- Online: Extensions
- After Effects
- 7 Favorite XTensions
- Barcoding Made Easy
- CopyFlow Gold
- Grabber XTensions
- ID2Q & Q2ID
- One-trick Ponies
- OpenNow Pro
- Printer's Spreads
- ProBullets & Numbers
- Quark Interactive Designer
- ShadowCaster 3.3
- Sonar Bookends Pro
- Suitcase Fusion
- Tools of the Trades
- Universal Type Server
- Xcatalog Pro
- Xdata & InData
- XTensions for QXP 8
- QuarkXPress Server
- Online: Workflow
- Online: Applications
- Online: Automation
- Online: Education
In the previous issue's Shortcutting Your Way Through Bézier Drop Caps, I encouraged readers to use QuarkXPress' Bézier keyboard shortcuts to draw curved items point by point and on the fly the way Illustrator jocks do. This time, the goal will be just the opposite.
In this article we'll explore drawing complex Bézier shapes in QuarkXPress without ever touching a Bézier tool, and we'll do it using two rather unassuming commands found under item > merge. Even if you've used the union and difference commands in the past, you may not have fully explored every possibility they bring to the table. The fact is, there's a whole bag of tricks to be found in these commands, and I plan to touch on just a few.
Your illustration will be represented by a single QuarkXPress box that's always supremely visible and editable directly inside your favorite application. What's the Difference?
If you've used QuarkXPress' merge and split features before, you know that the union command looks at all the QuarkXPress items you have selected, examines their shapes, and replaces them with a single, unified QuarkXPress Bézier box. If items overlap, they melt into each other, so no inner pathways are preserved. If items are positioned completely apart from each other, union produces a multiple-path Bézier box.
The difference command isn't so gentle. It looks at the shape at the very bottom of the stack and decides that a piece of this one can stay; all other paths are going away.
A Cookie Cutter For Every Occasion
When I first tried the merge and split commands in a QuarkXPress 4.0 beta version long ago, I must confess I had a torrid oneweek love affair with union. "What could be better than fusing all these shapes into one giant picture box?" I asked myself.
In the end, I married difference. While union can meld preexisting elements together in a very intuitive way, difference is the chisel that cuts into raw marble. You imagine it, and then you cookiecut it. When you combine it with union, difference becomes even more powerful.
For the most basic example, let's suppose I want to draw a crescent moon. I can simply draw two circles like the ones shown in figure 1. I then choose item > merge > difference, and I'm left with a crescent shape (see figure 2). The larger circle acts as the cookie cutter, slicing down through the bottom circle and throwing away the dough.
Big deal? Well, the more you explore this cookiecutter style of working, the more powerful it becomes. Let's step things up a notch. Instead of the moon, let's move out by a couple planets and visit Saturn.
A Dead Ringer
Figure 3 shows the logo for a fictional indie record company named Saturn Records. Up to this point, the logo had existed only as a sketch and a scan. Now it's time to draw it in QuarkXPress and make it a dead ringer for the original. This will be challenging, because a smooth shape appears to wrap around the central circle. Hmmm.
Figure 4 shows how I started. I drew two oval boxes using the oval picture box tool. The one in front was smaller and skinnier than the back one. Its center was also a bit higher than its neighbor, thereby creating an illusion of depth for what would become the rings.
I then shiftclicked each oval so that both were selected, and I chose item > merge > difference to cookiecut the hole out of the rings. Figure 5 shows the result.
I was then ready for the planet itself, so I held down the shift key while drawing my next oval, resulting in a perfect circle. Figure 6 shows how that circle looked when positioned over the rings...
...but the rings were not wrapping around the planet! Outer space is such a dangerous place. Luckily, Einstein put some thought into this one.
The Half-top Sandwich Trick
Imagine a sandwich with its top slice cut in half, but its bottom slice intact. That's the essence of the halftop sandwich trick that I used to solve the problem of Saturn's rings.
The trick relies on the difference command. I proceeded as follows:
I moved the circular planet aside and selected the rings item.
I chose item > step and repeat, using a repeat count of 1 — with horizontal offset and vertical offset set to 0. Executing this command resulted in a pair of perfectly overlapped twins — the two "bread slices" of my sandwich.
I drew a rectangular box atop all this (see figure 7) to act as my cookie cutter.
I shiftclicked so that both the rectangle and the topmost rings item were selected. Note: I did not marquee-select, as this would have resulted in my hidden duplicate object being selected as well.
I chose item > merge > difference. The rectangular cookie cutter plunged downward, trashing half of my top rings item (see figure 8).
Lastly, I repositioned my circular planet. At first, it was the same old disappointment, but after placing it among my ring items, I selected the halvedtop ring item and brought it to the front (item > bring to front) (see figure 9). The rest of the logo was a simple matter of type treatments, rotation, and color.