Editing vector-based shapes is part of the daily routine for many graphic designers, and smart QuarkXPress users have been making the most of the Bézier pen tools that Quark added to QuarkXPress in version 4. (For those of you who are counting, that was 11 years ago.)
Now, because of the changes Quark made to QuarkXPress 8, it’s much more likely that designers will discover these Pen tools and forego a trip to Adobe Illustrator. The tools are now featured in a prominent place in the Tools palette, and they now behave the same way as the equivalent tools do in Illustrator.
While Quark’s Bézier tools aren’t designed to replace the other design applications you rely on, they are powerful enough to easily create complex vector-based objects, saving you the time and trouble of switching applications just to create them. More complex designs will likely still require Illustrator, but the vast majority of common objects can be created right inside QuarkXPress.
The Bézier tool set includes Add and Remove point tools, along with Convert Point, Scissors, Select Point, and Freehand Drawing tools. It also includes straight and curved line segments, and symmetrical, smooth and corner points. Point and line segments can be changed once they are created, so you don’t have to worry if you start a line or shape with corner points when you really wanted smooth points instead.
In fact, you can use these tools to customize the shapes of letters: just convert your text to picture boxes by choosing Item> Convert to Boxes. You can then tug and pull on the shapes to make them fit your vision.
To create a line, start by selecting the Add Point Bézier tool, and then click where you want the points on your line to appear. Double-clicking ends the line, and Double-clicking on the starting point creates a closed shape. The Add Point Bézier tool is smart, too. Clicking on an already created line adds a new point, and clicking on an existing point removes it — no special keyboard combination’s required.
Need to change the properties of a point or line segment? Use the Select Point tool to grab the part you want to modify, and go to the Classic tab in the Measurements Palette to make the changes.
Just like Illustrator, you can grab segments to move them. Anchor points have handles so you can change corner angles and arcs; shapes can be scaled and rotated; and you can fill shapes with colors or even with other objects. If this sounds a lot like the way Adobe Illustrator works, that’s because it is.
Integration With Adobe Illustrator
Before you dump Illustrator for QuarkXPress 8’s Bézier tools, however, be sure to find out what the output requirements are for your project. Some print providers, especially in the screen printing market, require Illustrator-native files and won’t be pleased to receive QuarkXPress documents.
The good news is that if you export your file to EPS or PDF format, it can be opened by Illustrator with full vector editability maintained, so anyone with Illustrator can convert and use your vector drawing. Just use the new Export button at the bottom left of your project window:
QuarkXPress 8’s Bézier tools are especially powerful because the perform they way you expect, but they aren’t bogged down with overly complex features. They may not keep you from launching Adobe Illustrator, but they will cut down on the time you spend there.
Jeff Gamet is a contributing editor for Design Tools Monthly, the executive summary of graphic design news. He is also the morning editor and reviews editor for The Mac Observer and iPodObserver.com, and contributing writer for Layers Magazine and Photoshop User. He writes the InBrief column for InDesign Magazine, and is the author of “The Designer’s Guide to Mac OS X,” from Peachpit Press
When Jeff isn’t writing about the graphic design world, he’s talking about it on the Design Tools Weekly podcast with co-host Jay Nelson. He also talks about Apple and the Mac world every week on The Mac Observer’s Apple Weekly Report.
Jeff studies, tests and reviews new software and technologies for the Macintosh community as well as the design and print industries. He is a former Pre-press specialist, and has nearly 25 years experience with computer technology. Jeff trains, lectures and consults on techniques for more efficiently using Mac OS X in creative environments throughout the country.
In the rare moments when he can get away from his MacBook Pro, Jeff spends his time climbing and biking in the Colorado mountains.