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Old 08-27-2006, 01:35 PM
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pixlart pixlart is offline
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Shapes 1: Vector Tools in Corel Painter

Shapes 1: Vector Tools in Corel Painter

The world of digital painting and illustration speaks in two primary languages: raster and vector. Raster graphics are composed of pixels; vector graphics are composed of mathematical data. Pixels are great for creating expressive natural-media style brushes; vectors are great for creating precisely controlled imagery. Painter is primarily a pixel-based application, but it also contains a subset of vector-based tools called Shapes. Within the Painter environment, Shapes occupy the role of swiss army knife. Shapes can be used in a wide variety of situations—even for pixel-centric work. This installment will provide an overview of Shapes' controls. In the next installment, we'll cover the various ways Shapes can be employed within Painter's crazy world of pixels.


Raster vs. Vector

No, this is not an advertisement for an upcoming heavyweight fight. Raster and vector are merely descriptive terms for two basic types of computer-based image-making, each with its own particular strengths.

The pixel is a basic unit of digital image-making. A generic pixel contains position-specific color and transparency (alpha channel) information within the context of an image made up of a massive array of pixels. A pixel-based image is akin to a mosaic of millions of colored tiles arranged to produce a recognizable image. In is only under extreme enlargement that individual pixels are obvious within an image. For the most part, Painter users do not deal with pixels on an individual basis. Painter handles all of the heavy lifting required to paint with millions of pixels in real-time to produce the illusion of oils, chalks, watercolors, and so on.

Vector graphics are made up of lines, curves, objects, and fills that are all calculated mathematically. Vector graphics enable both high precision as well as high resolution imagery. Vector graphics are particularly well-suited to the creation of crisp graphic shape, line work, and text. Pixel-based tools such as brushes cannot interact with Shapes.


The Shapes Layer

In Painter, a Shapes object exists on its own layer type: the Shapes layer. A Shapes layer is created when any of the Shapes Tools are used to create an object. Shapes behave much like the vector tools found in such applications as CorelDRAW and Adobe Illustrator. The resulting point and curve segments—referred to as a path—are then selectively adjusted with the Shape Selection tools to distort or alter the Shape. A Shape can be an individual line or an enclosed shape. To retain Shapes layer information, save the file in Painter's native RIF format. Saving in another format, such as Photoshop, will convert the Shapes data into pixel-based layers.


Shapes Tools

Shapes are edited by adjusting points and curve segments with the Shape Selection tools. Shapes are created using the Pen, Quick Curve, and Rectangular and Oval Shape tools. All of the the vector layer types can be converted to a pixel layer for enhancement with Painter's pixel-based tools. Shape layers can be converted to a selection via the Convert to Selection command (Shapes menu). This is particularly useful for using the Pen tool as a highly controllable selecting tool to extract a complex element from a pixel-based image, such as a photograph. We'll cover this in greater detail in the next installment.


Shapes Tools Property Bar

When any of the Shapes tools are selected from the Tool palette, the Property Bar provides a set of convenient adjustments. Fill and Stroke attributes can be toggled on and off; their colors can be edited. Close Shape, Convert to Layer, Convert to Selection and Open Shape Attributes commands are available.


Shapes Tools Contextual Menu

When any of the Shapes tools are active, either the right mouse button or Control key (Macintosh) can be used to pop up a context-specific menu at the cursor location. This menu contains a set of adjustments: Delete Last Point, Close Shape, Convert to Layer, Convert to Selection and Open Shape Attributes buttons are provided.


Shapes Preferences (Corel Painter Menu > Preferences)

The Shapes Preferences dialog provides options for Shapes' default behavior, as well as path and handle appearance.


Shapes Attributes Dialog

A Shape has editable Stroke and Fill attributes available via the Set Shape Attributes dialog (either the Shapes menu or Shapes Tools Property Bar), or by double-clicking on the Shapes layer entry in the Layers palette. The visual appearance of Shapes layers can be modified in the Layers palette via the Compositing Methods and Opacity control.


Shapes Visual States

A Shapes object can be viewed via one of two alternate visual states. With the Layer Adjuster tool (Tool palette) active, a Shapes object is surrounded by six adjustment handles. These handles are used to manipulate the Shape. Alternatively, with a Shapes Tool (Tool palette) active, the selected Shape displays its path and point segments, which can be edited with the various Shapes Tools.


Shapes Transformation Adjustments via the Layer Adjuster Tool

Shapes can be transformed (scaled, stretched, rotated, or slanted) via the Layer Adjuster tool. When Shape elements are selected with the Layer Adjuster, a set of handles appear at the corners and sides of the selected Shape(s). When the Layer Adjuster cursor is positioned over the control handles, the cursor changes to indicate its transformation adjustment function at that control handle. Scale, Vertical Stretch, and Horizontal Stretch cursor adjustments are available by default. Holding down the CTRL (Win) / CMD (Mac) key toggles the cursor to make Rotate, Vertical Slant, and Horizontal Slant adjustments to the selected Shape.


More To Follow

This installment provides you with a map of Painter's vector-based Shapes tools. In the next installment, we'll use this map to explore how these tools occupy a swiss army knife-like role within Painter.

Viva la Painter!

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