Corel Designer Suite 12
Feature: Overview of the Corel Designer
Motivation: a quick look at all the components of Corel's technical drawing suite
For the past 35 years the graphics illustration programs like Adobe Illustrator, Corel draw, Macromedia Freehand have hit a plateau – they have not quite stepped out of the 2D space into 3D although they flirt with it with such features as extrusions, bevels, drop shadows, blends and projections. But let's face it, with the notable exception of Wright Design and ACDSee/Deneba Canvas most of the innovation in vector graphics has gone towards automating 2D drawing processes, and conversion to bitmaps or SVG for the Web.
The pendulum of innovation in 2D graphics has swung towards the bitmap tools like Adobe PhotoShop, Corel/Jasc PaintShop Pro, and Ulead Photo Impact that are now incorporating vector draw elements into text, templates shapes, and binding containers. These bitmap tools are also offering an ever greater set of vector-draw and editing features. This is spurred on by the digital camera and Web email revolutions which cater to bitmap over vector draw images.
Now for a number versions, Designer has had the ability to load bitmaps as part of pattern fills. The big difference in more recent versions of Designer is the additional control over positioning and layout of those bitmap fills. Designer can't match the drag and drop ease of Xara nor the control possible in Canvas – but it does support the ability to transform fills with an object. And it offers a huge set of filters and color adjustments for bitmaps. And in fact that is the strength of Corel Designer. Combined with Corel Trace (see just below) one can generate some stunning photo compositions.
Corel TraceCorel Trace has gotten better with the years – as Corel has added more tracing methods plus more user control over those specific methods. It also helps that in the last 10 years computing power has easily quintupled – so that Traces that used to take 1-3 minutes are now done in a matter of a few seconds. Do not discount this latter factor of trace speed up. I am willing to try different settings for a scan in 4 to 8 ways where as before 2-3 was tops and then go/nogo. The result is that some subtle drawing effects are discovered that simply were left undiscovered before.
Corel Trace supports 8 methods of tracing a bitmap image into a vector drawing. The methods are:
Outline – produces vector
images with high fidelity to the bitmap;
The combination of Corel Trace and Corel Designer has forced this artist to reconsider how photo compositions should be done. Using Corel Trace I am now injecting more vector regions into the overall photo composition for some of the creative opportunities it affords. And of course Designer has some of the more precise controls for Vector special effects.
a long time the only viable alternative to PrtScr or ALT+PrtScr was
Corel's Capture utility which provided both immediate client window
capture as well as drawn portions of the screen. To that capture has
added menu capture, choice of activation keys, and a host of settings
for the image including color level, DPI, and aspect ratio
constraints. When doing an area capture the program provides a
magnified view of where the cursor is helping make a precise pickup.
However, Capture has about ½ the features of Techsmith's
Snagit which allows for multiple regions, scrolling areas, DirectX
game capture along with capture to video plus extensive tools for
immediate editing, bordering and captioning of the captured image.
However, Capture's small size, tray residence, and fast load up make
it a viable capture utility.
From roughly version 6 through to version 8 or 9, PhotoPaint was the Clark Kent of photo editing programs – disguised as a mild mannered program this was really a super photo edit program for versatility and ease of use. It was better than Photoshop especially for ease of use. Despite this prowess, Corel simply could not get traction in the market - Adobe had won the battle of PR. While Corel spent lavishly on its World Shows, Adobe invested in books and articles on its products. So it was easy to find books about Adobe products while for Corel products there were few texts. This was vital in graphics products where the learning curve is very high and the need for savvy, innovative practitioners is also substantial. Corels contests and lavish prizes lost big time to Adobes books, articles and a whole world of Actions and scripts. So when the downturn in fortunes hit the market, PhotoPaint got only minimal feature enhancements from versions 9 through 12 as part of the Corel Draw Suite. Despite this, PhotoPaint was so good that its features such as 3 modes of Effect and Color Adjustment, previews, Movie support, and some color adjustment tools still have not been matched by Photoshop.
So the program remains quite powerful as a photo editor; but there still remains the question of how and if PhotoPaint will be integrated with Corel's recent acquisition of Jasc PaintShop Pro – now clearly the strongest challenger to Photoshop. Don't hold your breath, Corel has already squandered the not inconsiderable assets of PicturePublisher which was acquired with Designer when Micrografx merged with Corel. PicturePublisher was one of the first PC photo edit programs and it too had some very nice features and effects which for some reason Corel never found the time or ability to incorporate into PhotoPaint.
So if you get the impression that Corel is the reverse Midas-touch graphics vendor there are some substantial proofs for that conclusion. It appears, however, in the case of Designer that Corel have found a mission for the product, technical illustration, that does not severely overlap Corel Draw such that the two products can co-exist successfully. Watch for the next version of Corel/Jasc PaintShop Pro for more insight as to how well Corel deploys its very substantial but also under-utilized PhotoPaint assets.
The Corel Designer Technical Suite surprised me with some of the exciting artistic opportunities it presented. As well a colleague who does heavy technical drawing work was impressed with how fast finishing work can be done. He was particularly impressed with the speed of doing dimensioning and callouts while being able to add very useful bitmap and projection images to legacy drawings. It appears Corel has targeted well for the Designer niche – technical illustration, while providing a nice bonus in photo composition work as well.
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