The Outsider's Featured Tutorials are selected from a variety of sources included the best tutorials from the impressive archive on The Xara Xone (created by Gary Priester), Guest Tutorials submitted by Xara enthusiasts and new material created by Xara.
An Important Letter by Gary Priester
As always, we will be using Pixels as our units of measure. Right click on the screen and select Page Options... from the pop up menu. In the Units tabbed section, select Pixels for the Units and 0-255 for the Color Units. In the Grid and Ruler tabbed section set the Major Spacing to 100pix (key it in exactly like this please) and the Number of Subdivisions to 10. Press OK to close the dialog and apply the changes.
NOTE: You will notice from time to time I apply arbitrary colors to objects. I do this to make the objects easier to see. If I do not specify a fill for an object, you do not have to apply a fill or outline color.
When I show an ellipse or rectangle that has just been created, that has no fill, it is because I have set the fill to none before I exported the illustration. By default, all ellipses, rectangles and Quick Shapes have a black outline and a black fill. There is nothing wrong with your copy of Xara.
Naming Conventions. I use bold face to indicate the names of tools, galleries, keyboard shortcuts, and dialogs. Items such as unnamed icons and drop down lists, which have names when you let your cursor rest over them for a moment, are displayed in italics.
The Infobar is the context sensitive menu at the top of the screen and changes to reflect the options for the selected tool.
This month's tutorial is aimed at new users. I will do my best to explain the different tools as I go along, but also you can follow the links above in the New Users section, which will hopefully answer most of your basic questions.
In this tutorial, we will create an handwritten, addressed stamped envelope with a cancelation stamp and bar code imprinted on the envelope. We'll add a few effects with the Xtreme Live Effects Tool. Let's get started.
Using the Rectangle Tool (Shift F3), create a 252, 288 pixel rectangle.
TIP: Create a rectangle of any size, then enter the two numbers above in the Height and Width text entry boxes on the Infobar at the top of the screen.
Select the rectangle with Contour Tool (Ctrl F7). Drag any of the red arrow handles towards the center to apply an Inner Contour. On the Infobar, change the number of Contour Steps to 1 and press Enter to apply the change. Move the Contour Width slider to 20pix (or you can key in 20 in the Contour Width text entry box and press Enter to apply the change).
With the contour selected, from the Arrange pull down menu, select Convert to Editable Shapes. From the Arrange menu, select Ungroup (or press Ctrl u).
Create two 30 pixel circles and space them apart. Select the Blend Tool (F7). Click on one of the 2 circles and then drag over to the other circle to create a blend. On the Infobar change the number of Blend Steps to 25 and press Enter. With the Blend Tool and the blend selected, hold down the Shift key and click on the large larger rectangle. Press the Blend Along a Curve Icon on the Infobar. The circles should arrange themselves around the rectangle as shown above.
With the blend selected, from the Arrange menu, select Convert to Editable Shapes. Then from the Arrange menu, select Ungroup. With all the circles and rectangle still selected, Shift click on just the rectangle (to deselect just the rectangle) and then group all of the circles (Ctrl g or Arrange > Group).
Hold down the Shift key and click on the circles and the rectangle (to multiple select). From the Arrange menu, select Combine Shapes... Subtract Shapes or keyboard shortcut Ctrl 2 . The grouped circles will disappear as well as the area of the rectangle directly under the circles.
NOTE: The Arrange > Combine Shapes commands are Xara's path commands and are similar to Illustrator's Pathfinder commands, only Xara's path commands are not as fussy!
Select the smaller rectangle and apply a deep red fill. Select the rectangle then click the deep red color square on the screen palette.
TIP: If you let the cursor rest over any of the colors on the screen color palette for a few seconds, a tool tip will appear with the name of the color, or in the case of the diamond shaped, web safe colors, the RGB values. If the values you see in the tool tip are in % and not in 0-255 you need to change the Color Units setting the Page Options > Units tabbed section (Utilities > Options...). Colors can also be edited in the Color Editor (Ctrl e).
