Creating a custom brand with CorelDRAW® X6

by Joseph Diaz

One of the great things about CorelDRAW is that it offers such a wide range of tools that a designer can design and layout nearly every part of a business's brand. When I use the word 'brand', I'm not just talking about a logo. I'm talking about how the logo is used, from the business cards to the signage. I'm also talking about the theme or the image that the business uses to promote itself.

Starting with the typestyle

When designing a logo or brand, I'll start with either the imagery or an icon, and then create a typestyle that matches that graphic. Alternatively, if I want the lettering to be the star of the show, I'll focus on that first. In this design's case, I want the lettering to be the star.

Knowing your client's target audience and then creating something that is attractive to them is key. And it's actually more important than creating something pleasing to the business owner. In this case, I needed something feminine, something 'lacy', something that says 'women's clothing store'. After doing some research and creating a few quick sketches on paper, I had the idea to make the lettering look like ribbon, and to somehow incorporate a 'charm' image or graphic.

Understanding ribbon script

Before diving into this project, let's look at a quick trick for creating ribbon text. Ultimately, I won't use this method to create this client's brand; however, it will help us get in the right mindset for creating a ribbon script.

What you want to do is create a single line cursive word. You could try drawing one by hand and scanning it in. I prefer using the Freehand tool and drawing it directly in CorelDRAW (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

The next step is to duplicate that script, and then stagger the duplicated script down and to the right. You may also want to change the outline color of both scripts to different colors to help distinguish the two from each other as you work (see Figure 2). A fast way to change the color of outlines is to select the line or path that you want to change and then right-click a color in the color palette to change its outline color.

Figure 2

Now what you want to do is find two points from which to create a diagonal line that will be reused to help create a ribbon effect. In this case, I used the start of our script (see Figure 3).

Figure 3

As you can see below (see Figure 4), I duplicated (Ctrl + D) the gray diagonal line and reused the duplicated lines over and over where the ribbon would normally fold over. It helps to keep the angle of that diagonal line consistent and to also utilize Snap to Objects (Ctrl + Z). With Snap to Objects enabled, you can snap the gray lines to the edge of the two scripts.

Figure 4

In this next step, you don't have to worry about combining the lines because CorelDRAW has a great tool that we will use to create the shapes that will make up this ribbon (see Figure 5). It's called the Smart Fill tool .

Figure 5

At this point, I will use color yet again to help me visualize this ribbon effect. I used two shades of blue as if the ribbon were different shades on either side. I also used yellow on the intersecting portions for the time being. Again, I used the Smart Fill tool to help achieve the effect (see Figure 6).

Figure 6

Now, you could weld the yellow parts to the dark blue shapes or to the light blue shapes. Either way will work. As you can see in this case, I chose to weld them to the light blue shapes (see Figure 7). To weld two or more shapes together, just select all the shapes that you want to weld, and then you will notice the Weld button will appear on the property bar.

Figure 7

Repeat this process for each letter to create the desired ribbon script lettering for your design (see Figure 8).

Figure 8

Combining the old with the new

I wanted to create a custom hand-lettered look and feel to the ribbon lettering for this particular brand, so what better way to achieve that look than to ask my father — a longtime sign painter — to work his magic. Hand-painted lettering has a certain flow to it that can't always be replicated with off-the-shelf fonts. Plus, I wanted to create something truly unique, something that looks made by hand because it was handmade (see Figure 9).

Figure 9

The problem with using the steps I pointed out earlier to create this particular ribbon script is that by doing so I would lose the thick and thin of the original lettering, and therefore I would lose the character of that hand-painted script. I can, however, use what I have learned about constructing the 'corel' to help guide me when creating this script.

Creating the script

To start, I'll take the transparency film that my father painted on and place it in our scanner. And then in CorelDRAW, I'll click File > Acquire Image > Acquire. I then select to scan the image as a grayscale image. Once the scan is complete, the image will appear on the drawing page (see Figure 10).

Figure 10

Next, I can do one of two things; I can add a transparency to that scanned image, or click View > Wireframe. The goal is to make the image dull or faded so that it is easier to draw over top of it (see Figure 11). Another tip would be to lock the image so that you don't accidently select it when you are working on the shapes above it. Simply right-click the image, and then click Lock Object.

Figure 11

I like to create guidelines to help create a consistent baseline for my script. Guidelines are easy to create in CorelDRAW. Simply click on the ruler at the top or to the left, and drag out onto work space. Then let go of the left mouse button to drop the dashed line where you want it. You can always move the guideline at any time by simply selecting it like any other shape. In fact, you can also rotate the guideline in the same way you would rotate a shape. Click on the guideline a second time to rotate it. In this case, I need my guidelines to be at an angle, so I will rotate the first guideline. Then with the first guideline still selected, I will duplicate it by pressing Ctrl + D (see Figure 12). If you click View > Snap to > Snap to Guidelines, your shapes and objects will now snap to your newly created guidelines.

