Font tools

CorelDraw from A to E: Hands-On Fonting in Corel—The Sequel

Jim Sadler is a former university professor of computer graphics and a freelance designer. He is currently offering his services as a consultant within the industry. He brings together his expertise in design, computer graphics and industry-related technologies with his ability to communicate through teaching, technical assistance and of course through writing for A&E Magazine. Jim can be reached by e-mail at His web address is

This column is being written to demonstrate practical uses of CorelDraw for those working within the awards and engraving industry. For those new to Corel, I suggest concentrating on the basics from books, media, seminars or tutoring, with the aim of becoming productive as soon as possible. Earn while you learn. And the most effective way to learn is by repeated use, gaining proficiency and then moving forward adding new skills. These articles try to focus on skills relevant to our readers’ needs. Procedure descriptions are somewhat generic due to wide variation in Corel versions. Consult your version documentation as needed.

In the last issue, I demonstrated how to use CorelDraw to arrange letters to form words and explored some of the tools used in making that happen. Now it’s on to lines, paragraphs and the whole page. The tools for working with fonts are all there in Corel. It’s a matter of understanding what you are trying to do and letting the tools help you achieve that in an efficient manner.

Lines and Paragraphs

The Paragraph Text tool is your tool of choice whenever multiple paragraphs appear on a page. Simply choose the tool and click and drag to form a box in which the multiple paragraphs will appear. The text in these boxes can be changed universally by selecting the entire text or by selecting specific text. The box not only keeps the paragraphs aligned, but it can hold more text than can be seen within the box, can be linked to other text boxes to allow the hidden text to flow from one box to another, and it allows the text to wrap to fit as the box dimensions are adjusted in size. There are convenient tools built into the Paragraph Text frames that help make this linking of text boxes easy to do on the fly. (Image 1)

The Paragraph tab of the Text dialogue box or docker also controls the amount of space that appears between lines and paragraphs. When a paragraph is selected, increasing or decreasing the amount in the Line box will increase or decrease the distance between lines in the paragraph. To increase or decrease the amount of space before or after a paragraph, increase or decrease the amount in the Before Paragraph or After Paragraph boxes. (Image 2)

The space between lines in a paragraph is called Leading, a term harkening back to the days of metal type. How much or how little leading to use depends on several factors including the font, font size, and the line length or column width. Since the viewer is concentrating on content, the goal is to make the reading as distraction free as possible. Lines that have too little space between them after considering all of the above factors feel cramped and uncomfortable to read, perhaps even causing the reader to jump ahead a line. Lines that are spaced too far apart feel disconnected with the jump to the next line being too great, causing a break in the reading flow. Lines that are well spaced given the specific circumstances feel comfortable to read. (Image 3)

Normally, when there is a lot of related text, there is no need to increase the amount of space between paragraphs. A relatively small indent is generally all that is needed at the beginning of each paragraph—a simple spatial cue to let the reader know that one thought has been completed and the next one begun. Generally, it is unnecessary to overdo the indent since that introduces blank white space that can become a distraction to the reader. There are times, however, when space between paragraphs can make it easier for readers to pick out the relevant information, or when you want the paragraphs to be more independent of one another. If you add space between paragraphs, there is no point in also including an indent.

There really is no formula since each project is unique, but a lot of consideration needs to be given to how the reader will experience the reading process and take the necessary steps to optimize that experience. (Image 4)

The Page

Ultimately, we need to take all of our elements—headlines, text graphics and images—and organize them within a specific space or page. Usually that space is a rectangle, though not always, but somehow we need to make the most out of the space we’ve chosen or inherited.

