Cool Tricks with Paragraph Text in CorelDRAW

By Steve Bain

The applications and features described in this tutorial require CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3 or newer to be installed.

These days, there's no excuse for churning out plain-looking text layouts. With CorelDRAW®, there are so many ways you can make text more interesting to read, it's a shame not to take advantage of them. Let's explore a few tricks that you can use with paragraph text to produce visually appealing text layouts.

Text Selection Techniques

Before we delve too far into cosmetic improvements, let's start by looking at the various ways you can select paragraph text for manipulation. Using CorelDRAW, you have a choice when it comes to selecting and manipulating text characters in paragraph frames. There are three ways to select text for editing, formatting, and/or manipulation. At the object level, clicking a paragraph text frame with the Pick tool selects the entire object. While the frame is selected, any font, color, size, or formatting changes you make are applied to all the text in the frame.

At the cursor level, you can choose the Text tool (F8), and use either a click-drag mouse action or your keyboard (Shift or Ctrl combined with arrow keys) to select characters and/or words. Cursor-selected text is usually displayed with darker or lighter highlighting (shown below) to distinguish it from non-selected text and to signify the characters are ready for formatting and/or editing.

At the character node level, choosing the Shape tool (F10) while a paragraph text frame is selected displays a white-filled node marker at the lower-left corner of each character in the string. You can click once on a character node to select the character, click-drag to marquee-select characters, or hold Shift while clicking characters to select multiple characters. While a single character is selected, the node markers are displayed in black (shown below).

Using the latter two selection techniques enables you to apply formatting to only those characters that are selected. Using the Shape tool for manipulation, however, enables you to apply vertical baseline or horizontal spacing changes (shown below).

Flow Imported Text into Position

Although you can always type or paste text directly into a text frame, the most ideal way to populate frames is by using the File > Import command. You can import text directly into a specific insertion point in a paragraph text frame. CorelDRAW does this automatically during import if the Text tool is selected and an insertion point is active.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Using the Text tool, drag to create your paragraph text frame.

  2. Choose File > Import (Ctrl+I) to open the Import dialog box. Use the Browse options to locate and select the text document you want to import, and click OK.

  3. In the Importing/Pasting Text dialog box, choose an import preference (shown below). If you choose the Discard Fonts and Formatting option, the imported text will be automatically formatted with the current paragraph text frame style properties.

  1. Click OK to import the text. The imported text will automatically be added at your insertion point and flow with the current text in the frame.

Drop Caps Create Quick Graphic Appeal

Using drop caps in a text layout is an ideal way to highlight the starting point of any published work. Drop caps often set the tone and mood for a design and serve as an opportunity to add creative flair to otherwise plain-looking text (shown below).

In the early days of publishing, drop cap positions fell below the baseline of the first line of text in a paragraph, hence the name dropped caps. Past publishing techniques often required complex indenting and tabbing to create this effect. Thankfully, you can apply drop caps almost instantly in CorelDRAW with a few simple clicks. Here's how to do it:

  1. Drop caps may only be applied to paragraph text, so you'll need to create and/or select your paragraph text with the Text tool (F8). To do this, drag the cursor diagonally using a click-drag action to create an empty frame, and type or paste your text into the text frame.

  2. Apply your paragraph formatting as needed using the property bar options or the newly designed text formatting dockers.

  3. To apply a default drop cap at the current settings, click anywhere in the first paragraph of your text with the Text tool, and click the Show/Hide DropCap (Ctrl+Shift+D) button on the property bar (shown below) to toggle the drop cap effect on or off. By default, a drop cap effect is applied at exactly three lines in height using your current font selection. Notice the paragraph text is instantly reformatted as the drop cap is activated.

  1. You can customize the height and style of the effect by using the Drop Cap dialog box. With the Text tool cursor still inserted in the first paragraph, choose Text > Drop Cap to open the Drop Cap dialog box (shown below). Toggle the effect on or off by enabling the Use drop cap check box.

  1. Click the Preview button in the Drop Cap dialog box to evaluate you current settings, and click OK.

With the Drop Cap dialog box, you can also control the height of the effected character to between 1 and 10 lines of text by adjusting the list box in the Number of lines dropped area. If needed, you can also adjust the Space after drop cap list box to set the spacing measure between your drop cap and the next character in the string. This is useful if the drop cap character constitutes a single word, such as A or I. Use the hanging indent option to force the balance of the text in the paragraph to align with the first character following the drop cap.

Shaping Paragraph Text Frames

Since the frame surrounding your paragraph text is essentially a bounding box, it can be manipulated to virtually any shape you need it to be. The paragraph text frame acts as a container forcing the text inside it to flow within the contours of its shape. Typical text frames are rectangular, but a text frame can take virtually any shape you wish (shown below).

The simplest way to reshape a paragraph text frame is by using the envelope effect. With the CorelDRAW drawing tools, create any shape and use it as a template. Once your shape is created, follow these steps:

  1. Using the Pick tool, select the paragraph text object you wish to shape.

  2. Open the Envelope docker (Ctrl+F7) and click the Add New button (shown below).

  1. On the Envelope docker, click the Eyedropper button and use the targeting cursor that appears to click target your shape. A bounding box resembling the shape you targeted will appear over your text frame.