Open the Clip Art Gallery (Shift F10) or click the scissors icon on the Infobar. Open the People tabbed section and scroll down to the Leonardo da Vinci 2 image. Click Import to bring the image into Xara. You can also drag the image from the gallery onto the page.
Resize the image to fit into the smaller rectangle as shown above.
NOTE: When you select an object or group of objects in Xara, a set of small squares appears around the object. This is called a bounding box. Dragging on any of the corner squares will resize the object proportionately if the Lock Aspect Ratio icon is in the down (enabled) position). Dragging on the non-corner squares will resize the object vertically or horizontally.
Using the Text Tool (F8), click on the screen and key in the number 45. From the Font drop down list select Arial and from the Width drop down list, select 36 . Position the 45 over the lower right side of the stamp as shown above. Left click on the white square on the screen palette to change the color of the text to white. Key in "DaVinci " and make the same font, size, and color changes.
Click twice on the text to enable rotate/skew mode. You can tell you are in rotate/skew mode when the bounding box squares become arrows). Hold down the Ctrl key and drag any of the outside curved arrow handles to rotate the text 90 degrees. The Ctrl key constrains the angle of rotation. If you find this awkward, you can enter a rotation amount in the Angle of Selection text entry box on the Infobar and press Enter. In this case, 90 and Enter.
Clone the serrated stamp shape (Ctrl k). Change the fill to 10% black and set the outline for both the original and clone shape to none.
TIP: Right click in the cross hatched box to the left of the screen palette colors to set the outline to none. Left click in the cross hatched box to set the fill to none.
Send the gray shape to the back (Ctrl b) and move it down 1 pixel and to the right 1 pixel.
TIP: You can set your Nudge Size (the distance an object moves when you press any of the the arrow keys on your computers keyboard), in the Utilities > Page Options > General tabbed section. I like to use 1pix for my nudge size. If you hold down the Shift key and press any of the arrow keys, the selection moves 10x the nudge size. Hold down the Alt key and the selection moves 1 pixel at any zoom factor.
Next we will create a cancellation stamp imprint. Using the Ellipse Tool, create 2 circles to the size shown above. (Hold down the Ctrl key to constrain the ellipse to a circle, and remember you can enter the exact size on the Infobar in the Width and Height text entry boxes and press Enter to apply the size change).
Select both circles and Arrange > Convert to Editable Shapes. Select the large circle and from the Width drop down list on the Infobar, change the line width to 2pt.
Select the smaller circle and then select the Text Tool. On the Infobar click the Center Justify icon (the group of centered lines). Click on top of the small circle and key in MY WONDERFUL TOWN (or any town name you wish). Drag the Text Tool cursor across the text to highlight it, and from the Font drop down list, select Arial, and from the Size drop down list, select 10pt.
Create a new 90 pixel circle and Convert to Editable Shapes (Arrange menu).
Select the new circle, then the Text Tool. Click the Center Justify icon on the Infobar. Click on the top of the circle and then key in 2005. Highlight the text and increase the Tracking amount to 400 (see inset above).
NOTE: Xara has controls for Tracking and Kerning. Tracking is the space between a selection of text. Kerning adjusts the space between two characters when the text cursor is placed between the two characters.
Right click on the text and select Reverse Text on Curve from the pop up menu. Convert to Editable Shapes. Press the Flip Horizontally and Flip Vertically icons (the purple triangles) so the 2005 is at the bottom as shown above.
Using the Text Tool, key in PM and 01 NOV. Increase the Line Spacing to 140 by highlighting the text then pressing the up arrow key next to the text entry box (shown above in yellow highlight).
Convert all the text to editable shapes (Arrange > Convert to Editable Shapes). Ungroup (Ctrl u) and delete the inside circles.
If it is not already enabled, enable the Scale Line Widths icon. This setting increases or decreases the width of a line or outline when you resize an object . If this is disabled, the outline width remains the same when the object is scaled.
