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Dealing with Imported Graphics

Vector graphics — graphics that are defined by equations, rather than dots used in bitmap graphics — from any drawing program become a grouped object that you can use like any other Flash object. The WMF format, a Windows vector graphics format, also imports in this way. These formats work especially well when imported into Flash. You can sometimes find WMF graphics in clip art collections and on the Web.

Preparing for import

You can import text from a text editor and Flash turns it into a Flash text object so that you can edit and format it within Flash. When you import a bitmap graphic, you often need to take some steps before you can use the graphic in your Flash file. You can manipulate your graphics in several ways to make them more Flash-friendly:

  • Delete the background: In many cases, Flash imports not only the shape you want, but also a rectangular background that you don't want. To get rid of that background, deselect the imported object, select just the rectangular background, and press Delete. If that doesn't work, read on.
  • Ungroup the graphic: Ungrouping separates grouped elements into individual elements. Ungrouping retains most of the features of your graphic. Select the graphic and choose Modify --> Ungroup. If you find that you still can't work with your graphic properly, read the next item.
  • Break apart the graphic: Break imported graphics to separate them into ungrouped editable elements. Breaking apart is useful for reducing the file size of graphics that you have imported. Breaking apart converts bitmaps to fills, converts text to outlines, and breaks the link between an OLE object and its source application. In other words, the Break Apart command is a powerful tool. Select the graphic and choose Modify --> Break Apart.
  • Trace the bitmap: Flash can work magic. If you want total control within Flash, convert a bitmap to a vector graphic.

To trace a bitmap, follow these steps:

1. Import the bitmap — don't deselect it or perform any other action on it.

2. Choose Modify --> Trace Bitmap.

The Trace Bitmap dialog box opens.

3. In the Color Threshold text box, type a number to represent the threshold.

The higher the number, the fewer colors you get in the final vector graphic. For close results, try a value of 10.

4. In the Minimum Area text box, type a number to represent the number of nearby pixels that Flash considers when assigning a color to a pixel.

For greatest fidelity, try a value of 1.

5. From the Curve Fit drop-down list, choose an option to represent how smoothly Flash draws the outlines.

For the most exact results, choose Pixel.

6. In the Corner Threshold drop-down list, choose an option to represent how Flash reproduces sharp edges.

For sharpest results, choose Many Corners.

7. Click OK to close the Trace Bitmap dialog box and then deselect the graphic to see the result.

When you import a bitmap graphic, Flash places the graphic in the current movie's Library. For best results, don't delete the original graphic from the Library, even if you have modified it. Flash continues to refer to the graphic after you have converted it to a symbol.

If you're working in the Windows environment, you can also paste a graphic into Flash as an embedded object. To edit the object, double-click it to open the original application and use that application's tools.

To embed an object, follow these steps:

1. From within the object's native application, select the graphic and choose Edit --> Copy.

2. Close the other application and return to Flash.

3. Choose Edit --> Paste Special.

The Paste Special dialog box opens.

4. In the dialog box, select the type of object you want to embed, if you have a choice.

5. Click the Paste Link check box if you want to retain a link to the original file so that Flash updates the graphic if it changes.

6. Click OK to close the Paste Special dialog box.

Selecting objects for editing

Whether you created your graphics in Flash or imported them, you need to edit them in many ways. You can manipulate objects to suit your artistic fancy; the possibilities are in the zillions. The Flash editing tools can give you precisely the results you want. Some of the more interesting features enable you to smooth curves, soften edges, and add interesting fills inside objects.

To select an object for editing, choose the black Arrow tool. That sounds pretty basic. But what is an object? If you draw a shape with an outline (also called a line or a stroke) and a fill, such as a filled-in circle, you have two objects — the outline and the fill. Here are some pointers for selecting objects:

  • If the object doesn't have an outline and is just a fill, you're home free. Click the object with the Arrow tool, and it's selected.
  • If the object has an outline and a fill, clicking the fill selects only the fill. The outline remains unselected. You can use this feature to move the fill away from its outline. To select both the fill and the outline, double-click the object.
  • You can also use the Arrow tool to create a selection box. Click at one corner and drag to an opposite corner, making sure that the bounding box completely encloses the object or objects you want to select.
  • To select just a line, click the line with the Arrow tool. Still, you never know when an outline is really several objects. To select the entire outline, double-click it. This technique applies to any connected lines.
  • To select several unconnected objects, select one object, press and hold the Shift key, and select additional objects. When you press Shift, you can add to already selected objects and select as many objects as you want.

To deselect selected objects, click any blank area.

So you're happily drawing away, using the various drawing tools. Then you want to select one of the objects, but you forget to change to the Arrow tool. Oops! You draw another object by accident. Immediately, choose Edit --> Undo. Then use one of the Flash arrow shortcuts:

  • Press the V key to switch to the Arrow tool.
  • To temporarily switch to the Arrow tool while you're using another tool, hold the Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac) key while you select an object or objects.
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