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Start Date: Thu, 29 Jun 2000

Wise-Women List Archive File

Subject:Computer Drawing Tools

I just downloaded the 30 day trial of Flash (thought I was getting the full version, but I need to put it off for a bit,) and did a few of the lessons. I think this program is great!

The only question I have (so far) is this: How in the WORLD do people draw with a mouse? (Well, I have a marble trackball)

Is this something you have to get used to? Is there a knack or talent? Everything I try to draw comes out looking like I'm 4 years old!!

I thought maybe I could import a logo (.jpg) and edit it. I couldn't do it. It won't let me paint over it, or change any colors or anything. Am I missing something here? I can do this in PhotoShop or PSP, but unless I can draw using a trackball, am I out of luck with trying anything original in Flash? I had some great ideas, too. :-(

Any info will be appreciated! (It always is!)

LOL. I do all my illustration with a mouse, but many do it with a Wacom tablet, which more closely resembles the hand-eye and pressure in traditional illustration -- a pad that's activated by the pressure of a "pencil" (with no lead, of course :D).

"The only question I have (so far) is this: How in the WORLD do people draw with a mouse? (Well, I have a marble trackball) "

Unless they are really talented, they don't.

However, if hand drawing is something you think you'll be doing alot of in the future and it's important to you, I'd look into buying a graphics tablet. Wacom makes excellent tablets that are available in different sizes and price range. There's one out right now that comes with a cordless mouse and runs about $150 Canadian. ($75 US or there abouts) It has a smaller drawing square, but it would be a good starter. I've tested it out at a friend's and it works well.

It's also wonderful for picking out objects from a complex image and using the cut/copy/paste command or adding special effects to images.

I have a Wacom Graphic tablet w/ cordless stylus. It works simultaneously w/ my trackball. I switch back and forth between the two all the time.

"I thought maybe I could import a logo (.jpg) and edit it. I couldn't do it. It won't let me paint over it, or change any colors or anything. "

Flash is a vector based program (like FreeHand, Corel, Illustrator), you cannot edit bitmap images (ie: jpg, bmp etc.) in Flash. You CAN edit vector based images.

"Am I missing something here? I can do this in PhotoShop or PSP"

Photo Shop and PSP are both pixel based for editing bitmapped images, tif, jpg, bmp (Again, Flash is Vector based)

I have bad news and maybe good news for you. The bad news is that if you are using Flash, you are probably going to want a vector drawing program like Freehand, Illustrator or CorelDraw before long. The Flash drawing tools are really pretty crude when compared to other vector drawing, and if original artwork is your goal you will not be satisfied for long. PSP does draw vectors, but from what I have been able to determine, it cannot export them as vectors - not for Flash anyway ... would not recognize the format, and the message I got when I tried to export as an .ai file was that it was merging. That kills the vector.

And you want vector. You could create an image in Photoshop or PSP and bring it into Flash, but the bitmap format just explodes the file size.

What you really want for drawing is bezier control. Even with a tablet, it is nice to have the smoothing and reshaping capability offered by a drawing program.

Now for the good news. Freehand is a very well respected Illustration program, and if you are buying Flash, there is a package that includes Freehand for $100 more. Or, if you own Illustrator or CorelDraw, you already have the capability (save it as Illustrator 6 - Flash claims support for Illustrator 7, but it can be tempermental). Fireworks will do it too, and offers what you need, but if you already have Photoshop 5.5 it is pretty hard to make an argument for Fireworks over Freehand ... especially at the package price.

This may be confusing .... I would be happy to answer questions if I have overloaded you with names here.

Everyone's recommended the Wacom (and I just saw a nice starter one for me, the Graphire), so I guess that's where I'll start!

So, .ai is the file extension for a vector-based drawing then? Are there others? I have CorelDraw, but until I get my hands on a drawing tablet, I suppose it's Kindergarten images to fool with for now. (geeze) ;-) So what exactly does vector mean? (In one Kindergarten sentence or less, please!)

Corel 7 will be just fine as a vector program and Fireworks 3 is current, so relax on the upgrades. I still think Corel 3 was wonderful and for 90% of what I do today, even that would work.

Vectors are the preferred, absolutely must have programs for print work. They have been left behind somewhat in the Web world, but enough of us old print people are doing Web now and we are finding ways to use our beloved vectors. In fact, shortly, I will have an article on using vectors for Web design on the How magazine Web site. I will attempt a very cursory overview here.

Vectors give information to the monitor and printer in a completely different way than bitmapped or raster images like Photoshop. In Photoshop, if you have a blue box, the data is written in a form of this pixel is blue, this pixel is blue, this pixel is white. That is all it does ... colors pixels.

Vector programs take that blue box and describes it as mathematical mapping. Draw a box, at this spot on the page, with this dimension, and filled with this color.

They look the same on the screen in finished format, but they are fundamentally different. vectors are wonderful for two reasons: file size and scalability. It just plain takes a smaller file size to say blue box this big than it does to say pixel 1 - blue, pixel 2 - white for every pixel on the page.

