Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Smackdown: Illustrator vs. CorelDraw [Round 2]

We’ve started the fight with a little graphic of the word “Hero.” Round 2 will pit the two draw programs against an extrude attack using that same graphic. Which will fare better? Let’s find out...

DingDing!

In CorelDraw, choose the Extrude Tool. When you do this, an Extrude tool bar appears at the top of your screen.

These are all the shortcuts you’ll need to render any extrusion the way you see fit. After selecting the Extrude Tool, click [C] on the the object and drag in whatever direction you want the extrusion to go. You’ll see a wireframe box mimicking the extrusion as you drag, so you can get an idea of what it will look like. Along with this box is a line. This line shows the direction [A] the extrusion is currently going in. You can alter this on-screen anytime -- even after deselecting it or moving it. Moving the slider [B] along the line changes the depth of the extrusion. Again, all on-screen and all very wysiwyg. Let up on the mouse and the extrusion will draw.
Extrusions will always default to the fill of the object or text that your extruding, so in this case, it mimics the blue-to-black gradient. But I don’t like how the “O” disappears in the blackness of the extrusion, so I’m going to change it. I simply go up to the top Extrude tool bar, select the Color icon and change the colors of the gradient in the drop-down menu. For my purposes here, I’m going to simply swap the the blue and black so the gradient reverses itself.
There. Much easier to read.

Now, to finish it up, I add a nice thick comic-book outline to the whole thing and I’m done.

In Illustrator, I go to the Effects menu and select 3D. The Extrude & Bevel palette appears. This is where the alterations occur. I put a check in the “Preview” box so I can see how my changes in the palette are reflected in the actual graphic.

The extrude depth is changed here on this palette (again with the numbers!) as well as the position. For the position, you have either the option to plug in numbers, or click and drag the 3D box that appears on the palette. It’s simple, but by no means exacting. If you want a specific angle to match something else on the drawing, you’ll find it very difficult without a lot of practice. You can also change what Illustrator calls “perspective”. CorelDraw calls this “vanishing points,” but it’s essentially the same thing. It allows you to give an angled perspective look to the extrusion. However, I couldn’t get Illustrator to make it work right. For some reason, the extrusion went all wonky on me. (Again, I’m not faulting Illustrator for this -- I may well have done something wrong.)
Also, Illustrator doesn’t allow for gradients within the extrusion, so you’re stuck with a straight color. If you’re desperate for a gradient you’ll have to add several steps that include selecting “Expand Appearance” (whatever that means) from the Object menu, ungrouping a minimum of four to five times, selecting all of the extrude paths that you want to have gradient in, welding them by sides, filling them with a gradient, then regrouping them with the object. (Whew! that’s a lot of work. And time.)

But back to our drawing. Once everything looks the way you want it, click OK. It’s officially set in stone. You can’t go back and continue to edit this. Unlike CorelDraw where the extruded object can be re-edited, the Illustrator object is unchangeable. When you attempt to go back into the 3D editing tools, Illustrator warns you that you’re adding another layer of extrusion to an already extruded object.

After I OK the extrusion, I add my outline and I’m done. Not much like the graphic that was done in CorelDraw. And it took a lot more work.
And also, I noticed some weirdness in the graphic after extruding it. Some odd artifacts in the letters that I couldn’t get rid of. Clearly a bug of some sort.
Oh, excuse me -- my phones ringing. I better take this. It’s the client. Hello? ... Uh huh ... Okay ... Sure, no problem.

Damn. Apparently I misunderstood -- the graphic wasn’t supposed to be HERO, it was supposed to be HIRO. Well, I guess the Illustrator graphic is a bust. I’ll have to start that one over since very little of it is still editable. But not the CorelDraw one. Everything is still live and active.
All I do is select the Text Tool, click on the text and retype it via the pop-up window -- and it’s done. Client happy. Me happy.
Next up: Illustrator vs. CorelDraw -- Interactive Transparencies!

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.

DingDing!


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.

CorelDraw:


Illustrator:
__________________

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!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Adobe Illustrator: Smackdown


I’m going to give it to you straight: Adobe Illustrator may well be going the way of Quark.

Back in the 1990s, Quark ruled the roost when it came to layout software. It wasn’t the best, but it was what most everyone either chose to use or was forced to use due to its industry pervasiveness. Nevermind that it was archaic, completely un-user-friendly, and either required you to jump through hoops to get things done or forced you to buy plugins to supplement its anemic abilities. And it was way overpriced.