Select the Shape Editor Tool (F4). Click on the page. Hold down the Ctrl key then click and drag to the right. (This is the way you create a horizontal or vertical line in Xara depending upon which way you drag). On the Infobar, change the line Width to 2pt and the length of the line to 75pix and press Enter.
Select the line with the arrow pointer (the Selector Tool), then select the Shape Editor Tool (F4). Drag upward on the line with the Shape Editor Tool to pull it into a slight arc as shown top above.
Make two duplicates of the line (Ctrl d) and align them end to end.
TIP: A quick way to make a duplicate is to drag the object, then before you release the left mouse button, click the right mouse button to drop a duplicate. You can also drag holding down the right mouse button and left click to drop a duplicate.
Select the center line and press the Flip Vertically icon on the infobar. Using the down arrow key on your keyboard, Nudge the line down until it aligns with the two outside lines.
Group all three lines (Ctrl g, or Arrange > Group).
Save your work so far and take a short break.
One way to duplicate and offset a selected object a precise and consistent distance is to change the Duplication Distance setting and then press Ctrl d to make a duplicate or duplicates.
Open the Page Options dialog (Utilities > Page Options..., or right click on the page and select Page Options...). Set the Y axis to -10pix and the X axis to 0pix. Press Apply.
Select the grouped lines and press Ctrl d 6 times. Change the X and Y axis back to your original settings and press OK to save the change and exit the dialog.
Offset the wavy lines the width of the circle from the city and time stamp.
Select the circle and Arrange > Convert Line to Shape. Select the lines and Arrange > Convert Line to Shape. Select the text, circle and lines and Arrange > Combine Shapes... Add Shapes or press Ctrl 1.
Apply a dark blue fill.
Group all the objects on the stamp. Click twice on the stamp to enter rotate/skew mode and rotate the stamp clockwise a small amount.
Position the combined lines over the stamp as shown above. Click on the combined lines and text with the Transparency Tool (F6) to select them. From the Transparency Shape drop down list on the Infobar, select Fractal Plasma.
Click the Profile arrow icon. From the drop down list of presets, select Profile 4. This makes the light and dark difference in the fractal plasma transparency or fill more pronounced. This effect will give the cancellation stamp a mottled effect.
Next we will create a bar code imprint that contains the postal code.
Using the Rectangle Tool, create a 290 x 15 pixel rectangle. From the side screen ruler (Ctrl L to display rulers), drag a guideline to each side of the rectangle. Delete the rectangle.
Create a new rectangle 2 pixels wide by 15 pixels tall. Duplicate the rectangle and place one on each guideline. Set the outlines to none.
Using the Blend Tool (F7), click on the first rectangle and drag to the second rectangle to create a blend. Change the Number of Blend Steps setting from 5 to 50 on the Infobar and press Enter to apply the change.
With the blend selected, Arrange > Convert to Editable Shapes, then Arrange > Ungroup.
Holding down the Shift key to select multiple objects, randomly select some of the rectangles. With the random rectangles selected, drag the top, center bounding box handle downward to about half the height. Drag a selection marquee around all the rectangles with the Selector Tool (F2) and Arrange > Join Shapes.
Create some postal code text using a digital type font. I have used a free font named Venitia Monitor from the daFont Website. The font is in the LCD fonts section and there are many fonts that are appropriate for this effect.
Position the text next to the bar code. Select the text and the bar code and Join Shapes (Arrange menu).
Select the wavy lines/cancelation stamp and Copy it to the clipboard (Ctrl c). Select the bar code and bar code text and Edit > Paste Attributes or Shift Ctrl a . This is the way you copy the attributes from one object, such as font, size, style, fill, and other attributes, to another object.
The envelope will be addressed in handwriting. In the example above I have used a font called Desyrel. You can find this font and many similar handwriting fonts on DaFont in the Script > Handwriting section.
The size of the envelope is larger than I have room to show in its entirety so for the next several pages I will work with a portion of the envelope.
