Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Smackdown: Illustrator vs. CorelDraw [Round 1]

In this corner: Illustrator CS2 for Mac, the industry standard for vector illustration and graphics!

In the other corner: CorelDraw 11 for Mac, that strange Canadian vector drawing program that is spat at and scorned by designers the world over!

Gentlemen, shake node handles, go to your corners, and when the bell rings, come out fighting.


As I said in yesterday’s intro, I’m going to do a simple piece using the word “Hero” and giving it a comic book appearance. Again, nothing fancy -- this is just to see how these programs work side-by-side and the value and limitations of each. Throughout this exercise, I encourage anyone to correct me where I’m wrong in my criticisms or where I’m in error at the procedures I’m using. I’m definitely not a super-user of either Illustrator or CorelDraw.

Here we go...

Step 1: Typing text. Simple in both Illustrator and CorelDraw. Select the text tool, click on the board and type away. Pretty much identical in both programs.



Step 2: Okay, the kerning needs to be a bit tighter in order to look a bit more comic-book-title-ish. This is where CorelDraw and Illustrator begin to differ.

In CorelDraw, character kerning (called “tracking” in Illustrator) is done in real time using a slider that’s located just to the right of the text (that funky arrow thingy in the picture at left). You can slide it either left for tighter spacing or right for more loose spacing. I’m going to slide it to the left in order to get the letters a bit closer together.

In Illustrator, kerning is done in the Character palette by changing the number in the Tracking field [A in picture]. As I stated in my intro yesterday, I prefer doing this on-screen directly to the text rather than relying on typing in a number (or frantically hitting the up or down arrow keys to inch it along). I’m really not sure why Adobe insists on keeping this archaic form of spacing characters. I’m going to do some guesswork and try to get a similar result.

Ultimately, the results are the same.

Step 3: Next, let’s add some dramatic perspective to our text.

In CorelDraw, you go to the Effects menu and select Add Perspective. When you do that, your object (or group of objects) displays a grid with corner points.
Click and drag the points to alter the perspective. This perspective grid remains active, so you can continue to alter the object until it looks the way you want it to.
This perspective grid remains active even if you deselect the object, which works great if you later discover your perspective is visually off or you just find you don’t like it and want to alter it. You can also have Vanishing Points appear if you wish. A Vanishing Point appears as an “X” on your page and you can then move these rather than the corner points of your objects perspective grid. This is particularly helpful when your doing a very detailed drawing that requires true perspective where you know specifically where your horizon lines are and want multiple objects to have true perspective in relation to one another. For this drawing, though, that’s way beyond what we need to do.
By moving the points of the perspective grid around a bit, I get the look I want.

In Illustrator, it’s a bit weird. For one thing (and I was surprised by this), you can’t put active text in perspective in Illustrator. You first have to create outlines. Okay, so that sucks, since I lose a major editing ability in converting to outlines. Oh well, this is just a demonstration, so I’m not going to stress over it. I convert the text by going to the Type menu and selecting Create Outlines. Next, I select the Free Transform Tool, click on the corner of the selection box that I want to stretch. Now, you’ll need to hold down the Command key in order to pull the object into some form of perspective. But not just yet. First you have to actually begin to drag that corner point, then hold down the Command key in order for the object’s perspective to be altered. If you hold down the Command key before you begin to move the point, it won’t work. Does this seem needlessly complex to you? Um, yeah, it gets worse.
Now that I’ve got some perspective, I still want to try to get it to look like the one I did in CorelDraw. Unfortunately, the perspective is not active -- the object’s bounding box resets every time. So you can continue to use the Transform Tool to add perspective, but you’re doing just that -- adding perspective with each Transform Tool use rather than editing active perspective as in CorelDraw. Since Illustrator resets the object’s bounding box, it breaks true perspective. After jumping through a few hoops though, I do get it to look somewhat similar.
Way too many steps -- and too much time -- to do in Illustrator what took only about 10 or 15 seconds and only a couple of steps in CorelDraw.

Step 4: Let’s add a gradient!

In CorelDraw, I choose the Interactive Fill Tool, click on the object where I want the gradient fill to begin and drag where I want the gradient to end. As I drag, a line appears with an arrow, showing the direction of the gradient. The arrow isn’t particularly helpful with a “straight” fill, but is more useful when dealing with a conical or circular fill -- something we’re not dealing with here.