Now, let’s consider Adobe Illustrator. Much of the same can be said for it in this decade. There’s very little that’s user-friendly in Illustrator. From font kerning to drop shadows, you’re forced to plug in numbers into a palette field. Does this seem odd to anyone else? I’m a designer, not an engineer. I want to do it onscreen with live tools that show me exactly what I’m doing. The need to guess at a number is absurd. (And it really is guesswork, because, c’mon, does anyone really know how putting “-47” into the Tracking field on the Character palette is going to affect 64pt. Univers?). But most of you I’m sure are scratching your heads right now, thinking, “Jeez, how else are you going to change the kerning?” Which is exactly my point -- Adobe has most designers so entrenched in the ways of Illustrator that they have difficulty understanding a different and easier way of getting it done.

Another example is how Illustrator deals with points. Needlessly complex and just plain weird from a designer’s standpoint. To edit the points of even a simple object could require as many as six (six!) point tools (and that doesn’t even include all the necessary key commands that you have to use along with the tools). WTF? And just try selecting multiple points without accidentally selecting the whole object or inadvertently moving something you didn’t mean to. The next time you edit a drawing, count how many times you have to hit Command+Z due to Illustrator’s unwieldiness rather than your own design errors.

And interactive gradient transparencies are impossible in Illustrator. I don’t mean that they’re difficult -- I mean you can’t do them. It’s not an option. Which is strange considering other vector draw programs can do them, why not Illustrator? Oh, sure, you can create a transparency mask and kind of get the job done if you had to, but it takes an incredible amount of time and it won’t work for complex drawings.

So here’s the deal. I’m not going to keep going on about the shortcomings of Illustrator and how it needs to change. Instead, I’m going to show you. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting a comparison of Illustrator CS2 and (don’t laugh) CorelDraw 11. Yes, I said CorelDraw.

I’ll be putting together a quick-and-dirty illustration of the word “Hero.” Nothing fancy, but it will show the chasm that exists between the real design world and how we often have to settle when working with Illustrator. I’ll attempt to create roughly the same drawing in both Illustrator CS2 and CorelDraw 11. But beware all you Illustrator haters -- I may well find some superior characteristics in Illustrator that I definitely wouldn’t want to see go away.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The OSU Game From a Press Box Suite


Ah, the suite life...

Yesterday, Ohio State played Northwestern. It was the 500th game in the 85-year-old Ohio Stadium and I was fortunate enough to not only get complimentary tickets to the game, but tickets to one of the pressbox suites! Free food and drinks (non-alcoholic of course, since it's a dry stadium) and an amazing view.

I didn't go to OSU, but I enjoy watching their games on TV -- but watching a game in the stadium amongst 105,000 fans is truly an experience.

The game was an utter blowout. OSU spanked NW with a final score of 58 - 7, so the second half was kinda dull, but, hey, it gave me the opportunity to munch on that dessert tray...


video

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Arrh! It Be a Pirate's Birthday


I don't normally post about this sort of thing, but it was Tim's birthday (that's him pictured above in all his somewhat inebriated glory) and he threw a party. But it wasn't just a normal, dull party. It was a Pirate Party!

We had a great time and met a bunch of cool people -- this includes Paul (knows everything about the local music scene), Matt (of local band Hot Damn and fellow graphic designer), and a whole gaggle of Daves. And most of all we got to party with Tim.

But, really, the point of this post is Tim's performance (below).
(It was weird how he stayed sideways like that and sang...)

video

Friday, September 21, 2007

Honey! There's a spider in the dining room!


Yes, there really is a spider in my dining room. And her name is Marla.* She's just a simple Mexican rosehair -- a common tarantula. And she's very friendly. Well, when she's not hungry.

I've had Marla for about three years now. She's still growing. She was a replacement actually (don't worry -- she doesn't read my blog, so she'll never know). Lance was my previous rosehair. He/she was an awesome pet that one time went nearly a year and a half without eating. No reason, really (well, none that was evident anyway -- Lance was never one to really open up), he just wasn't eating. He had an entomologist at The Ohio State University perplexed. Lance lived more than 13 years before he gave up the ghost. I could tell he was dying. He just kept getting slower and slower to the point where he could barely move fast enough to catch the crickets unless they happened to crawl right under him.

So Marla's here now. And she's very cool. Ever have a spider the size of your palm crawl on you? It's awesome and creepy and weird all at the same time. You should try it.

*She's named after the supporting character in one of my favorite movies of all time: Fight Club.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Umm...huh?


Spotted at a grocery store (and thankfully photographed by) Dave Vogt.

Snuggles? What? Would you buy a package of buns with a declaration like that on its packaging? What was the Toufayan marketing department thinking?