  2. Click the Apply button to complete the shaping operation.

  3. If you need to return the paragraph text frame to its original rectangular shape, choose Effects > Clear Envelope.

Once your text frame is shaped, it will still behave as any other text frame, complete with sizing handles and linking functions to other text frames (shown below). The shaping potential is virtually unrestricted when it comes to using envelopes for your paragraph text frame.

Use Closed Shapes as Text Containers

As an alternative to shaping your text frame by using envelopes, you can also use actual object shapes as the container for your paragraph text so long as the object is a closed shape. When text is placed inside an object, the object itself becomes the container and the text flows within it-even if the shape changes size, proportions, or its vector shape is edited at the node level.

Here's how you can do it:

  1. Choose the Text tool and hold your cursor over the shape outline. (There is no need to select the shape.)

  2. When the Text tool cursor is near the shape outline, it will automatically display either the text path or text container cursor modes (shown below). Here's a tip: hold Shift as you hover your cursor over the object perimeter to force the text container mode to be the active cursor.

  1. Click the cursor inside the object outline. Notice a dotted line appears inside the shape and a blinking insertion point appears (shown below).

  1. Type or paste your text and notice the text follows the inner contours of the shape outline. Your shape is now a text container (shown below). Resizing the container will reflow the text inside the container. Try this tip: hold the Alt key while resizing the shape (or any paragraph text object for that matter) to resize both the font size and the shape simultaneously.

You can format your container text as you would any paragraph text object by selecting the text and using the property bar options or dockers to apply the formatting you require. The object can be manipulated like any ordinary object when it comes to applying effects, outlines, or fills.

Add Inline Graphics to Text Frames

If your paragraph text layout is comprised of linked paragraph text frames and you have graphic images that you would like to flow between frames, you're in luck. CorelDRAW supports inserting inline graphics into text. It's a tricky maneuver though, so if you've never worked with inline graphics in the past, this may help.

The procedure involves some advanced preparation. To start, be certain the width of the image or graphic you wish to use is less than the width of the paragraph frame you're inserting it into. If you are using linked paragraph text frames, create the frames in advance, apply the linking, and type or import text into the frames. With this done, follow these steps to insert you inline graphic:

  1. Using the Pick tool, select the object or image you wish to insert into your text frame.

  2. Choose Edit > Cut (Ctrl+X) or Edit > Copy (Ctrl+C) to copy the image or object to the clipboard.

  3. Using the Text tool, click an insertion point in the paragraph text and enter a full hard return in the text (shown below). This will ensure the inline graphic exists as its own paragraph and doesn't interfere with the spacing of the surrounding text.

  1. Choose Edit > Paste (Ctrl+V) to add the image or object from your clipboard into the text frame. Your new inline graphic will now reside on its own separate line (shown below) and flow with the text-even if that means flowing to the next linked paragraph on a different page.

  1. Once the graphic is pasted into your paragraph text, you'll notice its size has likely changed dramatically. This is because the graphic now occupies the same space as a full character size. To change the size of the graphic, highlight it with the Text tool and use the property bar options to adjust its character size (shown below).

  1. Adjust the paragraph spacing above and below the graphic and/or the line spacing by using options in the new Paragraph Text docker which you can access by choosing Text > Paragraph Formatting.

Dress Up Your Point-Form Lists

If the document you're creating includes point form lists, you may find simply indenting the text does little to bring emphasize to the concepts being presented. A long-standing solution to this is to add bullets: text symbols that precede each item in lists of indented text.

Like drop caps, manually formatting bulleted lists can be a tedious and frustrating experience. Although previous versions have offered solutions to this, CorelDRAW provides new bullet effects that are more elegant to use and include more options for greater control than in the past.

You can apply virtually any character you wish as bullets (shown below) and you can format the bullet font and size independently of the formatting applied to the paragraph text. You can also precisely fine-tune the vertical and horizontal bullet position.

To explore this time-saving feature, follow these steps:

  1. Using the Text tool, highlight the paragraph text to which you want to apply the bullet effect.

  2. Choose Text > Bullets to open the Bullets dialog box (shown below) and enable the Use bullets check box to activate the feature. At this point, click the Preview button so you can evaluate the settings you are about to apply.

  1. In the Appearance area of the Bullets dialog box, choose a font for your bullet characters from the Font list box. Ideally, select a font that includes symbols that have visual impact. Once the font is selected, choose a bullet character from the Symbol list box. The bullet effect will immediately be previewed.

  2. If necessary, increase the size of your bullet symbol by using the Size list box. Depending on the size you choose, you may also need to adjust the vertical and/or horizontal position of the bullet symbol. This typically involves lowering the Baseline Shift value and reducing the default Bullet to text spacing.

  3. To align the bulleted text paragraph flush left following the bullet, enable the Use hanging indent style for bullet lists check box.

  4. With your bullet effect complete, click OK to accept the changes and close the dialog box.

Try this tip: click the Show/Hide Bullet button (Ctrl+M) on the property bar to toggle the effect on or off. Your selected bullet font and symbol choice will be preserved, although certain customized baseline shift and spacing options may be affected.

Steve Bain is an award-winning illustrator and designer, and an author of nearly a dozen books, including CorelDRAW®: The Official Guide.