When I let up on the mouse, the interactive fill line appears in full with a beginning point [A] and and end point [B]. I’ve set my preferences to default to black and white respectively, so this is what appears when I first fill the object. To change the colors, all I need to do is click on the either color point and click on the color in the color palette that I want to start/end with. The center mark [C] slides along the line to indicate where the center color transition point is. All of these points [A, B and C] are all movable and active. I can move A and B anywhere within the bounds of the object or outside of the bounds of the object to get the right angle and I can slide the center mark [C] anywhere along that line. I’m also able to continue to change the colors. This stays active regardless of whether I alter or deselect the object. I simply select the object, choose the Interactive Fill Tool again, and continue to edit the gradient. No separate palette -- it’s all on-screen and on-object.
You can also double-click anywhere on the line to add an additional color (this is also slidable along the gradient line).
In the end, I choose blue for the front end of our text, add a dark blue as an additional color point in the middle, and choose black for the end point.

Oh, and the text is still active. No need to convert text to outlines in CorelDraw in order to fill it with a gradient.

In Illustrator, you go to the Gradient fill palette [B] and create a gradient that you then apply to the text (as long as you’ve converted it first -- Illustrator doesn’t allow gradient fills on active text). Again, to get the angle right, you have to plug in a number into the Angle field. This is not particularly difficult, but I think it’s weird that Illustrator does it this way. For this simple drawing, this method is fine, but what about more complex drawings? I would much prefer doing it directly on the object rather than having to go to a color palette to do the same thing.
I’ll chalk this up to preference. I definitely like the CorelDraw on-object way of doing a gradient, where I have complete control over every aspect of the gradient rather than Illustrator’s way of requiring you to make any alterations via an off-object gradient palette.

In the end, the two illustrations are similar enough. (I had some difficulty getting Illustrator to effectively fade from black to another color -- it kept wanting to turn gray in the middle. I finally gave up. I may be doing something wrong here, though, so I’m not going to pick on Illustrator for that one.)

Whew. Okay, that’s it for now. However, we’re not done with our HERO graphic yet! Tomorrow, we get to use the two programs’ Extrude functions! And, boy are they different!

Stay tuned for Illustrator vs. CorelDraw, Round 2!


Anonymous said...

I was trained on Illustrator, but after using draw and illustrator side by side at work, I definately prefer draw. And its' MUCH cheaper

Jeff Harrison said...

While Illustrator has some nice features, overall it's depressingly difficult to use relative to the speed and intuitive nature of CorelDRAW. The bottom line:
no matter how "good" someone becomes with Illustrator, they'll never be faster than a skilled CorelDRAW user.

It has nothing to do with the artists; The basic functionality shown in your series here extends through the rest of the features.
It's faster because of the fundamental nature of the software. So, Illus. will become as fast and powerful as CorelDRAW only when it copies more or all of CorelDRAW's UI methods. I honestly feel sorry for artists who think Illustrator is the leader in this genre. It's not a crime for them to be misinformed - but it IS unfortunate.

Over the course of their careers, they could get at least TWICE as much billable artwork done using CorelDRAW instead. That means hundreds of thousands of dollars
in revenue.

go to macromonster.com for some great VBA macros.

Note that Corel has 3 new versions of CorelDRAW with new features since Version 11 shown in the shootout here.

Anonymous said...

I have used Corel Draw since V3 and was always ridiculed by AI users. The functionality kept me in CDraw though. In the early days though it was difficult to get files ripped from CDraw, service bureaus looked down their nose at us. Also because we were not on the Mac platform. In the end I have saved mucho amounts of money on programs and my work has been praised (at times). Whatever, I like the money in my pocket not Adobe's. Same with working on a PC. Its been a great experience. I have done a little work in AI but find it very difficult to go backwards in efficiency. I use Photoshop but will stick with CDraw for vector images.

splat graphics said...

Hey there all. I'm a Corel draw fan and user for over ten years. For all the good and talent I show with Corel I still get ridiculed for using an archaic non industry standard program.. I ask the same question about ppl using Quark. I'd like to see industry standard include Corel b/c IMHO it's better and faster then illy frustrater but job recruiters will insists on Illy and don't even acknowledge CD.. Oh well there loss.

Anonymous said...

I have been using CorelDraw since version3 and am using CorelDraw X3 now. However, I'm also trained on Illustrator and have CS3 now... knowing both, I prefer CorelDraw hands down! Its faster because its so hands-on intuitive and isn't that the desire of every designer, to have more billable projects? With Illustrator you can have more billable project time per project but I'd rather have more billable projects anyday! CorelDraw X3 is about 1/4 the price of Illustrator CS3...so why would anyone want to pay more for a program that is depressingly harder to use, while identical in functionality, and takes you longer to do basic projects? Adobe has done a fantastic marketing job here in America, but CorelDraw rules in Canada and Europe...hopefully, American Designers will eventually realize they are being taken for a ride.

Anonymous said...

How do you compare them to Xara and Inkscape?