QuarkXPress How-To: Working with the Bézier and Freehand Tools

This story is taken from "Inside QuarkX-Press" (Element K Journals).


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Although QuarkXPress isn't technically a drawing program, the engineering of Bézier and Freehand tools in version 4 certainly opened a world of opportunity and creativity for many users. As shown in Figure A, it's possible to produce graphics beyond that of ordinary geometric shapes using a combination of just these tools in QuarkXPress. As with all tools, though, you probably won't be able to just select one and create a masterpiece. They require a little practice, patience and understanding. But before you know it, they'll enable you to create professionally drawn Bézier items and, consequently, design better-looking pages than ever before.


Figure A: The Bézier and Freehand tools in QuarkXPress enable you to create graphics beyond ordinary geometric shapes.

Where to Begin?
We can't provide you with patience, but stick with us and you'll get the practice and understanding you need to use the Bézier and Freehand tools in QuarkXPress. In this article, we'll start with a little history on the origin of the term Bézier. Then we'll introduce you to the various Bézier and Freehand tools in QuarkXPress so you become more familiar with them and understand their underlying principles. Lastly, we'll show you how to control and ma-nipulate the tools and the paths they create. Upon this article's completion, you should have a reasonable level of understanding of these handy tools.

What Exactly is a Bézier?
The term Bézier (BAY-z-aye) stems from the name of mathematician Pierre Bézier, who formulated principles upon which vector objects are based. In simple terms, his theory states that all shapes are composed of segments and points. Segments may be either curved or straight while their condition and shape are controlled by properties of the points that join them. A collection of two or more points that form a straight or curved segment is referred to as a path. Two or more paths combined to form a broken or non-continuous series of segments and points are called a compound path. And that's your math lesson for today.

The Right Tool for the Job
Bézier drawing supports Pierre's theory with the inclusion of the four Bézier tools and four Freehand tools shown in Figure B. Both sets of tools create items based on line segments and points, but each has a slightly different purpose.


Figure B: Each Bézier and Freehand tool has its own unique quality and function.

For example, Freehand tools can be used to draw Bézier text boxes, picture boxes, lines and text paths of any shape. However, they're kind of hard to draw with and, therefore, best left for drawing items that aren't meant to be precise. Bézier tools can be used to create the same inventory of items but offer point-by-point control, which enables you to do more precise drawing. Bézier tools also enable you to create fewer points than a Freehand tool. This is advantageous because the more points on a path, the more difficult it is to edit, the more memory it consumes, and the more time it takes to print.

Anatomy of a Bézier Path
Before you grapple too hard with using these tools, it may help you to know a bit about the onscreen information provided by QuarkXPress that reflects the points and segments they create. As mentioned earlier, line segments are either straight or curved, as shown in Figure C. Straight segments are joined end to end with corner points, while curved segments are controlled by the properties of their adjoining smooth or symmetrical points.


Figure C: Curved and/or straight segments are connected with points to create a path that forms a shape.

Every smooth and symmetrical point created with a Bézier or Freehand tool has two curve handles. One handle controls the shape of the preceding segment, while the other controls the shape of the segment to follow. The exception to this rule is the first and last points of an open path, known as endpoints, drawn with a Freehand line tool, which have only one curve han-dle to control their respective segments. The different characteristics of each type of point are as follows:

  • Corner point.This type of point connects two straight lines, a straight line and a curved line or two non-continuous curved lines. Both segments on either side of a corner point can be manipulated independently. Corner points don't have curve handles unless converted from a smooth or symmetrical point.
  • Smooth point.

As the name sug-gests, a smooth point creates a smooth transition between two curved segments, as shown in Figure D. Its curve handles can be sized individually to edit the shape of the segments it joins but always remain in alignment to keep the curved segment continuous.


Figure D: Smooth points create continuous curved line segments.

Symmetrical point. This type of point forces the curved segment on either side of it to be equal in slope and angle, as shown in Figure E. A symmetrical point's curve handles are always aligned and an equal distance to each other so both segments remain symmetrical.

Figure E: Symmetrical points create equal, continuous curved segments.

Defining Points and Segments
Both Bézier and Freehand tools can be used to create Bézier items, but their methodology is somewhat different. While the Freehand tools create Bézier items according to how you drag the mouse, the Bézier tools create items based on the mouse action involved in creating the points.
As shown in Figure F, a single click on the page with the Bézier Text Box tool creates a cor-ner point. A second click creates another corner point with a straight segment between them. Next, a click-and-drag action with the mouse creates a curved segment with a smooth point.


Figure F: Using the Bézier Text Box tool, try to re-create this figure.

As you click and drag to create a new point, several things occur in the background. To begin with, where you first click the mouse defines that point's position and the resulting path's starting point. As you hold down the mouse and continue to drag, you're no longer holding the actual point; rather, you're dragging the curved segment's curve handle.

