CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2017 is aiming to boost productivity using artificial intelligence, whilst encouraging artists and designers to bin the pen and paper. Images met Gérard Métrailler for a one-to-one demo of the new software

Gérard Métrailler, Corel’s VP of products, is waving about a pot of PlayDoh in a meeting room at Birmingham NEC. He’s enthusiastically explaining how the new LiveSketch tool, an intelligent piece of software that uses a neural network and is part of the new CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2017, allows designers to sketch designs with a stylus straight on to their computer as a vector file. He says the tool allows them to make whatever they want, much as he and his daughter were able to when playing with PlayDoh recently. It allows freedom of expression – and an immediate vector file. There is no sketching of the design on paper first then using mathematical formula to create the same pattern on the screen. Its simplicity is very appealing.

The new CorelDraw Graphic Suite release in April has packed in a number of features that aim to speed up productivity for printers, embroiderers and sign makers. (It is also integrated into the latest release of EmbroideryStudio from Wilcom, the e4.) “It’s very important for us to understand the user workflow,” explains Gérard. “We spend a lot of time in the industry: we go to shows and also do onsite visits, and we have an advisory council to help understand what the workflow of the user is. We know our users are paid by the job and not by the hour of having fun with the graphics software, so we want their process to be done as fast as possible.”

LiveSketch is the most revolutionary feature in this update, explains Gérard. “It has been in development at Corel for quite a while and it’s something that has taken us a while to get just right.

“If you look at how graphic designers work today, they’re still using mathematical formulas when they think about graphic design; they think about mathematical curves, Bézier curves, b-splines and nodes – but they’re still going to pen and paper to do the first sketch. We believe that thanks to the technology that exists today – the hardware, the latest devices and the latest development when it comes to artificial intelligence – you can have technology disappear and really have fun on the screen directly.

Each node type is assigned a unique shape, making it easy to identify

Custom colours can be chosen for nodes, handles, and previews

The Knife tool allows for the speedy, accurate splitting of objects

“[With LiveSketch] you can very naturally sketch in a unique way that was never possible on a computer before. When we show this for the first time to a graphic designer, for a few minutes they try to do the standard curve and go through the dots and think the math, then suddenly they let go and you see their eyes open up and think ‘This is cool!’. And they’re just sketching and drawing and having fun and experiencing designing on a computer like never before. And this is so exciting for them. It does the mathematical thinking for them.”

Cutting to the chase

Another useful and practical tool for garment decorators is the knife tool, which has been updated for 2017. Gérard says it has proved very popular with users as it allows them to split objects, either to create a gap or to overlay them. An example of this might be on a shirt, when you want an embroidered or printed design across a placket to look whole when the shirt is buttoned up. By splitting it into two objects and moving it apart the exact spacing needed, it can then be printed (or embroidered) perfectly with no gaps showing when worn. “This is a huge timesaver,” he says. “This is the type of tool that enables our users to do things faster.

Another big change is the redesigning of nodes and handles so they’re easier to see and manipulate. In previous versions of CorelDraw, with certain backgrounds it could be difficult to see nodes and lines. “In CorelDraw 2017, we have the capability of customising the nodes,” explains Gérard as he selects a new tool to change the nodes on the screen in front of us. “I’m using a large node right now so it’s easier to see on the screen, even from far away.” The shape of the node can also be changed and even the colour. “A flashy yellow might work best and perhaps a flashy green, because I don’t use those colours in my design so they are very easy to see. Before that, what users were doing was putting all the background as a separate layer, hiding that layer, working on their thing, showing the layer to make sure it looks right, etc. It was a very lengthy process. With this tool, you can quickly go in, change everything and you’re good to go. We spent a lot of time making the tool as intuitive and as fast as possible to use.”

The Font list box helps you quickly find the perfect font. Credit: Joe Diaz

A final point that must be discussed here is the Font Manager. “Our users love fonts, they have collections of fonts, they have thousands of fonts, tens of thousands of fonts – but they never find them again, because they’re all in a folder and Windows isn’t good at indexing.” The redeveloped Font Manager 2017 enables users to find fonts intuitively and easily, explains Gérard. “I can index all the fonts I have on my system. The green ones are installed in the Windows folder and the ones in yellow are not installed in the system, they’re just in a folder somewhere on my computer. So, I can know about them, I can use them in my graphic designs, but I don’t need to slow down every other Windows application, because when you put too many fonts in the Windows folder then every single application will render that long list every time you try to set up a font. You don’t need to do that now.”

CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2017 is available to buy as a perpetual licence or on a subscription basis, whichever best suits your business. Readers can download a free 15-day trial via the Corel website.

www.coreldraw.com

STEP-BY-STEP: VECTOR DRAWING WITH LIVESKETCH

1. LiveSketch in CorelDraw 2017 is ideal to kick-start a project. You can now enjoy a natural and organic vector drawing experience, directly on your screen or pen tablet

2. Designed for a stylus, LiveSketch combines the speed of sketching with flexible stroke-adjustment controls, so you can begin your designs on your computer as easily as on paper

3. Using the LiveSketch tool, strokes can be adjusted and combined with existing vector curves, allowing you to draw shapes on the fly

4. LiveSketch uses artificial intelligence to understand different drawing styles and smart stroke editing, whether you use folded strokes, chicken scratch strokes or overlapping strokes

5. The new functionality is aimed at making artists more creative, and also at eliminating the time-consuming task of sketching on paper, scanning, and tracing to vector

6. You can customise LiveSketch by setting the timer to allow more time to manipulate your stroke

7. Strokes created with the LiveSketch tool are adjusted and added to existing curves based on the time and distance between them

8. Once the design is complete, with an extensive list of export formats, it’s easy to create once and reuse for many different projects and output

9. A hand drawn design that was created in CorelDraw 2017 and LiveSketch and applied to a variety of different products