Using the Rectangle Tool, create a 912 x 396 pixel rectangle. Press the Curved Corners icon on the Infobar. From the drop down list, select Curvature and change the setting to 0.02 and press Enter to apply the change (or you can use the tiny arrow keys next to the text entry box).
TIP: If you resize the rectangle significantly, the corners will not be round. To get around this, create your rectangle to the correct size. Now using this rectangle as a guide, create a new rectangle and round the corners. Delete the other rectangle.
Create a new rectangle to the size shown above. Open the Fill Gallery (Shift F1) and from the Background Fills folder, select Paper 18. Press Fill to apply the bitmap fill to the rectangle.
Set the rectangle's outline to none.
Gallery Docking Note: If you like your galleries to be docked to the side of the page, just drag the gallery to the right side of the screen and it will automatically dock. You can close and reopen the gallery and it will remain docked unless you drag it back onto the page by dragging on the title bar.
The paper fill is too dark. No problem, we'll just create a lighter bitmap version.
Select the paper filled rectangle with the Transparency Tool (F6). Move the Transparency slider to the right to 50%.
With the rectangle still selected, from the Arrange menu, select Create Bitmap Copy... (Ignore any warnings you get about transparency). Set the Color Depth to True Color and in the Bitmap Size tabbed section set the Resolution to 300dpi.
NOTE: Any time you import or create a bitmap image, a copy of that image is automatically placed in the Bitmap Gallery. Even if you delete the bitmap from the page. If the bitmap is used in the drawing and saved with the document, it will remain in the Bitmap Gallery.
Now that the lighter version of the paper fill is in the Bitmap Gallery, it can be applied to the envelope shape. Select the envelope rectangle then open the Bitmap Gallery (F11 ). Select the new bitmap and press Fill.
TIP: You can also drag the bitmap image from the Bitmap Gallery and drop it onto an object or group of objects.
Live Effects: One of the hottest features in Xara Xtreme is the Live Effects Tool. Live effects are Photoshop compatible plug-in filters, plus a few other effects such as feathering and shadows, that can be applied to bitmaps and vector objects, and in the case of the newer plug-ins, edited or deleted. There is also a cool feature called 3D Bump Map which we will explore later on.
One of the plug-in effects included with Xara Xtreme is called Alien Skin, Xenofex 2 > Crumple and will give the envelope a slightly crumpled/used look.
Select the envelope rectangle then select the Live Effects Tool (Ctrl F5).
Click the New button on the top left side of the Infobar and from the drop down list, select Alien Skin Xenofex 2 Demo > Crumple. (It is my understanding that many of the effects listed as demo will be enabled when you receive the CD disc version).
In the dialog that appears, make all the changes highlighted above in yellow. You can also experiment with the various settings which is the best way to see what all of these adjustments do. The effect we want is for the paper to have a subtle, slightly crumpled appearance. If you are not happy with how the effect looks, you can press the Random Seed button on the bottom of the dialog and audition various combinations of effects will be previewed until you find the right one.
NOTE: The Crumple effect is what is known as a "scripted effect" and you can go back and edit the effect at any time by selecting the Live Effects Tool, then pressing Edit on the Infobar. The effect can also be removed or locked to prevent any accidental modifications.
Select the envelope with the Bevel Tool (Ctrl F3). Drag any of the red arrows a small amount towards the center to apply an Inner Bevel. From the drop down list of Bevel Types, select Rounded . Select Size from the Slider Type drop down list and make the size of the bevel 6pix.
Save your drawing and take a short break.
Place the handwritten return address and address on the envelope where they would normally go.
Highlight the text and increase the Size to 18pt.
Add the cancelation imprint, stamp, and barcode. Looks convincing, no?
Using the Selector Tool (F2) drag a marquee selection rectangle around the envelope and Arrange > Create Bitmap Copy... Set the Color Depth to True Color and the Resolution to 300dpi (in the Bitmap Size tabbed section).
Leave your envelope at the same size. So that you can see what I am doing I have reduced the size of the bitmap so the full image will fit here.