"Hey, y'know these rolly things, they, like hug your dog, dude."

"So we should, like, call them huggers?"

"Whoa, dude, that's too weird."

"Then how about Snuggles...?"

Oh, and it's better than all those other fun rolls you see on the shelf -- because these are the ultimate fun rolls.

12 ounces of snuggley goodness for your hotdog.

[Thanks, Dave, for letting me post your pic.]

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Review: Ben Lee’s “Ripe”


I was hoping to have time to write up an intro, but I gotta make this quick. Here’s my track-by-track rundown:

1. “Love Me Like the World is Ending”
This is quintessential Ben Lee snappy pop. If you’re reading this, you likely already know that this is the first single. It’s not the best song on the album, but it is the most recognizably Ben.

2. “American Television”
This is the song that I keep going back to. It’s got a great hook and you’ll undoubtedly find this song getting stuck in your head. It’s simple and catchy and possibly the CD’s best song.

3. “Birds & Bees”
A duet with Mandy Moore, their voices blend well and Mandy’s girlish voice matches Ben’s boyish one, but it’s not quite enough to rescue the song. Though it’s grown on me a bit, on the first listen I felt the song was/is weak.

4. “Is This How Love’s Supposed to Feel?”
Co-written by Charlotte Martin, it’s lyrically lacking and musically it’s not that exciting. Even Ben’s performance is lackadaisical. It’s almost as though he mailed this one in.

5. “Blush”
This is classic melancholic Ben Lee. This is certainly one of the better songs with its musical and lyrical flow hitting the mark. Nothing surprising or different, just a really good song.

6. “Numb”
This track is a big, fun song, pure and simple. I can easily picture a bunch of little kids singing background for this song. :-) This is a definite standout and shows how not overproducing a Ben Lee song can really make it work.

7. “What Would Jay-Z Do?”
Not nearly as clever as the name would lead you to believe, this song is dull, lifeless, and is easily my least favorite on this album.

8. “Sex Without Love”
Those of you who saw Ben in either of his last two tours here in the states will recognize this song. Written with Rooney’s Robert Carmine, this is a simple, effective song. And it has a cool, throwback, 80’s rock ending that’s cheesy-cool. And it’s fun to sing along with at his shows. Benji Madden from Good Charlotte makes a cameo, though he’d go completely unnoticed if you weren’t listening for him -- so much so that I’m not really sure why he’s there.

9. “Home”
There’s something sweetly nostalgic about this song. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but it makes me want to listen to it more. It’s not a standout, but I’ve found it’s gotten under my skin (in a good way).

10. “Hungry”
Musically the stanza of this song is dull, but the chorus is brilliant -- flowing and catchy.

11. “Just Say Yes”
Vocally, this is definitely the best song. Ben pushes beyond his boy-voice to create a more mature sound. This may well be the most well-crafted song, both musically and lyrically. It may not be as catchy as some of the other tracks, but it’s not meant to be. It’s truly a beautiful song. And that’s not something I often say about a Ben Lee song.

12. “Ripe”
Clever and insightful lyrics highlight this track. The only storytelling on this CD, it’s got hooky strings and it’s perfect length leaves you wanting more.

13. “Love” (Bonus Track)
This is the closest to rock that Lee comes on this album and I can’t wait to hear this one live, since he definitely wrote it with a live audience in mind. This may well turn into a fan favorite and it’s a fitting close to “Ripe.”

Today's the Day


Ben Lee's Ripe CD is out! It's available at stores and via iTunes. I'll be posting my review later today.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Grand Opening: CrimsonCup


Columbus’ newest cafe has its grand opening tomorrow. I know what you’re thinking -- CowTown needs another coffeehouse like the Arena District needs another trendy bar. But this is completely different.

This is CrimsonCup.

Known as a local behind-the-scenes beanery, CrimsonCup has supplied its own roasts and expertise to cafes and restaurants nationwide for 16 years and has grown from a small operation to a business with a 2006 revenue of nearly $5.5 million. But, believe it or not, never before has CrimsonCup hung its own name on a coffeehouse.

That changed a couple weeks ago, when the neon open sign was quietly switched on in the window of the former Household Bank/Cord Camera building at 4541 North High St., just north of Henderson Rd.

Located less than a block from a Panera, CrimsonCup will be competing with the likes of Caribou near the Whetstone library, the North Broadway Starbucks and the extremely popular Cup O Joe on the corner of Tulane and High. With all these coffee shops for people to choose from, what’s going to make CrimsonCup stand out?

