Focus on Graphics and Imaging

Standing at the very edge of the 20th Century, it would be pretty safe to say that the statement "there is a lot happening on the Web these days" would easily qualify as the understatement of the century. This is even evidenced in the new versions of tried and true graphics and imaging programs. They no longer focus only on print design, but now incorporate Web design elements as well. In this month’s Focus On, we look at some of these graphics and imaging programs. Some are relatively new, others are old friends with new capabilities and new uses. All of them can help make you look like a design pro, either on the printed page or on the Web.

Standing at the very edge of the 20th Century, it would be pretty safe to say that the statement "there is a lot happening on the Web these days" would easily qualify as the understatement of the century. This is even evidenced in the new versions of tried and true graphics and imaging programs. They no longer focus only on print design, but now incorporate Web design elements as well. In this month’s Focus On, we look at some of these graphics and imaging programs. Some are relatively new, others are old friends with new capabilities and new uses. All of them can help make you look like a design pro, either on the printed page or on the Web.

Shells Interactive’s 3D Dreams 2.0 for Macromedia Director lets you create and deliver high-quality 3D content over the Internet. The program expands on Director’s linear capabilities, giving users full 3D imaging functions. It can be used to produce media-rich, animated, fully interactive real-time 3D content, creating more compelling Web experiences. Modem users can appreciate the richness of this content in files as small as normal Web graphics.

The new patent-pending Persona component architecture empowers 3D Dreams authors to create inoperable program elements and reuse them in Director projects without complex messaging or dependencies. It features an intuitive interface that is completely integrated into Director for ease of use. The program supports transparent 3D Studio Max importing, translucency, fog and colored light effects.

Optimized for the Intel Pentium III processor, it requires a 166MHz or faster Pentium processor, 24MB RAM (32MB recommended), high color (16-bit color) mode or higher, and 20MB of free disk space. 3D Dreams and the Internet Player require Windows95/98 or Windows NT 4.0 SP4, Direct X v. 3 or later, and Macromedia Director 6 or 7.

From Corel comes the CorelDRAW 9 Graphics Suite, which includes CorelDRAW 9, Photo-Paint 9, Bitstream Font Navigator, CorelTRACE, Corel Texture, Corel Capture and Canto Cumulus Desktop. The release is Corel’s flagship graphics program and has professional-level features and creation tools while remaining reasonably priced and simple to use.

CorelDRAW 9 is a powerful vector illustration and page layout application that provides a full range of creation tools, innovative effects and high-quality output features. Photo-Paint 9 is a comprehensive photo-editing, image composition and painting application. There are a number of improvements to both models found in this suite. Some of these are: publish to PDF features; enhanced EPS and PSD file format support; the ability for users to embed ICC profiles into various file formats, giving greater control over the entire color management process; multiple on-screen color palettes; and Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications 6 support. The program is optimized for Windows 95/98 and NT 4.0 and requires a Pentium 133 processor, 32MB RAM (64MB recommended) and 100MB hard drive space for installation.

The recently introduced Fireworks 3 from Macromedia is a great tool for Web graphics design and production. It offers a complete environment for editing and manipulating bitmap images, including support for digital cameras and scanners. Resolution independent vectors allow for quick creation of buttons and objects that can be resized without a quality loss.

A preview function allows you to quickly preview work in one place without ever having to leave the workspace. By clicking on the preview tab in the workspace, users can see the graphics as they would be seen in the browser. Other features include: ability to import Photoshop files; complete text control; slicing and image optimization; native color correction filters; ability to create animated GIFs; a history palette to eliminate repetitive tasks; a symbols library and more.

Also from Macromedia is Freehand 8, a program that lets designers move easily between print, screen-based delivery and Web site design. It is designed to combine the sophisticated design sensibility expected from print design, with the animation and interactivity that is the norm on the Internet.

FreeHand users can create translucent graphics, overlay transparent vector objects on bitmaps, and vary the levels of opacity, transparent colors and other attributes at any time. The Freeform editing tools can be used to push and pull shapes in a very intuitive manner. One-button effects like automatic drop shadows, embosses and kaleidoscopic reflection effects make the program effective and easy to use.

Photoshop 5.5 is the newest version of Adobe’s well-known image editing software. It integrates Adobe’s ImageReady 2.0 Web production component to make Photoshop viable for Web design as well as print design. New features of the program set out to make Web design smooth and easy. There are advanced optimizing and graphic compression capabilities, as well as more advanced features for things like JavaScript rollovers, animation and image slicing.

Multiple LiveView panels in the software’s new Save for the Web window help designers find the best compression options, translating into shorter download times and higher-quality Web graphics. The new Lossy GIF feature dramatically reduces file size with minimal loss of image quality. Users can quickly create instant transparency with the color decontamination capabilities of the new Background Eraser and Extract Image tools. Another interesting new tool is the Art History Brush, a function that allows users to interactively apply realistic paint strokes.

In addition to Photoshop, Adobe serves up InDesign, a page-layout program that delivers creative freedom, productivity and precision. Document-wide layers help users organize and manage design elements or set up different versions of a product in one file. A handy Keyboard Shortcut Editor customizes keyboard shortcuts to suit the habits or needs of the user. Student or faculty designers can also feel free to experiment knowing they can undo and redo multiple steps.

When it comes to typography and layout, controls range from optical kerning controls and automatic ligatures to a multi-line composer for automatically setting optimal line-breaks. Additionally, document grids, baseline grids and ruler guides provide flexible options for positioning and aligning objects.

—Jim Schneider
jschneider@thejournal.com

 

Contact Information

3D Dreams 2.0
Shells Interactive, Ltd.
Los Angeles, CA
(310) 826-4444
www.doitin3d.com

CorelDRAW 9 Graphics Suite
Corel Corp.
Ottawa, Canada
(888) 267-3548
www.corel.com

Fireworks 3
Freehand 8
Macromedia
San Francisco, CA
(800) 209-7186
www.macromedia.com

Photoshop 5.5
InDesign

Adobe Systems Inc.
San Jose, CA
(800) 833-6687
www.adobe.com

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.

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