By Steve Bain
In these three mini tutorials, we’ll explore three basic types of transparent highlights you can quickly add to graphic scenes to simulate reflected light: The window reflection, the sunlight glare, and the star highlight. To demonstrate I’m using CorelDRAW 11, but these techniques can be used with any recent version of CorelDRAW up to and including X4.
Create a Window Reflection
In this example, I’ll demonstrate how to apply a window-reflection style highlight to simulate the light of an illuminated window reflecting off a curved object surface. To speed the process, I’ve created a simple shaded red ball (see below) which already features color and shading, which I’ll use as a prop to demonstrate. The ball itself was created using an ellipse filled with Red as the uniform color. The shading effect is a transparent bitmap converted from a blend effect between two ellipses. If you like, any shaded object featuring a simulated curvature will serve well as the subject matter.
To create the window highlight, follow these steps:
- Choose the Rectangle Tool (F6) and hold Ctrl while dragging to create a square-shaped rectangle. Using the Pick Tool, create three copies in a grid arrangement (as shown below). To do this quickly, drag the original (remember, holding Ctrl constrains the drag movement) and click the right mouse button to create copies.
- Select all four rectangles, press the Combine button (see below) in the Property Bar, and fill the new object with White. This will create a single object from the four separate objects.
- Choose the Interactive Envelope Tool, and using Property Bar options click Add New and Arc buttons. Hold Ctrl while dragging the bottom-center envelop handle upwards slightly (as shown below). This will apply a slight curvature to the object. Use the Pick Tool to rotate and position the object roughly 45 degrees.
- With the object still selected, choose the Interactive Transparency Tool and using Property Bar options, choose Radial as the Transparency Type to apply a default radial transparency. To correct the transparency direction, drag White onto the existing Black center marker and Black onto the White marker (as shown below).
- Position your object over where you would like the highlight to be on your shaded object (typically on the side opposing the shadows). Remove any outline properties by right-clicking the None well in the onscreen palette. Your window reflection highlight is finished.
Create a ‘Sunlight Glare’ Highlight
On rounded surfaces you’ll often see reflections of distant light sources (such as the sun) which often appear out of focus. This is an effect which is relatively simple to emulate in illustration-with the right tools. In this exercise, we’ll create a simple circular object and apply transparency to it to fake the appearance of a distant light source. I’ve created a transparent ‘drip’ in advance to serve as the subject for the highlight.
The drip itself is an ellipse cut using the Knife Tool. The two objects were placed over a simple rectangle filled with uniform color (as shown below). The upper portion was applied with a Radial transparency, while the lower portion was applied with a linear transparency. This way, the drip will appear transparent no matter what colored surface it is layered in front of.
Create the sunlight glare highlight by following these steps:
- Begin by creating a circular ellipse using the Ellipse Tool (F7). Hold Ctrl while drawing (to constrain) the shape. Once complete, fill the object with White by clicking the White color well in your onscreen palette (see below).
- With the ellipse still selected, choose the Interactive Transparency Tool and using Property Bar options, choose Radial as the Transparency Type to apply a default transparency from Black at the center to White at the perimeter of the shape. This is actually the reverse of what you need, so using colors in your onscreen color palette, drag White onto the Black marker and Black onto the White marker to correct it. Remove any outline properties applied.
- Using the Pick Tool, drag your circular highlight into position over the object you wish to apply the highlight to. For our example, the highlight was positioned in the upper-left area. If you wish, you may also create additional (even overlapping) highlights by making copies of this object and resizing and/or repositioning them to other areas. Regardless of where you place them, the ellipses will adapt to the underlying colors seen through them since they are transparent (as shown below).
Another example of the same type of highlight is the example see below which illustrates overlapping highlights applied to a rounded liquid surface-in this case an eye. The objects themselves were applied with custom radial fills, but the reflection highlights where created using the steps you’ve just completed.
Create a ‘Star’ Highlight
Star highlights often occur when sunlight shines through glass such as a camera lens. The highlight shape is caused by the intensity of the light, the shape of the camera aperture, and the special filter installed. Star highlights usually reflect light from ultra-smooth or shiny surfaces such as metal or water. Creating one is a relatively simple exercise in CorelDRAW using a few basic tools.
I’ve created a subject to apply the lens flare highlights to in advance-in this case metallic text. Although the color scheme simulates indirect lighting, the star highlight we’ll be creating will add the effect of bright lighting.
See how it’s done by following these steps:
- Begin by choosing the Polygon Tool (Y) and holding Ctrl (to constrain) while drawing a default-shaped polygon. Adjust the radius of the inner points using the Shape Tool mode by holding Ctrl (to constrain) while dragging one of the polygon’s nodes toward the center of the shape. Once the star shape is formed, use Property Bar options to change the Number of Points on Polygon option to an even number such as 6 or 8 (as shown below).
- With the shape still selected, click White in your onscreen color palette to set White as the uniform color. Choose the Interactive Transparency Tool and using Property Bar options choose Radial as the Transparency Type to apply a default radial transparency to the shape from Black in the center to White at the perimeter (see below). Again, this is the reverse of what you need. To correct the transparency direction, drag White onto the Black marker and Black onto the White marker by dragging colors from your onscreen color palette. The transparency effect is essentially complete. To complete the transparency effect, drag the outer marker toward the center of the Transparency radial to cause the outer star points to become more transparent.
- Using the Pick Tool, drag your star to position it over your subject to one of the highlight points. Typically, star highlights occur at the edges of shiny surfaces, so choose your position carefully. By creating and resizing copies of your star, you can position different highlights wherever you wish. Larger highlights usually appear over thicker edges while smaller highlights apply to thinner ones. Once a selected highlight copy is in position, remove any outline properties applied by clicking the None well in your onscreen color palette. The illustration below shows how adding these transparent stars can dramatize the highlighting applied to a metallic object. For a detailed look at creating the lettering style shown below, check out my metallic effects tutorial.
Steve Bain is an award-winning illustrator, graphic designer, and author of nearly a dozen books including CorelDRAW The Official Guide.