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Quick Tip: Microstock Illustrations with Corel Draw, Tricks and Tips

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With the vector software Corel Draw you are able to draw everything you can imagine. However, if you are using it to create illustrations for the microstock agencies - there are some issues that you must take into consideration. The problem comes with the industry requirement to provide an EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) file, which is mandatory for almost all agencies. See, EPS is Adobe standard and Corel developers don't like Adobe standards very much. And because they did a poor job with it - you will have to save your EPS 8 files from Illustrator. See how here: Quick Tip: Saving Files from Corel Draw for Microstock Agencies

What's interesting is that even Adobe developers say that the EPS format has no future, and they prefer to concentrate their efforts on the AI and PDF file types. Nevertheless, for one reason or the other - the microstock industry loves it, and we must accept this, no matter which vector software we are using. By the way, to make things even more complicated, agencies now accept EPS 8 and EPS 10. But for now let's concentrate on EPS 8.


The Problem

The EPS standard was created by Adobe in the mid 80's. Yeah - that's the previous century. Life was simple back then. I was still an infant, and the special effects in vector software weren't even developed yet. Some time later things changed. Transparency, meshes and some other effects appeared and made the vector world even more exciting. Too bad that the EPS 8 standard does not support them, for the simple reason that it is obsolete. In short - the problem is that the EPS 8 standard is older than some effects, and therefore it was not made to support them.

By the way this Quick Tip is being written from the perspective of Corel Draw users, but they are not alone in facing this problem. No matter which vector software you are using - you will still have to conform with this tedious issue, only in different way.


The Solution

No need to panic though. You can still draw what you want. You will just need to use other ways to do it. For example, if you want to create a transparency effect - you will need to simulate it.


Step 1: Transparency

The way to do that is identical in all vector software. Since a lot has been written on the subject - I won't get into details here. But basically here is how you do this. Let's say you want to create shiny spots like on the bottles below.

Usually you would draw the shape of the shiny spot, then color it in white, and then add some transparency to it. Right? Well, the other way is to draw the shape and then color it like the rest of the bottle, only brighter. For example - select the shape of the spot, place it over the bottle (or your shiny object), then color it in exactly the same color, then, while the shiny spot is still selected hold Ctrl and click over the white color in your palette a couple of times. This will brighten the original color, just like a transparent white object would do. But instead of playing with the transparency options, here you will play with the colors.

If you are used to working with transparency and you are not sure exactly what the color of the shiny spot is, you can do this. Draw your illustration with transparency, then clone it and remove the transparency from the duplicated objects. Now color the shiny spot in the same color it is in the original image with the transparency effect. In order to do that just use the Eyedropper tool, placing it over your shiny transparent spot. The color will appear on your status bar. From there you drag it to your cloned shiny spot. That's it!

Well, not exactly. There is one more thing, and that is - what you do if your shiny spot covers more than one object. In one example the spot covers both the pale yellow label and the brown glass. Since you have two different objects covered - you will need to slice the shiny spot in two parts. If it was to cover three objects it will be divided in three parts. Get it? As much the covered objects, as many the objects for the shiny spot. In the end they should look like one though. To accomplish that you will need to use the shaping tools a lot. It is irritating, I know. However, as a reward for your efforts you will have an illustrations that is compatible with the EPS 8 requirements and can be viewed in all vector software.


Step 2: Gradients

Gradients are the reason why many Corel Draw users switch to Illustrator when they do microstock illustrations. Or they draw the shapes in Corel and then edit the gradients in Illustrator before saving the final file. Oh, if they only knew that there is a way to avoid this and do everything in Corel.

Here is "the big secret". Your gradients will look perfect in any software IF you use them in the right way. And the right way is to use horizontal or vertical linear gradients with Edge Pad = 0. Before I explain this – see the following illustration.

Those robots were done only by simple linear gradients. All you need to remember is that they must be exactly horizontal (0 or 180 degrees) or vertical (90 or -90 degrees) and the Edge Pad must be "0" every time. The last thing is also very important. If your Edge Pad is not 0 - I can't guarantee that your gradients won't change in AI.

The number of colors you use doesn't matter. You can use as many as you wan. If you use Radial gradients they will look good in AI, but when you save your EPS 8 file from there and open it in Corel - they will become slightly brighter. Now isn't that awkward: You create something in Corel, save it as EPS 8 in Illustrator and it looks perfect there. But when you open it in Corel again - it is not as good any more, even though it was "born" here! Well, that's how it is. I am not sure why exactly is that so, but I don't bother myself thinking about it any more. I just use linear instead of radial gradients. If I really need to create a radial gradient - I use blends instead. And if I need some really crazy radial effects - I combine linear gradients with blends. Those 2 simple tools can produce some astonishing effects when used together. They can also replace the radial gradients and save you some time and nerves.

