Photo Import, Masking, and Shadow

I photographed my desk chair with my iPad 2. Then e-mailed the photo to myself. Then I pulled in my photo of the desk chair and proceeded to test with my wireless mouse to see if you could do like in Photoshop and use the soap and rope to painfully create a mask. Using a mouse to create a mask, to me, is always going to be a little bit painful. But it did work and it works fairly well. This first image shows my preliminary mask. This is before I did any revisions to the mask. I didn’t like the mask. But I knew I could fix it. So I saved my file as a new name. And I proceeded to revise the mask that I had created in the first file.
(Please hover mouse over photos to see extra infomation)
This is another example of strokes made by the brush tool. From beads on a string to artistic strokes of color. This brush tool is not only interesting right out of the box, but you can customize the brushes and add your own flair. Remember to hover over the various images on the left to pull up other cool samples of this tool.
As you can see in this next image I cleaned up the mask. And was able to use the Xara shadow tool to give a slight drop shadow for the desk chair. I was able to clean up the mask with just a mouse and some determination.

Brush Tool: The Unsung Xara Art Tool

So for me the burning question was how well was the Xara program going to work with my Wacom tablet? The answer is very well! Here I’m going to dive into more information about the brush tool. Mostly because I find this most interesting. And I haven’t really seen this advertised as a big feature -- however, I find it a fascinating feature that gets underreported. Once you choose the brush tool from the flyout tool list -- these are two settings across the top that I find absolutely essential for using the brush tool as a beautiful vector digital brush. It’s the third icon down and the first one on the left. When you hover over that image you’ll see two of the three icons across the top that for me, are essential to having a good experience using a pressure sensitive pen. When you’re selecting the shape of the brush stroke, one of your choices can be pressure sensitive pen. These other two buttons on your brush tool property bar are useful for me.
Now in the image beneath the playful Picasso signature, I have two separate versions of a square root of 100 that I drew. The first one was done with sketch mode on. The one on the bottom was drawn with sketch mode off. This is to drive home the importance of sketch mode when your intent is to “sketch”.
Here are a number of samples created with the brush tool and the pressure sensitive Wacom tablet. From the test strokes on the left to the imaginary Chinese styled word. Each of those lines is a vector line made with the Xara brush tool and the Wacom Intuos 5. Like all vector images you can resize the line and it looks just as sharp with small dimensions as it does with large dimensions. I’ll show you some other things you can do with those line art objects that we drew in a moment. But I was having fun drawing these so maybe you’ll have fun looking at them.

Xara Brush Tool samples

Here we have 2 sides of a heart made with the phonecord brush. I then grouped the 2 pieces and used the shadow tool -- specifically the shadow against a wall tool. If you want to change the color of the shadow or glow, you can just select shadow and take your mouse to the color control box in the bottom left corner of the screen. This will bring up a dialog that allows you to dynamically change the colors in real time. Dynamic changes in real time are a hallmark of doing work in Xara and it’s the number one reason I can get work done faster in Xara than in any other program.
One of the features I love most about Xara is the status line along the bottom. It tells me what I have selected with my mouse and what layer it’s on. It will even tell me how many characters and words are in a text box. The only other program that I recall uses a status line along the bottom is Corel Draw. That’s actually not a coincidence since at one time Corel Draw and Corel Xara lived under the same roof. Both programs are still awesome and I love working with both. In Xara, the status line is such a godsend. If you have a tool selected, the status line will give you tips on how to get the most out of the tool. If you have an object selected, it will tell you how you can maniuplate the object that you have selected.

Sketch mode helps with “sketching” with brush tool

Dynamic changes in real time eliminate guesswork

Status line along bottom of screen keeps you oriented

Brush strokes can be more than just ink on paper

(for your information: WYSIWYG means What You See Is What You Get) This entire page has been created within Xara Designer Pro X. I’ve been able to use rulers, guidelines, paragraph text boxes, text styles, mouseover layers, I think of this as a graphic design program with the ability to build web pages. I was able to easily duplicate objects to reuse later in the page by right mouse clicking and dragging to quickly and easily duplicate. (this is a tip that you get from starting the program when you load it) So many of the start up tips are actually useful instead of obscure. Below you’ll find a sample widget for displaying photographs. To change the main pic on the left, you have to click on the one you want to see on the right. There is just so much available in this program, I can’t cover it all in one review. I hope to have a follow up review coming out in the next 30-60 days that covers some of the “new” stuff and other important features that I missed in this review. Until that time, you can look over the Xara site’s list and explanation of the “new features” Hopefully I’ve been able to show you that you don’t have to be a Xara developer to get fascinating and fun results out of using Xara.

Creating WYSIWYG webpages with Xara Designer Pro X

if you want to read more of my thoughts on “Xara or Photoshop?”,  you might be interested in my response in the Battle Red Blog forum. My handle there is Battle Red Fan and I was answering a fellow reader’s question about whether he should get Photoshop or Paintshop Pro for his simple needs. I suggested Xara because it’s just so easy to use and useful to me, I much prefer to use it over a number of other programs. paintshoppro I look forward to doing more reviews for this site and maybe I’ll get to hear from any of my readers here. Thanks for visiting! Athena

A Thought Posted elsewhere about ”Xara or Photoshop ?”

Background First I want to cover some background about Xara and me. I grew up using CorelDRAW. So I’m very familiar with CorelDRAW’s intuitive nature. I learned about Xara at a presentation about CorelDRAW. From that point I fell in love with Corel Xara. This zippy little program was a master of anti-aliasing. I felt so liberated by how easy it was to use Xara. And all the cool effects you could do in Xara. The fill technology alone remains unmatched in my opinion. I still look back in fondness on the design I came up with for Corel magazine competition. I still love that design. I’m constantly amazed at how beautiful the designs come out by using Xara. Full Disclosure A bit more about disclosure. Xara did give me free copies of Xara Designer Pro X and Xara Photo and Graphic Designer to review. Since I tend to love Xara software, you might find a benevolent slant to this. However, I do hope to be as objective as possible given my great affection for this program. What I intend to do for reviews on this site will be to tell you if this is a product that I would in fact buy given my limited budget. Things I would recommend are those things that bring value given the money that you end up spending on them. Reasons versus excuses One of my dear friends once told me that if I come up with a decision and then I backtrack and figure out things to support my decision – then those things are actually excuses. They are excuses because I came up with them after I made the decision.  If I cite things that lead me to a conclusion, then those are reasons. Hopefully I’ll be able to give you reasons to like or dislike this product.

My Background With Xara and Full Disclosure

Yes I would buy Xara Designer Pro X I have bought Xara products before. I have also bought the predecessor to this version. And I’ve always been pleased by the quality of Xara’s quality control as far as product release. I even remember with grattitude how within a month? Very soon (like within the first quarter after Windows 7’s release) after the relase of Windows 7, Xara did an update to their current best version of Xara Designer and it suddenly became very stable and even faster than before IN the new Windows 7 Operating System. So even if you are moving to Windows 8 soon, I can speak from previous experience, Xara will do their best to be ready for the next iteration of Windows. And they’ll do it well. In the case of my version of Xara getting updated to take the most advantage of the new operating system, my fonts loaded more smoothly and quickly than ever before. It was as if it was taking advantage of multiple processors. As a long time customer of Xara, I can tell you that you will be happy with your purchase if you decide to get it.

Bottom Line: Would I buy this program?

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