and Fill. Figure 1 shows where these tools are located.

Figure 1. Vector selector.

Paths to Enlightenment

Use either the Rectangular or Oval Shape tool to drag the corresponding shape on your canvas. With the Move tool engaged, resize or reposition a shape as often as you like. When you tire of ovals and rectangles and want something a little more exciting, use the Quick Curve tool to draw any irregular shape. All shapes are composed of a path (a sequence of curves or line segments) and anchor points that can be altered with the Shape Selection tool.

Each shape you make automatically creates its own separate layer with a distinctive icon that differs from an ordinary layer. Figure 2 has an oval and rectangular shape and a Quick Curve shape. I’ve added a bristle brush stroke on a standard layer so you can compare the layer icons as well as the contrast between vector flatness and pixel juiciness.

Figure 2. Shape up!

The Shape menu provides several commands for managing shapes. When any Shape tool is active, the Property Bar offers choices for Stroke and Fill. Those color swatches give you access to the current color set or the option to load a different color set. Check boxes let you determine whether Stroke and/or Fill is on or off.

My irregular shape appears again in Figure 3, this time with a yellow stroke and a lavender fill. The Shape Selector tool is active, so you have access to the individual anchor points along the path. The target point is red, indicating it can be moved or its “wings” can be dragged around in order to alter the curves on either side of the point. Make some Quick Curve shapes and play around with strokes and fills, as well as manipulate anchor points and their wings. If you want to change the width of a stroke, you’ll need to open the Set Shape Attributes dialog from the Shapes menu.

Figure 3. You are the wind beneath my anchor points.

Paths for Alignment

So you see how it’s possible to prepare precise paths. Now what? With your Brush tool active, take a look at the three icons near the left edge of the Property Bar. The default mode is Freehand strokes, but you can also choose Straight Line strokes. The third option is Align to Path, and that’s the key to combining vector precision with painterly style.

Make your own simple graphics using the vector tools in Painter or import existing Illustrator files. Use File > Acquire to open images that are in either .ai format (Adobe Illustrator) or .eps format (Encapsulated Postscript). Those .ai files will have to be in Illustrator 8 format in order to be recognized by Painter. When you use the Acquire command, Painter takes a moment or two to rasterize the image to make it compatible with the pixel-based environment. You’ll see the paths in your Layers Palette as Shapes or Groups of Shapes. At this point you are free to change the size or resolution of the image.

I’ve already rasterized a vector illustration for you to work on, shown in Figure 4.Some of the shapes have fills, and all of the shapes have thin black strokes to help you see your work in progress.

Figure 4. Fill in the filling.

This is an excellent opportunity to use the Liquid Ink category, which functions on its own special layer. I chose the Smooth Bristle variant, which isn’t really smooth. If I had the time, I’d rename it “Not So Smooth Bristle.”

What’s in a Name?

You can change the names of brush variants and even reorganize them into different categories if you wish. Just navigate to the Corel Painter folder on your hard drive, then choose Brushes > Painter Brushes. Then find the variant you want to rename. Each brush has three component files: .nib, .stk (stroke), and .xml. All three must be renamed or there will be trouble. Incidentally, those tiny (4k) JPEG files associated with category names are the icons for the categories. Yes, you can replace them with your own icons. Make a Rectangular selection of the image you want for a new icon and use the Capture Brush Category command in the Brush Selector Bar popup menu.

With the Align to Path option engaged, draw around each of the shapes using any colors you like. My working image appears in Figure 5. I temporarily turned off the fills by unchecking them in the Property Bar, with the Shape Selector tool active.

Figure 5. Blue plate special.

Those accidents of overlapping color are fine, enhancing the hand-painted look. Don’t try to fix them if you get some. The finished cake has the fills turned on again and all the stroke lines turned off. At this point the image is ready to be flattened and saved to any format. Keep a RIFF file with shapes intact in case you want to redo it with different brush variants. All Figure 6 needs is a cup of coffee.

Figure 6. Piece o’ cake!

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