Figure 12

At this point, I want to treat this lettering like any other illustration that I might create. So, just as though I were creating an illustration of a car or a person, I make good use of the Freehand tool and also the Shape tool . I like to start by 'roughing out' my shapes. With the Freehand tool selected, when you click and hold down, the line will follow the movement of your mouse; however, if you click once and don't hold the mouse button down, you can create straight lines. The straight line is completed when you click somewhere else on the screen a second time. So by creating a series of connecting straight lines that roughly follow the boundaries of this lettering, I will make several shapes that will eventually comprise this ribbon script (see Figure 13).

Figure 13

Next, I use the Shape tool to manipulate those straight lines that I just created. When you are using the Shape tool, you will notice the commands that relate to that tool on the property bar above the workspace. In this case, I begin by clicking the Select all nodes button on the property bar. I can now click the Convert to curve button , which will turn all my straight lines into curves. They will still look like straight lines, but now when I click and pull on the center of that line, I can pull the line into a curve. At this point, I would recommend using the Smooth node button as well (see Figure 14).

Figure 14

Next, I work my way through each letter, taking what I've learned from creating the previous 'corel' script and applying it here. To save time, I would duplicate letters that are used more than once, like 'e' and 'u'. I also changed a few things that I wasn't happy with in the hand lettering (see Figure 15 and Figure 16).

Figures 15-16

Adding some color

Now it's time to add some color. I start by adding a background color to work overtop of. The client requested grays and greens for this brand, so I'm going to start with a dark gray background. I then turn the outlines of my script to white for the time being so I can see what I'm doing (see Figure 17).

Figure 17

Unlike the script I did earlier, I want to add some more dimension to this script, so I'm going use gradients to help give it the appearance of shading. I like to use the Interactive Fill tool to help me achieve this effect. One thing that might also help is to create a simple reference image that could help me keep my gradients on every letter consistent. In this case, I'll just make a ring (see Figure 18). If I was making an illustration of buildings, and I wanted to make the angle of the light source and shading consistent, I might draw a cube as a reference.

Figure 18

The reference circle isn't solely used as a visual aid, you can also use the Color Eyedropper tool to copy the attributes from your reference and apply them to your lettering. In the toolbox, simply click the small arrow in the bottom corner of the Color Eyedropper tool icon, and click Attributes Eyedropper . Then, place your cursor over the part of our reference image and left-click. You'll notice that your Eyedropper curser now looks like a paint bucket. You now can apply that set of attributes to any shape you want (see Figure 19, Figure 20, and Figure 21). Before you know it, you've got a real nice, eye catching, custom ribbon script.

Figures 19-21

Adding some imagery

Now that we have our script finalized, it's time to add the supporting imagery. For this job, the client wanted to use a design from one of her earrings to act as the 'charm' in this brand. The shape of this charm was then to be used throughout the store.

First, we start by importing a photo of her earring (see Figure 22). In my case, I have multiple monitors, so I open up the folder containing the photo on one screen while CorelDRAW is open on the other screen. I simply click and drag the photo file from one screen to another and onto the CorelDRAW window. However, clicking File > Import is also a great way to import photos.

Figure 22

With the photo imported, we can take the same approach we used before. We can 'lock' the photo, and switch to Wireframe view and draw directly over top of the photo; however, this particular 'charm' is pretty basic when you break it all down into different shapes. So I use the Rectangle tool to create basic squares, and the Ellipse tool to create circles, in addition to other basic shapes to rebuild this 'charm' design from scratch (see Figure 23, Figure 24, and Figure 25). When using the Ellipse and Rectangle tools, you can hold down the Ctrl key while you drag out the shape to create perfect circles and squares. To piece these shapes together, make sure the Snap to Objects is enabled (Alt + Z). For example, you can snap the center of the circles to the corner of the square. Also, you can duplicate shapes or groups of shapes as you go to keep things symmetrical and make good use of your Weld, Trim (click Arrange > Shaping > Trim), and Combine (click Arrange > Combine) tools.

Figures 23-25

Once the 'charm' has been recreated, you can start adding colors (see Figure 26). I use the Interactive Fill tool to give this design gradient shading.

Figure 26

Think about how light might interact with something metal like this. Think about the highlights and shadows but most importantly take advantage of your reference photo if you have one. One trick you can try is to use the Color Eyedropper tool to capture colors from your reference photo and apply them to your illustration. This can even be done with gradients. You will notice that when you are using the Interactive Fill tool, the colors used in a given gradient will appear on the property bar. When you select one of those colors, a dropdown filled with more color choices will appear; however, you will also notice an Eyedropper icon, which works the same way as the Color Eyedropper tool. You can use that eyedropper to grab colors from your reference photo. This is a great, time-saving feature of CorelDRAW.

Now I simply finalize the 'charm' image by adding a few extra little details (see Figure 27).

Figure 27

Then I combine both the script and illustration to finalize this logo (see Figure 28).

Figure 28

Once the logo is finished, I can use that design to create other promotional and marketing materials, such as signs (see Figure 29), business cards (see Figure 30), and product labels, to name just a few.

Figure 29 - The final sign for storefront

Figure 30 - Business card