Have you ever played with CorelDRAW’s distortion effects and thought it was a useless feature? You wouldn’t be the first. As I discovered recently though, the reality is the opposite. In fact, CorelDRAW’s distortion effects are superb for applying controlled changes to an objects’ shape-all the while allowing the object to remain in the vector world. There are several different types of distortion effects you can apply in CorelDRAW – ranging from subtle to downright vicious – thanks to the complex mathematical algorithms on which each type of distortion is based.
Understanding Distortion Effects
Before we get too far along, let’s gain an understanding of how these effects work with a little background information. As with other effects in CorelDRAW, distortions are applied interactively – in this case using the Interactive Distortion Tool. You’ll find this tool in the Toolbox grouped with other interactive tools. Distortion effects are dynamic, which means they can be reversed without affecting the original object’s shape. You can also edit a distortion effect at any time, saved it as a custom distortion preset, or copy it to other objects.
A few other facts will help you in your distortion adventures. First, you may apply multiple distortion effects to a single object, meaning each distortion builds on the last. Once a distortion exists on your page, you may clear it in incremental steps, or copy it between objects. The condition of the object path – including the number of nodes it’s comprised of – determines the basic shape of the resulting distortion. Also, there are three basic modes of distortion you can choose from using Property Bar options, each of which features overlapping variables.
The sheer number of variables and the wild results they create can make distortion effects tricky to use. In fact, you can easily while away more than a few hours creating practical drawing applications. To experience the power of this undervalued effect, let’s explore a few relatively simple projects you can try to create some of the objects in this project.
Distortions – Naturally
The Interactive Distortion Tool is great for quickly emulating natural or organic-style path effects which would otherwise be next to impossible to create manually, making it perfect for the objects shown next.
In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to apply distortion effects to simple objects to create results that would otherwise be tedious (perhaps impossible) to create manually. You’ll also learn how to manipulate the effects and transpose them from one object to another. The best part is that these effects haven’t changed since they were first introduced many versions ago. Even though I’ve captured the version 11 interface, virtually any recent version of CorelDRAW can be used.
Let’s start by creating the flower objects to represent, and follow up with variations of the same idea.
- Begin by drawing a circular ellipse roughly three inches in diameter using the Ellipse Tool. Holding your Ctrl key as you draw will constrain its shape. With the circle complete and still selected, press the Convert to Curves button in the Property Bar to delete the ellipse properties. Drag a copy of this object aside by right-clicking as you drag it using the Pick Tool. The copy will serve as a template for a later step.
- Apply color to your original circle using a customized Radial Fountain Fill. You could use the Interactive Fill Tool, but to do it quickly and precisely, press F11 to open the Fountain Fill dialog. Choose Radial as the type, and click Custom under Color Blend. Using the Custom Fountain options, set the position 0 color marker to white and the position 100 marker to 100 percent magenta. Add a new position marker at 65 and color it 100 percent magenta also (as shown next). Remove any outline properties.
- Choose the Interactive Distortion Tool. Using Property Bar options choose Zipper as the distortion mode. Enter 17 as the Amplitude, 4 as the Frequency, click the Smooth button and press Enter to apply the effect. This will add a slight wave to the circle path (shown next).
- For the concentric flower petals, create copies of the object in a centered arrangement. To create the first copy quickly, choose the Pick Tool, hold Shift while dragging any corner object handle slightly toward the center of the object, and click your right mouse button to make the copy. Repeat this action to create enough copies to nearly fill the area (roughly 13 in our example). Then randomly rotate each of the object copies slightly to offset them (as shown next with black outlines). To quickly rotate any object using the Pick Tool, you can click any selected object a second time to enter rotation/skew mode and drag any of the corner rotation handles.
- Next, we’ll apply a series of distortions in sequence to the template circle created earlier. Using the Interactive Distortion Tool, choose Zipper mode, click the Random button and enter an Amplitude value of 30 and a Frequency value of 5 and press Enter. Then, choose Push and Pull mode, enter 20 as the Amplitude value and press Enter to complete the distortion. Your template circle now has the distortion you need (shown next).
- Switch to the Pick Tool momentarily and marquee-select all the objects in your flower petal arrangement. Choose the Interactive Distortion Tool again, click the Copy Distortion Properties button and click your circle copy after the targeting cursor appears. The distortion is copied to your petal objects (as shown next) and your arrangement is now a flowering shape.
