CorelDRAW X4 Working with the Transformation Docker: Part 2

Copyright © 2008 by Davis Multimedia, Int'l. All Rights Reserved.
As Printed in December 2008, Volume 34, No. 6 of The Engravers Journal
Figure 1: The “anchor point” has been selected in order to rotate the object.   Figure 2: The object in Figure 1 has been rotated 45 degrees with the center as the anchor point.

     In the first article of this two-part mini series, we introduced the Transformation docker, which allows users to transform objects with precision and, if necessary, to apply various “transformations” to objects. There are five different commands located within the Transformation docker, and each one allows you to “transform” a single object or multiple objects simultaneously.
     In the Nov. 08 issue of EJ we discussed the Position command in detail and learned that this tool can help users accurately place an object in a specified position within a CorelDRAW document. This second article in the series will review the Transformation docker’s other four commands.
     All of the transformation commands we will be discussing here utilize a positioning methodology that CorelDRAW refers to as an “anchor point.” Understanding this concept is important because the anchor point you choose determines exactly where in your engraving layout the object will be positioned and/or the exact effect you achieve when you use the Transformation docker’s commands. To illustrate this, let’s consider a simple example.
     Try to visualize a simple shape like a 2" square positioned in the exact center of a tabletop or background. Now suppose that you want to enlarge the square from 2" to 3". Next let’s imagine that the 2" square is made of rubber and that we’ll increase its size to 3" by stretching the rubber shape as needed. Concerning the square’s left-to-right dimension, the question now arises as to whether you stretch the shape by holding the left edge in place and stretching the right edge further toward the right or you hold the right edge stationary and stretch the left side further to the left. Or, for example, do you stretch the shape to its new size by simultaneously pulling both the right and left edges outward equally while the center point remains stationary?
     In Corel vernacular, the anchor point determines which part of the shape remains in its original location and which parts are repositioned. A good analogy is to think about driving a nail through the rubber square and into the background. If you place the nail (the anchor point) in the exact center of the rubber square and then resize the square, the effect is to hold the center in its original place while stretching the entire shape outward equally in all directions. On the other hand, if you placed the nail aligned with the lower left corner of the square before resizing the square, that point would remain where it is and all of the “stretching” would involve relocating the other three corners upward and/or to the right.
     This anchor point concept works effectively not only for resizing but for performing a whole host of transformations found in the Transformation docker, including rotating, reversing (mirroring), skewing, etc. Now let’s take a look at these powerful functions.
Rotate Command
     One of the commands that engravers will likely use quite often is the Rotate command, which allows users to turn an object around its center axis or around a point relative to its position. If you have a laser engraving system with a cylindrical engraving attachment then you’re probably accustomed to rotating your image 90 degrees whenever you need to process an object, in effect rotating the layout “sideways” to line it up with the orientation of the attachment.

Figure 3: Now the object has been rotated 45 degrees with the bottom left corner as the anchor point. Note the change in position of the objects.      

Figure 4: We have duplicated our original object (in black) and rotated it 45 degrees (red), again using the bottom left corner as the anchor point.

     Once you are in the Transformation docker you can access the Rotate command simply by clicking on the Rotate button (Fig. 1, highlighted in green). When you rotate an image you are able to choose which point of the object that you want to be the anchor point. Whenever you rotate a shape, the anchor point becomes the axis of rotation, or the point about which the image will rotate (sort of like the center of an axle upon which a wheel rotates).
     As we discussed in the first article of this series, when an object is selected, there are nine different selection handles that form a rectangle around the object. We can choose any one of these handles to become our point of reference. The same is true when we are using the Rotate command. The selection handle we choose now becomes our anchor point.
     I want the anchor point to be in the center of my object, so I have selected the middle selection handle in Figure 1 (red box). This means that the rectangle that I drew in Figure 1 will rotate on the center point of the object. Now let’s say that we need to rotate the object 45 degrees. To do this you simply need to type “45” in the “Angle” input box (Fig. 1, highlighted in blue) and click the “Apply” button at the bottom of the page. Figure 2 shows what the rectangle looks like after it’s rotated 45 degrees.

Figure 5: You can also duplicate an object after it has been rotated.     Figure 6: Here we have created a series of rectangles positioned evenly around a circle, using an anchor point aligned with the circle center.

     Now let’s see what would happen if we select the bottom left handle. Figure 3 shows us the same rectangle rotated with the lower left handle as the anchor point. The rectangle has rotated 45 degrees, pivoting on the bottom left node. We know this because the bottom node is on the left-hand guideline. On the right side of the page under the “Relative Center” selection box there is a set of boxes which represent the selection handles. Notice in Figure 3 that the bottom middle handle is selected. This is because when the rectangle rotates, the left-hand node becomes the middle of the rectangle, thus CorelDRAW switches the handle to the bottom middle handle.
     If you want to create a copy of the original rectangle then you can click on the “Apply to Duplicate” button. In Figure 4 I have created a duplicate rectangle. Notice how it shows both the original object and the duplicated rectangle with the bottom left handle as the common anchor point for both shapes.
     There may be times when you want to duplicate the object after it has been rotated. We can do this by checking the Relative Center box mentioned earlier (Fig. 5, highlighted in red). We want to make a duplicate copy of our object at the 4" mark on the center. Notice in Figure 5 that the copy of the original object is at the 4" mark on the horizontal location. This is shown by the green box in Figure 5. I have drawn the red circle so that you can see the rotation of the rectangles around the origin of the original rectangle.
     Figure 6 shows an interesting application of the Rotate command. Here we have a red circle drawn and a rectangle positioned tangent to it (touching the circle’s outer edge). The anchor point for the rectangle has been chosen so it’s aligned with the center point of the circle (Fig. 6, blue box). Then with the angle of rotation set to 45 degrees and by repeatedly pressing the “Apply to Duplicate” button we have positioned this series of rectangles evenly around the circle.