Simple answer: The coffee. CrimsonCup is easily the best in the city. The flavor is excellent, the strength always perfect. Starbucks always tastes burnt and is so thick that it more like Guinness than java. Caribou coffee is characterless. Panera is (gasp!) stored in self-serve Thermoses. Yeesh. Cup O Joe is the closest, but doesn’t quite measure up.

But let’s face it, as the pervasiveness of Starbucks shows, people often don’t care as much as they should about the quality of their coffee. They look for convenience, they look for wi-fi, they look for a place where they can comfortably hang with friends -- the coffee at the coffeehouse ironically tends to take a back seat.

And at CrimsonCup, that would be a shame.

The atmosphere of the new cafe is pleasant enough. A nice livingroom-type setup is off to your left as you walk in. A flat-panel TV compliments the area and is particularly cool in the mornings to catch a few glimpes of the news while you sip that Americano. The outdoor patio lacks a bit of greenery, but is functional.

CrimsonCup has been teaching coffeehouse entrepreneurs how to do this for years. Now let’s see if they can pull it off themselves.

(Stop by or drive thru for $1 Grand Opening lattes and mochas tomorrow!.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The "Dad of all Oxymorons"


Russian state television Channel One reported on a new bomb test. According to Col.-Gen. Alexander Rukshin, a deputy chief of the Russian military's General Staff: "The tests have shown that the new air-delivered ordnance is comparable to a nuclear weapon in its efficiency and capability."

He then added that "unlike a nuclear weapon, the bomb doesn't hurt the environment."

Uh...yeah...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ha Ha Tonka


Harking from Springfield, Missouri, Ha Ha Tonka blends just enough of everything to be different, yet retains a good old-fashioned rock sound. Okay, I don't blame you for having never heard of them -- these guys are definitely obscure, but they've been touring constantly this summer, so you may have caught them opening for the likes of The Violent Femmes or the Old 97s. If you saw them, you'd definitely remember Ha Ha Tonka.

Formerly Amsterband, HHT's first CD with their new band name (which comes from the name of a Missouri state park) hits stores today. Well, okay, it's probably not in any actual store, but you can order it online. It's called "Buckle in the Bible Belt" and it's worth the $10. Better yet, buy it from them personally when they open for Will Hoge at the Basement on September 27.

Check them out at their MySpace page. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The New iPod Lineup


Here they are. Finally. And it looks like a lot of the rumors were true. The Nano is exactly as the rumors stated and the iPod Touch is WiFi. Woohoo! Internet in your pocket.

I think I know what's going to be on my Christmas list.

And on top of that, Apple is introducing the iTunes WiFi Store. Now you can download songs directly to your 'Pod.

The largest iPod Touch is a meager 16GB, so there's no way it can really replace my 80GB iPod Video (now called the iPod Classic), since I use it for my Powerbook backup. And I don't know if I can last very long without playing the iPod version of Zuma, which I'm completely addicted to. But that's okay, it doesn't make me want that beautiful iPod Touch any less.

Go now to Apple.com and check it all out!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ben Lee - Love Me Like The World Is Ending

This is the new single. A great song destined to get absolutely no U.S. airplay.

But let's hope I'm wrong.

The new album "Ripe" is due out September 18. Buy it and support the song-writing antics of the amazing Ben Lee.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

More iPod Video Nano Evidence


This is further evidence of the reality of the new Video Nano. This is an image from Uniea that matches the spy shots I posted earlier. Watch September 5 for Apple's media event, featuring what's anticipated to be a new line-up of iPods.

Dragon Wars


On September 14, schlock at its finest will be arriving in theaters in the guise of a medium-budget Toho-style monster movie: Dragon Wars. Pretty, Starbucks-swilling people battling even prettier flying reptiles. Invading our world, the dragons are on a quest to fight the onslaught of rising frappuccino prices, destroying all in their path.

Or something like that.

But really, who cares about the story? Plot shmlot -- we want to see a city destroyed and cars flung. Damsels screaming in fear at computer animated, fang-filled reptilian jaws. Heroes that ultimately save the day at just the right, predictable moment, but not before striking a dramatic pose for the promo shots.

Ah, yes, cheesy end-of-summer fare. My life is nearly complete.

Everyone will recognize Jason Behr (as our hero Ethan) from his role as Max on the TV show Roswell. I've no clue who Amanda Brooks is. Rumor has it she's an actress. But don't quote me on that.

So in two weeks, join me in spending my hard-earned $8.50 for a couple of hours of fun and frolic at the expense of culture and sophistication. Because dragons in a big city couldn't possibly be disappointing.

(And how can this promo pic (left) not remind you of Squirmle?)