By varying the distortion values in your arrangement of objects, you can quickly create a wide variety of flower styles. Follow this next example using the same objects to create a dramatically intricate effect and experience the real power of this effect.
- Using the Interactive Distortion Tool, choose your template circle and clear the current distortion effects by clicking the Clear Distortion button two times. Apply a Push and Pull mode distortion with an Amplitude of 5. Then apply a Zipper distortion with the Random and Smooth buttons clicked, set the Amplitude to 100, and the Frequency to 20. Your template circle now features a slightly wavier path (as shown next).
- Use the Pick Tool to marquee-select all flower petal objects. Press F11 to open the Fountain Fill dialog and change the custom fountain fill options as follows: Position 0=Red, position 40=Yellow, position 100=Yellow and click OK to close the dialog (shown next).
- With the objects still selected, choose the Interactive Distortion Tool. Click the Clear Distortion button once to return the flower petals to their earlier wavy path shape. Use the Copy Distortion Properties button and target your template circle. This time a warning dialog (shown next) will be displayed to let you know that the effect you are applying is indeed a complex one. Click OK to proceed.
- Remove any outline properties applied to your objects and the effect is complete. In the example shown next, the distortion is applied and resembles a flower with intricately spiked petals and a complex path structure.
Combining Distortions with Blends
You can create yet another variation on the flower illustration by combining a distortion effect with a blend effect. The steps may be shorter, but the effect is no less impressive. The procedure involves first distorting an ellipse and blending with a scaled copy. Here’s how it’s done:
- Start by drawing a circle roughly 3 inches in diameter using the Ellipse Tool (hold Ctrl to constrain its shape). Using the Pick Tool, convert the circle to curves (Ctrl+Q). Choose the Shape Tool and hold Shift+Ctrl while clicking any of the four path nodes to select all the nodes. Then, press the “+” key on your numeric key pad two times to automatically add 12 more evenly spaced nodes to the path (as shown next).
- Choose the Interactive Distortion Tool and choose Push and Pull mode and apply an Amplitude to -50 (a negative value). Fill the object with 100 percent Yellow. Using the Pick Tool, create a centered copy roughly 10 percent of the original by dragging any corner handle inwards while holding the Shift key and clicking your right mouse button. Fill the copy with Red (as shown next).
- Switch to the Interactive Blend Tool and drag between the two objects to create a default blend effect. Using Property Bar options, set the Blend Steps to 20, click the Apply button, and the effect is complete as shown next.
Creating Mixed Greens
What would a flower garden be without some greenery? The intricate detail on leaves is another ideal candidate for CorelDRAW’s distortion effect. To simulate the serrated edges found on leaf shapes, follow these quick steps:
- Using the Ellipse Tool, create a tall, thin ellipse roughly 3 inches tall and half an inch wide and convert it to curves (Ctrl+Q). Using the Shape Tool, change the top two curves to straight lines by clicking each line and clicking the Convert Curve to Line button in the Property Bar. The result will be a teardrop-shaped object (as shown next).
- With the object still selected, fill the object with a dark green color. Then, choose the Interactive Fill Tool and drag upwards from bottom to top to apply a default Linear fountain fill. Click to select the top fill marker and apply a light green color. Remove any outline colors applied to the shape.
- Choose the Interactive Distortion Tool and choose Zipper mode. Apply an Amplitude of 50 and a Frequency of 30 to create the initial distortion. To control the direction of the serrated edges, drag the diamond-shaped interactive marker to the top of the object. Notice the serrated points are now angled upwards (shown next).
These steps will create one variation on the leaf shape. But, you can quickly create more by varying the Amplitude and Frequency values as well as adjusting the width or height of the object (as shown next).
As a finishing touch, stems are easily created using a series of blended paths. To do this, create a path and apply a thick line width (such as 8 points) colored dark green. Press the “+” key on your numeric key pad to create a copy and change this path’s outline to a thin width (such as hairline) colored light green. Using the Pick Tool, select both paths and open the Blend docker (choose Window, Dockers, Blend). Enter 5 as the Number of Steps and click Apply to create the blend effect (as shown next).
By now, you might realize that distortion effects aren’t as high-level as you they first appear. Distortions can be crafted reproduce a variety of practical effects. Hopefully, this tutorial has ignited a spark in your imagination and you’ll be inspired to experiment further with this powerful effect. You may be surprised at what you can do with it.
Steve Bain is an award-winning illustrator and designer, and author of nearly a dozen books including CorelDRAW The Official Guide.