Figure 7: Text can be mirrored either vertically or horizontally.   Figure 8: Here our text has been mirrored and duplicated to the left of our original object.

Scale and Mirror Command
     Another command in the Transformation docker is the Scale and Mirror command, which allows you to either resize an object to a percentage of its original size or create a horizontal or vertical mirror image of an object. Figure 7 shows a document with the Scale and Mirror command open in the Transformation docker. There are two different mirror options which are located on the right side of the document in the blue box in Figure 7. The top option is the horizontal mirror which turns a right-reading layout into a left-reading layout (the kind traditionally used for so-called “reverse” engraving. The bottom button in Figure 7 is the vertical mirror, commonly used for so-called “upside down” engraving). The blue text located on the left side of the document indicates each of the options, while the black text directly to the right of the blue text shows what each option looks like after the mirror has been applied.
     Notice in Figure 7 that the middle selection handle is selected, thus the Mirror command changes the object but it remains in the same location. If we select the left handle and create a duplicate of our object by clicking on the “Apply to Duplicate” button then we can create a copy of our object or text directly to the left of the original image. Notice that the anchor point is the left side of the original object and the rotation is from that point.
Size Command
The next command we will look at in the Transformation docker is the Size command (Fig. 9, highlighted in green), which allows you to change the width and/or height of an object. As is standard in most CorelDRAW applications, we can resize an object simply by selecting the object with the Pick tool and adjusting the settings on the Property bar. This will provide a directly proportional increase or decrease in the object’s size.

Figure 9: The Size command allows you to resize an object.   Figure 10: Notice we have resized our rectangle to make it 3" larger than the original (in red).

     Because the middle selection handle is selected on the object in Figure 9, any changes in size will be equal all the way around the object. However, what if we want to use the bottom left corner of the rectangle as our anchor point so that any changes in size will work outwards from that point? To make this happen we would simply select the bottom left selection handle and make a change in the Horizontal position (think of our corner being affixed and we are pulling the right side to the right). Notice I have not selected “Non-proportional” (Fig. 9, highlighted in red), which means resizing the horizontal size also affects the vertical size proportionally. That’s the more common goal in engraving layouts, to enlarge or reduce objects proportionally to the desired size.
     However, sometimes the desired end result is to “stretch” or “shrink” the object from left to right while leaving its height unchanged or, vice versa, by changing the height and not the width. To further illustrate this Non-proportional feature, in Figure 10 I have placed a 9" x 7.7" rectangle at the intersection of two guidelines with my original object in red. I have selected the bottom left selection handle and changed the horizontal value to 12.
     Once you click on the Apply to Duplicate button CorelDRAW will create a second rectangle that is 3" longer than the original. Notice that the rectangle is longer but no higher and it’s only longer on the right side of the object. The left side has not changed. Again, this is because I have the bottom left handle selected and the Non-proportional box is also selected. So, in effect, I kept the left side of the box where it was and stretched the right side toward the right.

Figure 11: The Skew command allows you to distort or “tilt” an object.   Figure 12: By choosing a different selection handle you can skew your object in a variety of different ways.

     The last command in the Transformation docker is the Skew command, which allows you to distort (“tilt”) an object. One of the applications for this command is to create “text effects” such as taking a block of upright text and making the characters lean off the vertical to create an “italicized” look. The end result of using this on a rectangle is to make the rectangle into a parallelogram.
     To access this command, simply click on the Skew icon in the Transformation docker (Fig. 11, highlighted in blue). Notice in Figure 11 that I have selected the object and typed in a horizontal skew of six degrees (highlighted in red). The original rectangle is outlined in red while the black box indicates our duplicated skewed rectangle. Notice that the duplicated rectangle is skewed on the top and the bottom of the rectangle.
     If you want to use an anchor point to create your skewed duplicate then select the “Use Anchor Point” check box. For example, in Figure 12 I have selected the bottom left selection handle as my anchor point. Now, if I type in the same six degree value as I used in Figure 11 then we will create a skewed box that is much different from the duplicate in Figure 11. See how the duplicated rectangle outlined in black in Figure 12 is only skewed at the top of the object. That’s because the bottom is anchored so it does not move.
     The Transformation docker is a very powerful set of commands that allows users to manipulate objects in their drawings in a variety of ways. While it is possible to transform objects in CorelDRAW simply by using the mouse and the Pick tool, this method is not recommended if you need to transform an object with precision. For example, with the Transformation docker you can specify a precise angle for rotation or specify the size of an object. In addition, this feature allows you to experiment with transformations without affecting the original object.
     I am one engraver who uses the Transformation docker routinely. It is a quick and convenient way to access many of the day-to-day commands that I use in my work. Many of these same commands can be accessed in other areas of CorelDRAW, but they don’t allow you the same precision that they do in the Transformation docker. If you want to speed up your work flow and have access to a variety of commands in one place then I suggest you familiarize yourself with this feature.
     Well, that does it for this two-part mini series on transforming objects using the Transformation docker. I hope it has been informative and that it gives you the ground work to go out and master this powerful command set. Keep practicing and I’ll be back with another CorelDRAW
feature next month.