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High-end color support for interactive blend and contour effects in CorelDRAW

By Steve Bain

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

If you work with high-end color, you'll be pleased to know that both CorelDRAW® and Corel PHOTO-PAINT® include high-end color features that can help you unleash your wildest design and illustration energy. These new tools and resources also let you accurately reproduce your ideas in your digital workflow and confidently meet the most demanding print production requirements.

With these advanced features in CorelDRAW and Corel PHOTO-PAINT, you can include spot color inks in interactive blend and contour effects and be confident that your effects will be faithfully reproduced in print. Take this behind-the-scenes peek at interactive blend and contour effects in CorelDRAW, and you'll see what I mean.

Advanced color support for interactive blend effects

CorelDRAW has long allowed users to work with spot color inks. Even special fill types, such as fountain fills, have supported the use of spot color inks for advanced high-end printing. Now, CorelDRAW users can enjoy improved results when harnessing spot colors in interactive blend and contour effects.

In earlier versions of CorelDRAW, the use of interactive blend and contour effects brought considerable creative freedom to users facing a wide range of design and illustration challenges. Often, though, specialized print operations involving spot color reproduction required imaginative and technically complex workarounds to emulate in print the same visual effects seen on the screen. After all, not everyone works only in RGB color.

The newest advanced capabilities for spot colors come into play with the use of dynamically linked interactive blend and contour effects. When you apply these interactive effects to an object, you create a new object that maintains a dynamic link to the original object, which becomes the control object. Changes to the control object automatically influence the properties of the dynamic objects created.

Let's consider a simple blending example in which spot color inks are applied to two objects, and a blend effect is created between the two objects. During the blending, the properties of the control objects are preserved, and the properties of the dynamically linked objects create a multistep progression between the two control objects. The object shapes are created according to the blend effect properties, but the linked object colors are precisely calculated percentages of the original spot colors. In the background, CorelDRAW automatically applies overprint properties to the objects to support high-end printing.

Let's examine these effects more closely to see the advanced object-engineering involved. In the illustration below, a four-step blend effect is applied to two characters, which creates a series of four intermediary character weights. The control object on the left includes a 100 percent PANTONE® 152 orange fill and a 100 percent PANTONE 485 red outline. The control object on the right includes a 100 percent PANTONE 606 fill and a 100 percent PANTONE 471 brown outline. The blend objects form a four-step progression between the two shapes.

Each blend step that CorelDRAW produces in the effect is a unique combination of objects. Dismantled, each step can include four separate objects: two objects that represent each of the spot color fills and two objects that represent each of the spot color outlines (see below).

Closer examination reveals that the values of the spot color inks are varied, with tint values in a progression between the blended object colors, as shown below. Objects representing the blend object in the foreground are automatically applied overprints of the fill and outline. (Note that color acceleration options available with blend effects affect the spot color ink percentage values of the composite objects in the final effect.)

To examine the results of applying spot colors to objects in a blend effect, follow these steps:

  1. Click any object-creation tool in CorelDRAW, and create two simple shapes.

  2. Click Window > Color Palettes, and select a fixed ink palette, such as a PANTONE spot color ink palette.

  3. From the spot color ink palette, apply different spot colors for the fill and outline properties of each of your two new objects. (Choose spot colors from only a single palette type.)

  4. In the toolbox, click the Interactive Blend tool. This tool is grouped with the other interactive tools (see below).

  1. Create a default blend by dragging from the center of one object to the other object. If you want, you can adjust the property bar controls to customize the blend properties.

  2. Click the Pick tool, right-click the blend portion of the effect, and choose Break Blend Group Apart from the pop-up menu (see below). This option permanently breaks the dynamically linked blend effect.

  1. A warning dialog box notifies you that the resulting mix of spot colors will be rendered by overprinting, which requires use of the Enhanced with Overprints view, a new feature in CorelDRAW. Click OK to acknowledge the warning. Click View > Enhanced with Overprints to ensure that this view is currently selected and to view the results of the mixed spot colors.

  1. With the Pick tool still active, click to select only the object group constituting the blend, and choose Ungroup All from the pop-up menu (see below).

  1. With the objects ungrouped, examine the arrangement by selecting each object while monitoring the color fill and outline indicators on the status bar (see below). Note that a separate object exists for each spot color and for each fill and outline property. Also, note that the spot colors are specified in varying tint percentages, and that overprinting has been applied to the outline and fill colors for the foreground objects.

Spot color options for contour effects

Similar to the blend effects, the interactive contour effects in CorelDRAW create a series of dynamically linked objects, and these effects now incorporate the same advanced color solution included with the blend effects. For example, when an object is applied with a contour effect, and the control object and the end contour use different spot color fills or outlines, or both, the intermediary contours are translated as composite objects with overprinting applied. As with the blend effects, the calculation of the contour ink color values is based on the colors of the control object and end contour object and on the step and offset positions of the contour step in the effect.

In the example below, the Interactive Contour tool was used to apply spot color inks and a contour effect to a simple shape. The object is set to a 100 percent PANTONE 606 yellow fill color and a 100 percent PANTONE 485 red outline color. The same colors are used for the default contour effect, which is a three-step outside contour with a 0.05-inch offset.

When dismantled, the end contour is a single object that includes percentage tints of the original control object's spot colors. The intermediary steps in the contour are also single objects with color tints applied, as shown below. The precise tint values are based on the number of contour steps, the control object ink colors used, and any color acceleration properties applied.

In a nearly identical example, a contour is applied to the same object with two different spot color inks used for the end contour. When dismantled, the end contour is a single object, but each intermediary contour step is a composite of four separate objects applied with overprints (see below).

Display color vs. your printed or previewed color

When rendering interactive color effects on-screen, CorelDRAW ultimately uses your current color management settings to send an accurate RGB color emulation to your monitor. These settings are also used for drawings in composite workflows, when you work in formats such as encapsulated PostScript® (EPS) or Adobe® Portable Document Format (PDF). In direct-to-print scenarios involving color separations printed to a PostScript device, the object effects are replicated by the print engine.

You can use the Print Preview feature in CorelDRAW to examine your document and view the resulting objects created by your interactive blend and contour effects. The print engine is extremely sophisticated and displays your printed results according to exact specifications. The Print Preview feature reveals the true object ink colors in your drawing.

To access the print engine and view any ink colors in your drawing, including those you added by applying interactive effects, follow these brief steps:

  1. From within CorelDRAW, click File > Print Preview to open the print preview window (see below).

  1. By default, the print preview window shows a composite color image of your document pages. Page tabs across the bottom of the document window let you navigate your document.

  2. To view the colors in your document as individually printed separations, click the Enable Color Separations button on the standard toolbar, which is located above the preview window (see below). Your display changes to show each individual spot color ink on a separate page for each page in your document. The preview color scheme also changes automatically to black and white to emulate the appearance of the film output generated during printing of the actual separations.

  1. While previewing your separations, use the page buttons at the bottom left of the document window to navigate between pages (see below). The page tab displays the page number and spot color for the separation currently in view.

  1. Preview your document in the Print Preview window to assess whether your use of spot colors is accurate and practical. After reviewing your document, you can close the print preview window and return to your CorelDRAW drawing by clicking File > Close Print Preview (or by using the keyboard shortcut Alt + C).

Enhanced color support is one of many color-related improvements that have been made throughout CorelDRAW. Now you can use your favorite drawing program to apply an interactive effect with any fixed color ink palette and then easily reproduce the effect with high-end printing techniques.

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