When you work with gradients in Corel Draw my advice is to close your illustration when it is done, and then open it again and check if the gradients are OK. Some times the numbers on the gradient options may move on their own. This happens mostly when you place your gradient in an object and then clone that object or mirror it. Your illustration will look good, but the next time you open it - the gradients in those cloned shapes will be changed in the exactly opposite direction or they will have Edge Pad different than 0. So, as I said, close the file when it is done, open it again, and if a gradient has changed its options - fix them and save. They will not change a second time. To me this happens rarely and only when I save files in older versions (From Corel Draw X4 to Corel Draw 9.0 for example). Maybe it is a bug, and maybe there is some update or plug in to fix this. I don't know. If somebody knows more - please share in the comments below.

Another thing that I must warn you about are the reviewers who check your work when you submit it to some agencies. You see, some sites don't like blends very much.They think that you have made complex illustrations with blends, when you can use gradients instead. Almost all of them use Illustrator, and they still haven't read this Quick Tip, therefore they don't know we are doing this for the sake of compatibility. So when you save an EPS 8 file containing blends, tell them why you have. You can say "I used blends instead of radial gradients, so the illustration can look the same in all vector programs." Your reviewer will understand.


Step 3: Meshes

Alright, first of all, meshes are not exactly a pure vector tool. They are something like a mixture between bitmap and vectors. They are also not supported by the EPS 8 standard. So if you want to create photorealistic illustration you must find another way. The closest that I know of is by using blends again. I don't have any photorealistic illustrations of my own, but you can google Aleksey Oglushevich and see for yourself what can be done by just using blends.

I have to say that he often mixes blends with transparency, but you don't have to. You will be able to create great photorealistic illustration with just blends and no transparency. This method is more time consuming than using meshes, but according to Aleksey "It is a more creative vector technique." Plus it is EPS 8 friendly.


Step 4: Shadows

I can think of four different ways to create shadows without using transparency. First with blends, second with gradients, third with blends and gradients, and fourth with just a simple shape in uniform color. It all depends on the style of the illustration, and what type of shadow do you want. The good news is that in those four ways you can draw whatever shadows you imagine. They will look great in EPS 8 and will remain the same in all vector software.

But, there is bad news as well. And it is that your shadow is not a real shadow. It only looks like one. Take a look at those bottles above again! Do you see the shadow? Well, I used blends to create it, so the illustration is an EPS 8 file. But if you decide to replace the white background with another color the shadow will look awful. It is not transparent, remember? So the steps of the blend will remain fading to white, while your background is no longer white. Since you know that you will do well if you pay attention to how your illustration will be used, and consider it when drawing the shadow. For example, lets say you are drawing a set of vector icons over white background. When I do that I try to avoid intersection between icons and their shadows if possible. See the heart icons below!

Instead I make them float over their shadows. Why? Because people probably won’t use the shadow anyway. Or, if they want to export a raster file from your EPS 8, they will want to apply their own shadow in Photoshop in order for it to be suitable with their own background. So in this case the shadow is only an accessory used to make the composition look cooler. It should not stand in the way (intersect) with the main subject, which is the icons.

When you are drawing an object over a white background your composition won't suffer if the object casts no shadow - skip the shadow. Skip it every time it has no impact on your artworks overall look. If you are drawing a closed composition (and not an isolated object) like a natural landscape for example - you can draw all the shadows in the world.

So, in short. When you are drawing objects isolated over white - skip the shadow if this will not affect the coolness of your work. If you are drawing icons - make sure that the shadows (created by blends) don't intersect with the icons. And if you are drawing a closed composition - do whatever you want.


Step 5: 3D

In order to create 3D looking objects you are free to use the Extrude effect in Corel Draw. Just make sure that in the end everything is in vectors. The EPS 8 standard doesn't have any problem with the Extrude tool.


Step 6: Reflections

Usually you would probably create a reflection this way. You mirror the object that you want to cast a reflection, then you add transparency or masks and place this over the reflecting surface. Something like that, right?

Well, here is the new, EPS 8 compatible way: You mirror the object, place it over the reflecting surface, then while holding Ctrl you click on the color of the surface in your palette (the object or group of objects stays selected all the time). If it is not a uniform color, but a gradient, you select the closest uniform color in the palette (in the case of this example it is baby blue) and click on it until your reflection is good.

This process of clicking on a color while holding Ctrl, when an object or a group of objects is selected, will fade them to that color step by step, or should I say click by click.

If you want the reflection to get more pale with the growing distance away from the source object, you will have to play with those linear gradients some more. The color (on your gradient) of that farthest side should be the same or close to the color of the reflecting surface.


Conclusion

As you very well know, in every good graphics program, no matter if it is Corel Draw, Illustrator, Photoshop, 3D Studio or whatever, there is always more than one way to express your ideas. The better you know your software, the more ways you will find to do the same thing. Some of them will be quick and easy to apply. Others, like some of those 6 above, will be good mostly for the purpose of maximum compatibility. At the end the technique that you will be using depends on the purpose of your artwork and the knowledge you poses about your software of choice. Those are most of the tricks that I use to simulate effects when I create clip art illustrations for the microstock agencies with Corel Draw. If you know more on the subject please share in the comments section. It will be great to know how you do those things.

Note: All illustrations in this tutorial and in my entire portfolio are saved in EPS 8 and compatible with all vector software.

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