Scalability is a big vector benefit. When you draw a 1" box in a raster program, it gets 1" x 1" worth of pixels assigned. Suppose later you wish to make that same box 2" by 2". But you cannot add pixels to it - the pixels just get bigger which looks bad. Or suppose you need higher resolution for printing instead of the Web - can't do, since you need more pixels for a higher resolution 1" area and they just are not there.

Now, with vectors, all of the above is irrelevant. The same 1" box is drawn mathematically. If you want to make it into 2", the program just tells the lines to get longer. Does not even increase the file size, since it takes no more file space to say 2" than 1". You can make it as big as you want or as small as you want ... no quality loss and no file size jumps.

As it applies to Flash, Flash uses vectors to draw. That is why it is such a great program, because you can do wonderful things, with lots of animation, at reasonable file sizes. However, if you are doing drawings in raster programs and importing them into Flash, you have the big file sizes of raster and have defeated the main benefit of Flash.

However, creating art in CorelDraw and exporting it as Illustrator 6 files, you are still working with vectors. You can scale them up or down, break them apart (which means you can manipulate symbols for even better file size savings on repetitive items), all at very small file sizes.

Unlike [another person who responded], my skill certainly does not lie in drawing anything worth anything with a mouse. However, with bezier curves, which Corel has, you can draw a rough outline with the mouse and use the bezier controls to whip it into shape. Beziers are curve controls that basically make your lines like elastic bands. You can adjust the shape of the curve, change the direction, move nodes, which changes the position of the anchor points for the curves. As an example, you can draw a straight line, and convert it to a curve. With nothing but adding nodes and using bezier controls, you can change that line into a flower with many petals. Why you would want to is irrelevant ... you probably wouldn't, but it is a good example of the power vector drawing places in your hands.

And then there is one touch duplication, cloning (which will make a duplicate that will change when the master object changes), text manipulation that is limited only by your imagination, envelopes that pull your object into wonderful shapes and are duplicatable, and on and on .... I should quit before I start to sound like the Mom of a star child here.

If I have managed to peak your interest, why not take a look at a few of the tutorials I have done. My tutorial method is to take one aspect of computer graphics and discuss it for many different programs. Most of the tutorials start with Photoshop, usually have Fireworks, and always have at least one of Illustrator, Freehand or CorelDraw methods for the same effect. It is a good way to understand the differences between the programs, and to start understanding where the strengths of each may be. For as much as I have sung the praises of vector programs, you just cannot beat Photoshop for soft effects and texture - the vector programs have them to some extent, but they cannot hold a candle to what you can do with raster effects. The tutorials are at http://productiongraphics.com.

I also have a series of tutorials on CorelDraw at http://wpeck.com/learn.html. Go to Essential Knowledge>Vector and Bitmap for an illustrated description of this subject. (As an aside, these guys are breaking the hell out of copyright with having these on their site. If you would not mind noting the date and that you saw my tutorials framed by their page, it may be helpful to me in the future ... I am proceeding with legal action as we speak. )

I hope this has helped ... I think I am going to use it as the base for a tutorial for an upcoming column. I have written this out many times for people. I think it is one of the most misunderstood aspects of computer design, especially for those who have entered the design world in Web design.

.ai is the extension for Adobe Illustrator format files. The most common vector graphic extension you'll see is .eps which stands for Encapsulated Postscript and is pretty much supported by all vector graphic programs. (though .eps files can also contain bitmap graphics...to confuse things :))

The most widely used vector-graphics programs are Adobe Illustrator and Macromedia Freehand - the heavyweights. Learning either one of these enhances your resume :) Corel Draw is also popular...I think Macrografx Designer is still around...and there are other programs who do vector graphics, such as Deneba Canvas - though they tend to be more jack-of-all-trades types.

As a long time user of Illustrator and Freehand, I find the Flash drawing tools to be awfully klutzy. If you get into Corel Draw or Freehand or any of those kind of "real" vector graphics programs, you'll find that it's way easier to control.

(talking about primitive drawing methods...I do own a Wacom pad but I do most of my drawing with my finger - on a weeny little trackpad :))

I bought an Acecad A1212 www.acecad.com tablet at Microcenter for about $200 US. It uses a serial port and the puck and stylus are attached. I really like the 12 x 12 image area, I had to remove my Logitech mousedrivers but the nouse still works...I didn't need the scrollwheel anyway :) and I can use my puck or the stylus. I have Win 98 on a PC.

The getting used to using the tablet will probably take me awhile but I like the fact that me nor my grandson will lose the stylus for me {G}. I plan to give it to him when I can afford a Wacom tablet.

I could not draw with a mouse either :) and at work, that has been a big hindrance and of course they are not going to buy me a graphics tablet {sigh} since they don't think it is of any real importance in graphics work.

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Related article on the Wise-Women site: Alphabet Soup: Graphics formats




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