Curve handles can be rotated 360 degrees around its point. Where you release the curve handle defines the starting angle of the next segment you create. As you drag the curve handle, you'll see that it stretches back and forth like a rubber band. The distance you create between the curve handle and its point affects the severity of the angle for the following segment.

An Open or Shut Case
At this point, you might have lost sight of your ultimate goal, which is to create an open or closed Bézier path. A line is an open path and a box is a closed path. Bézier and Freehand box tools always create closed paths. Bézier and Freehand line tools always create open paths.

To close an open path, you must join the endpoints, after which you can fill the resulting box with a picture, text or color -- depending on the definition of its content (Picture, Text or None) -- just as you can with all boxes in QuarkXPress. The method for closing a path depends on the tool you use to create the path.

To close a path created with a Bézier or Free-hand line tool, select the path with the Item tool, hold down the [option] key ([Alt] key in Windows), and then choose Item > Shape > Bézier. Another option is to select the endpoints and then choose Join Endpoints from the Merge command in the Item menu. And, although Bézier Text Box and Picture Box tools automatically close paths after you select a different tool or double-click on the page, you can specify where you want to close a path by simply positioning the crosshair pointer over the first point and then clicking on it with the resulting Close Box pointer.

Selecting and Editing Paths
Knowing how points and line segments can be moved and transformed is also necessary if you're to fully understand Bézier drawing. Ed-iting the points and segments of a completed path can be frustrating if you don't know how (and sometimes even if you do).

To edit a selected path, you must use either the Item or Content tool. However, if you choose either tool before you complete your path, QuarkXPress assumes you're done drawing and ends the session. You can get around this by pressing the [command] key ([Ctrl] key in Windows) to activate the Arrow pointer or a Bézier Reshaping pointer with which you can edit your path. Release the modifier key after you finish editing to resume drawing. Once you draw a Bézier path on your page, you may assign other properties to it, such as line width and styles (dashes and stripes), arrowheads and color. To do this, simply double-click on the item to open the Modify dialog box and access the Box and Frame tabs.

Tip: While drawing with Bézier and Freehand tools, there are many modifier keys you can use to help you work more proficiently. You'll find the key combinations and the com-mands they modify listed in Table A of the sidebar "Using modifier keys to manipulate Bézier paths."

After a path is completed, you can reposition the entire path, or just certain points and segments, using either the Item or Content tool. You'll find it easier to move a path if you deselect the Shape option from the Edit command's pop-up menu, found in the Item menu. To move just a point, simply select it and then drag (or use the Arrow keys). The shape of curved segments can also be edited by click-dragging the curve handles of the points that join them. In addition, straight segments can be converted to curves and vice versa, and points can be changed between corner, smooth and symmetrical states.

While a point or segment is selected, the Point/Segment Type command's options, found in the Item menu, are available to assist you with much of this editing. But perhaps the most accessible means for editing paths is the Measurements palette (press [F9] to display it), shown in Figure G. This palette features fields for entering exact point and handle page posi-tions, buttons to set the condition of points and segments, and more. The exact function of each field in the Measurements palette that displays while a point or segment is selected is as follows:


Figure G: The Measurements palette provides quick access to nearly all properties of selected points and segments.

X and Y. These two fields display the current vertical and horizontal upper-left page position (relative to your ruler origin) of an invisible bounding box surrounding your se-lected path. To move the path, simply enter a new value and then press the [enter] key. W and H.These two options set the overall width and height of a selected path. To change the scale of your path, enter the new value and then press the [enter] key. Angle. This option enables you to rotate the selected item. Positive values rotate the path counterclockwise, while negative val-ues rotate the path clockwise. XP and YP. These two abbrevia-tions represent the vertical and horizontal page position of the selected point (relative to your ruler origin). For precision positioning, enter a new value and press the [enter] key to apply it to your path. Curve Handle Angle. This upper area of the two right-most fields represents the starting angle of the curved segments. The left angle field controls the curve handle affecting the preceding segment, while the right angle field controls the curve handle for the segment to follow. Curve Handle Position. The two right-most fields below the Curve Handle Angle fields enable you to specify the curve handle distance from its point. Changing a curve handle's position changes the angle and, therefore, the overall shape of the curved segment it defines.

Also on the Measurements palette, and be-tween the path and point options, are five but-tons that enable you to change the type of a selected point or line segment. The three buttons on the top enable you to change selected point(s) to symmetrical, smooth or corner points, respectively. The two buttons below enable you to change selected segments from (or to) curved or straight segments.

Drawing a Conclusion
That's a lot of information in a short amount of space but, that's pretty much all you need to know about the Bézier and Freehand tools in QuarkXPress. Although using these tools may seem intimidating and cumbersome at first, combining the background information here with a little practical experience on your part should soon have you using them like a pro!

This story is taken from "Inside QuarkX-Press" (Element K Journals).


Creativepro.com readers can subscribe to Element K Journals at a discount. Click here to learn more.

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