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Using QuarkXPress as an Illustration Tool

Back in yesteryear, QuarkXPress was thought of as only a page layout program. Previous versions of QuarkXPress had limited drawing capabilities; if you needed to draw a curved line or curved shape, you were forced to use a dedicated drawing program. Not anymore. Newer versions of QuarkXPress contain several nifty drawing-related features, such as the ability to draw Bézier lines and shapes, change text characters into picture boxes or text boxes, and flow text along a line or around the contour of a box.

Using lines

The Tool palette offers four tools that you can use to create straight and curved lines (as may have already guessed).

Each of the line-creation tools works a bit differently than the others. In addition to the basic Line tool at the bottom, you have these three, from top down:

  • Freehand Line tool: Enables you to create Bézier lines using the mouse as a freehand drawing tool.
  • Orthogonal Line tool: Limits you to horizontal and vertical lines.
  • Diagonal Line tool: Produces straight lines at any desired angle.
  • Bézier Line tool: Creates straight-edged zigzag lines, curvy lines, and lines that contain both straight and curved segments.tabmark

If you use QuarkXPress for illustration tasks, you can use boxes as well as lines to create the pieces of your drawings.

Converting text into boxes

Have you ever had the urge to import a picture into a box that's the shape of a text character? Not too long ago, you had to use a dedicated drawing program for such tricks. Now you can convert highlighted text into picture boxes or text boxes. The boxes you produce by converting text into boxes behave as a single item. That means you can run a background — a color, blend, or picture — across all of the characters you convert to text as though they were a single box. Features just don't get any cooler than this one.

Here's how you convert text into picture boxes:

1. Highlight the text you want to convert.

You can highlight an individual character or a range of text, but you cannot highlight more than one line of text. You can convert PostScript Type 1 fonts (Adobe Type Manager must be installed) or TrueType fonts. (Keep in mind, though, this feature isn't useful for small font sizes.)

2. Choose Text to Box from the Style menu.

If you press the Option or Alt key when you choose Text to Box, QuarkXPress replaces the highlighted text with an individual Bézier picture box for each character and anchors the boxes within the text chain.

If you don't press the Option or Alt key, QuarkXPress duplicates the highlighted text using individual picture boxes for each letter. When you click on any of the resulting boxes, all the boxes are selected, and they behave as a single box. You can put a frame around all the boxes in a single operation, import a picture that spans all boxes, apply a background color or a blend that spans the boxes, and so on.

You can split the merged boxes that are produced when you choose Text to Box by choosing the Split command from the Item menu. If you choose Outside Paths, all letters that have holes in them (such as O's, P's, and B's) remain intact. That is, if you click on one of these letters, all component paths become active, or selected. If you choose All Paths, each path that makes up a letter becomes a separate shape that can be individually selected, moved, cut, and so on.

If you want to turn a Bézier picture box created with the Text to Box command into a text box, click on it and choose Item --> Content --> Text.

Creating masks for pictures using clipping paths

Rectangular picture boxes are like vanilla ice cream. Nice enough, but with so many other flavors available, why not try something different every once in a while?

In addition to enabling you to create Bézier picture boxes, which you can reshape in any way to crop the image within, QuarkXPress lets you crop an image within a box using an embedded clipping path (created in an image-editing or illustration program) within QuarkXPress. A clipping path is a shape that isolates part of an image; everything outside the isolated area is transparent.

The Information area of the Clipping pane provides information about the picture in the active box. The Clipping pane includes a handful of other controls that let you adjust a clipping path. You can fiddle with Tolerance settings to adjust a clipping path and check or uncheck the Invert, Outside Edges Only, and Restrict to Box options to achieve a variety of effects. Suffice it to say that your options are numerous, and using the default settings is a safe way to begin.

The Edit command in the Item menu enables you to modify a clipping path the same way you modify a Bézier box — by clicking and dragging points, control handles, and segments, adding and deleting points, changing straight segments to curved segments, and so on. To modify a clipping path, click on a picture box that contains a clipping path, then choose Item --> Edit and make sure that Clipping Path is checked. You can use the keyboard equivalent Option+ Shift+F4 or Ctrl+Shift+F10 to alternately check and uncheck the Clipping Path option in the Edit submenu.

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