On the Infobar, disable Lock Aspect Ratio (the small black lock icon on the Infobar should be in the up position).
With the bitmap selected, on the H % text entry box on the Infobar, change the percentage to 60 and press Enter. The result should look like the example above.
Drag guidelines from the screen rulers in from the edges equidistance on each side of the envelope. The easiest way to measure this is create a small square and use that to mark the distance then add your guidelines.
Drag an additional guideline from the top ruler to the top of the bitmap.
Select the envelope bitmap with the Mould Tool (Shift F6). On the Infobar, click the Default Perspective icon. A rectangle with four corner control points will appear. Drag and snap the top corner points to the intersection of the guides as shown above.
NOTE: The bitmap at first appears distorted when the height is modified. But after the perspective envelope is applied it looks right. This process is known as foreshortening.
Draw a larger rectangle behind the envelope. Open the Fill Gallery (Shift F11) and from the Wooden Fills section, select Grain 11 Hi-Res and press Fill.
Select the rectangle with the Fill Tool (F5) and an L-shape will appear with 2 arrowheads on each end. Drag the small box at the end of the right arrow head to the edge of the rectangle.
Create a new rectangle the same size as the one you just created and center the new rectangle over the other rectangle. Apply a deep brown fill.
Select the new rectangle with the Transparency Tool. Hold down the Ctrl key. Click and drag downward as shown above. This creates an interactive Linear transparency. (You can also select Linear from the Transparency Shape drop down list on the Transparency Tool Infobar and then drag each end of the fill path arrow to a vertical position).
Place the envelope bitmap over the wood background. Select the bitmap with the Shadow Tool (Ctrl F12)and apply a Wall Shadow.
3D BumpMap is part of the Live Effects Tool and creates what many bitmap editing applications (such as Photoshop) call Embossed. But beyond the embossed effect, you can also create dramatic lighting effects which is what we will do here. And in this case, without the 3D embossed portion of the effect).
Create a new rectangle to the same size as the background rectangle. Apply a dark brown fill (I'm not sure if the background color is important but this is how I did it). Because the solid colored rectangle has no images, no 3D effect/texture will be created).
Select the new rectangle with the Live Effects Tool (Ctrl F5) and from the New drop down list, select 3D BumpMap.
Check the Spotlight radio button. Click in the Position: window and drag to the right as indicated with the red arrow. This moves the light position as you will see when you do this.
Click the Color swatch and select yellow from the pop up color palette.
Adjust the other settings as shown above. Click the blue square with the X in the top right hand corner to close the dialog.
Select the rectangle with the Transparency Tool (F6) and apply a Flat, Stained Glass transparency. Change the Transparency slider setting to 50%.
You can also check the Merge check box to get a brighter effect. Try it and see what happens (you can't break it).
NOTE: The reason why the 3D BumpMap is included in the Live Effects Tool is the effect can be altered if need be. You can change the effect by selecting the rectangle with the Live Effects Tool and clicking Edit.
Here's the final image. If you go back and compare it to the last image on the previous page, you can see that the light is more intense and the cast light itself is more dramatically positioned in the composition.
This is the beauty of the Live Effects Tool. While it would have been possible to create this lighting effect by creating a bitmap and applying transparency, the only way to modify the bitmap would be to recreate it. With Live Effects, you can edit the previous settings. And the best part is all the changes you make are reflected in real time.
In this last example I wanted to simulate a photographic narrow depth of field effect so the bottom part of the image is in sharp focus and the top part of the photo is blurred.
This was accomplished by making a bitmap copy of the entire image and then editing the image in XPE Xara Picture Editor (Utilities > Xara Picture Editor). In the Enhance dialog ( Ctrl e when XPE is open), the Blur/Sharpen slider was moved to -50% creating a blurred photo. A Linear transparency was applied to the blurred image going from the top down. As the transparency increases the bottom of the image becomes sharper.
©2005 Gary Priester from the Xara Xone