Create Cool 3D Chiseled Graphics (part 1)

By Steve Bain

In this visit to the CorelDRAW toolbox, you’ll discover a technique you can use to create perfectly chiseled shapes. It’s an effect that will enable you to create the 3D illusion of shapes which appear either recessed into – or raised above – a flat surface. Your success will depend on your object’s shape, your skill at node editing and path commands, and of course how closely you follow these tutorial steps.

This is part one of a two-part tutorial. If you’d like to discover even more of this technique, be sure to check out Create Cool 3D Chiseled Graphics (part 2). Also keep in mind that although I happen to be using CorelDRAW 11 in this tutorial, these techniques can be accomplished regardless of which recent version of CorelDRAW you happen to be using.

First, do a little set up work
Before you begin the exercises to follow, it’ll help immensely for you to ensure a few invaluable snap settings are selected in CorelDRAW. You’ll need to check that certain Snap options are active using the Options dialog. To get set up, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Tools, Options to open the Options dialog.
  2. Under the Workspace heading, click Snap to Objects. Ensure the Snap to Objects is selected active and click both the Snap to Nodes and Snap to Object Center Points options are selected (shown next).
  3. If you happen to be using a later version of CorelDRAW (for example, version X4) that includes a more granular set of snapping modes (as shown next), selecting all modes will provide even more snapping control and choosing View > Snap to Objects (Alt+Z) will toggle the snapping action on or off.
  4. Click OK to close the dialog and accept your changes and you’re ready to start.

Creating the chisel shape path
The key to the riddle of a successful chisel shape lies in creating a new path to represent the center between two existing paths. You could manually draw the shape with mastery of the Freehand or Bezier tools, but that could take considerable time and effort, and the result may not be entirely accurate. This is where the Blend Tool can help. By creating a single blend step between two existing paths, you’ll be able to quickly create a new path automatically. In most cases, you’ll be able to use the resulting shape with very little node editing. But as you’ll discover, the process isn’t without its little tricks.

To familiarize yourself with the process, try these steps:

  1. Choose the Ellipse Tool and create an ellipse of any size or shape. Make it a circular ellipse by holding Ctrl as you create it.
  2. Create a copy of your new circle centered within the original by holding Shift as you drag one of the corner handles toward the inside of the original, then clicking the right mouse button to create the copy (as shown next).
  3. Choose the Pick Tool (press Spacebar), select the two circles, and convert them both to curves (Ctrl+Q).
  4. Choose the Interactive Blend Tool and click-drag from the edge of one circle to the other to create a default blend effect. Using Property Bar options, set the Number of Steps option to 1. This will create the chisel path (shown next).
  5. Using the Pick Tool, right-click the blend object and choose Break Blend Group Apart to break the link between the original circles and the blend.
  6. Select only the blend object and press the “+” key on your numeric keyboard to create a copy superimposed over the original. With the copy still selected, hold Shift, click the outer circle and combine the two paths to make a compound path (Ctrl+L). Send the new object to the back (Shift+PageDown).
  7. Click to select the original blend object and hold Shift while clicking the innermost circle to select both objects. Combine them into a single compound object (Ctrl+L). You now have two separate compound paths.
  8. Select both objects and fill them with any color (Red for example), and choose the Interactive Fill Tool (G). Using Property Bar options, choose Radial from the Type menu to fill both with a default red-to-white radial fill.
  9. Offset the centers of each radial fill. Drag the white marker on the outer object to the upper-left and the white marker of the inner object to the lower-right. This will enable you to simulate basic shading (as shown next). Remove any outline properties from the objects and you’re done.

In the circle example, you were able to create the chisel effect using a series of unbroken circular paths. But, if the shape you’re attempting to apply this effect to feature corners, the process becomes slightly more involved and requires the blend step process as well as node editing. This is where the effect really takes off though. Let’s take a simple square as an example:

  1. Using the Rectangle Tool, create a square shape (hold Ctrl to constrain). As you did with the circle, create a smaller copy inside the original by dragging a corner handle inward while holding the Shift key and clicking the right mouse button to make the copy (as shown next). Select both objects and convert them to curves (Ctrl+Q).
  2. Using the Blend Tool, create a single blend object by dragging from one shape to the other (shown next). Then, using the Pick Tool, right-click the blend object and choose Break Blend Group Apart from the popup menu. This will represent the chisel path.
  3. Select only the blend shape and press numeric “+” to make a copy. Hold Shift and click to select the outer square and Combine the two shapes (Ctrl+L).
  4. With your shape still selected, choose the Shape Tool (F10) and click any node on the shape. Then, using Property Bar options, click the Select All Nodes and the Break Curve buttons (shown next), to select and unjoin all the nodes at once. Then separate all the lines in the shape using the Break Apart command (Ctrl+K). This process essentially reduces the shapes to lines.
  5. Next, we’ll join each pair of lines representing the sides of the shape. Using the Pick Tool and while holding the Shift key click to select the first pair of lines and Combine them (Ctrl+L). Then, choose the Shape Tool and choose the node pair at one end and click the Extend Curve to Close button in the Property Bar (shown next). This will add a straight line between the two nodes. Repeat this operation for the node pairs at the opposite end. Once you are complete, the shape will be a closed curve.
  6. Repeat the above step for each pair of lines, first combining them and then joining the node pairs. In the example shown next, all sides of the outer shape have been combined into closed curves.
  7. You’ll also need to repeat this process for the inner shapes. Click to select the original blend path object and combine it with the innermost square. Then select and break apart all curve nodes and break apart the entire arrangement. Choose each line pair and combine them, and close each end using the Extend Curve to Close button. The result will be eight closed shapes. Although we haven’t yet explored the shading aspects of the chisel effect (which we’ll do in part 2 of this tutorial), the example shown next demonstrates the final result with various colors and shades applied to each side.

Variations on the chisel
You may not always need to create a negative and a positive shape for the chisel effect. In some instances, you might simply need to create the effect of a complete shape carved onto (or into) a surface. In this exercise, there is no need for the blend step, but there is certainly more emphasis on node editing and drawing. Let’s take a simple polygon as the example and create a chiseled star shape:

  1. To begin, choose the Polygon Tool (Y) and create a default symmetrical polygon shape by holding Ctrl to constrain the shape as you drag. Using Property Bar options set the Number of Points option to 5. If needed, increase the depth of the star spikes by holding Ctrl and dragging any of the shape nodes toward or away from the center of the shape (as shown next).
  2. You’ll also need to create an object to use as a snapping guide. For this, choose the Ellipse Tool (F7) and create a circular ellipse (hold Ctrl) slightly smaller than the inner area of the star. Select both shapes and press E and then C to center the two objects vertically and horizontally with each other (as shown next).
  3. Using the Pick Tool, select the star and convert it to curves (Ctrl+Q). Then choose the Shape Tool and hold Ctrl+Shift while clicking any node to quickly select all nodes composing the shape. Using Property Bar options click the Break Curve button and then press Ctrl+K to break apart the lines in the shape.
  4. In this next step your node-snapping settings will be really pay off. Click to select one of the original star lines to select it and choose the Bezier Tool. Notice the nodes at either end are visible. Click any node and then click the dead center of the circle to add a straight line. Then, click the remaining node on the opposite end of the original line to close the shape (as shown next). This will create a single chisel side.
  5. Repeat this process for each of the 9 remaining lines which composed the original star. To do this quickly, press the Spacebar to toggle your tool state between the Bezier and Pick tools using the Pick Tool for selecting and the Bezier Tool for drawing. Once all 10 lines have been completed, the effect needs only to be colored or shaded (as shown next). Once you are finished, be sure to select and delete the circle shape and remove any outline properties from the star chisel shapes.

So far, we’ve only explored creating and chiseling basic shapes, but there’s much more to perfecting this effect. In part 2, we’ll look at techniques for applying color and shading to the shapes and see how the chisel effect can be applied to other more complex shapes such as text, lines, and other useful shapes.

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Steve Bain is an award-winning illustrator and designer, and author of nearly a dozen books including CorelDRAW The Official Guide.

7 responses to “Create Cool 3D Chiseled Graphics (part 1)

  1. This was great. Can’t wait for part 2!

  2. Hi

    This is great stuff.However if you want to
    digitally print this image,how do you insert
    the cut line or hairline outline around the
    entire image including the shadow.

    Kind Regards


    • Hi Imtiaz,
      Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. Printing is a browser function and beyond the scope of my volunteer mission here. It shouldn’t be difficult though! 😉

  3. Abdurrazzaq Oriyomi

    I really enjoyed it. It’s fun use it. Keep it up.

  4. very nice

  5. Thanks. this is a beautiful tut for novice. Thanks once again

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