One thing to keep in mind is structure, and in this kind of organization, that structure is largely invisible. For instance, a paragraph is made up of individual characters, arranged in such a way as to imply a straight horizontal line and several of these evenly spaced implied lines are arranged so that they all line up on the left (most often), and that forms an implied vertical line. In fact, there are no visible lines, but our eyes fill in the blanks and experience them as structural lines. This kind of ordering makes it easy for us to determine what on the page is where so we can quickly find what information we are interested in (order versus chaos). (Image 5)

The key word here is alignment, and Corel provides us with an Align tool along with guidelines and grids that appear on the page when we want them to but do not get exported for output (printing, engraving, etc.). Their purpose is solely to help us organize our page elements. Alignment can also be done numerically by creating common X and Y coordinates in the Properties bar of a selected text box.

Some designers construct elaborate grids using guidelines, etc., to help organize the elements (text, graphics images, headlines) on their pages, while others rely more on their instincts and use guidelines to fine-tune the placement of the page elements. Either way, the guidelines are turned off in the end and the structural framework of the layout becomes invisible, leaving only the page elements in place.

There is one aspect of page design that is not controlled at all by any special tool, though the Nudge tool often comes in handy for making fine adjustments. The aspect I refer to is what I call visual force field or gravity. On earth, we can’t see gravity but we can experience it any time we try to jump. Likewise, gravitational pulls are not visible on the page but can nonetheless be experienced. An empty rectangle has implied gravitational pulls most strongly felt in the page corners and center, and each element we place on a page also has its own gravitational pull. Try to watch out for that visual gravity because it can be a great organizational ally. (Image 5)

A simple example is how a headline gets placed in relation to a paragraph and the top of a page. If the space between the headline and top of the page is smaller than between the headline and the paragraph, then the headline will be pulled away from the paragraph, making the page feel disorganized. Reverse that space allocation, and the paragraph and headline will feel united on the page. Awareness of these visual pulls or tensions can be especially useful in organizing complex text information so that it can be easily comprehended. (Image 7)

Each of the elements on a page has its own pull in relation to the other page elements and the page as a whole, so one goal is to balance those pulls so they make sense in terms of what is being communicated. The viewer will feel that organization and will be able to maneuver around the page with ease and therefore will be able to focus on the message.

All of the elements on a page using CorelDraw can be freely adjusted in terms of size, color, position, rotation, etc., using a host of familiar tools. Such adjustments play a critical role in page design and are a hallmark of a vector object environment. Such versatility makes possible the development of graphic space within the page. So far, we’ve been considering the two-dimensional aspect of organizing a page. I use the word graphic because letterforms are flat, two-dimensional objects that face us head-on and stand upright for the most part. They are intricately tied to the empty two-dimensional space (up, down, side-to-side) they sit in. As they form words, sentences and paragraphs, that space is reinforced and thus sets the tone of the whole design whenever we use letterforms. The gravity or force field described above is an aspect of that two-dimensional space.

However, a tangible sense of three-dimensional space can be formed by arranging the elements in particular ways. Such arrangement adds a front-to-back dimension to the design that opens up many other possibilities for organization. For instance, if I have a headline and a paragraph, by manipulating the size, color, positioning, etc., of each, I can make the headline appear closer in front of the paragraph, or farther in back of it. A paragraph, even if the type is solid black, appears as a flat shape, gray in color, due to the optical mixing of the black strokes and surrounding white background. Making the headline darker and larger tends to make it come forward in space. Making the type smaller and in a lighter gray tends to make it move back in space behind the paragraph. (Image 8)

Of course, the space that appears real is only an illusion, but the history of art and design is made up of endless examples of such convincing illusions, which we humans have been fascinated by since the beginning of time. In fact, a flat rectangular surface has only two-dimensions—height and width—but a great number of techniques can be employed, including the above method, to create the illusion of a third dimension. The result of creating such illusions is added visual interest and real estate. By real estate, I mean that the page elements are no longer confined to two dimensions but can move forward and back in space as well, thus opening up the page.

CorelDraw provides the tools that make any of this possible. Our challenge is to use our eyes and imaginations to make our pages come alive so that the message gets delivered in a way that is both interesting and informative.