Corel Graphics Studio 11 full review

What OS X is crying out for is a drawing and painting package that really flies. The first few releases – such as Adobe Illustrator and Corel Graphics Studio (CGS) – were all capable, but sluggish. Whether this is a limitation of OS X or the software is to be resolved, though it’s telling that all the applications in question are Carbon rather than Cocoa. Of all the graphics software we’ve seen on OS X, Cocoa-based ones are the most responsive – especially when it comes to the interface. Carbon slowness continues with CGS 11. Interface speed aside, this latest release of the 2D-paint, drawing and vector-animation suite offers plenty of features to the pound – one of the main selling points for Corel’s apps. New to CGS 11 is Draw 11, Corel’s vector-based drawing app. Two new brushes have been added that give artistic freedom to often rigid vector-art creation. These are the Roughen and Smudge brushes that are both pressure sensitive, and so work well with a Wacom tablet. The Roughen brush disrupts a path, making it spikey or wavy, depending on the setting. It’s very responsive because its effect falls off radially from the centre of the brush, but it does have a habit of sticking for a second or two as you drag. Also, you can’t alter the Roughen frequency by pen pressure. Smudge and tweeze Smudge is even better. With the Smudge brush you can tweeze out strands from a path. The brush has a definable fade amount, which causes the resulting loop to narrow and eventually stop as you drag. This makes it an excellent tool for drawing hair, branches and grass, for example, or other complex random outlines that would otherwise require painstaking path drawing. Other nice additions and improvements to the program, such as the enhanced imported-text handling, focus on workflow. Pasting or importing text from another application can be a bore if you have to manually remove the formatting. In Draw 11, you can choose to have the formatting removed on import. It has improved SVG and DSF import and export, too. When exporting in Photoshop format it can preserve CorelDraw’s layers. The Shaping panel offers three new controls: Simplify, which removes the overlapping portions of objects; and the Boolean-like Front Minus Back and Back Minus Front, which cut shapes out of a path with another path. Photo-Paint hits spot The other main section of the suite, Corel Photo-Paint, has an improved interface, making it much easier to work with. It puts controls, such as brush settings, right where they’re needed. There’s still no button on the layers palette to create a layer mask – or Clip Masks, as Corel calls them. A updated bitmap editor isn’t complete without some new filters, and Corel has added a really great one in the Spot filter. This resides in the Camera filters menu, because it’s used to simulate depth-of-field blurring. You can click to define the centre of focus, then set the amount of blur and its fall-off. A number of presets give quick access to various styles. On a large file this take ages, but it produces decent results without the halo effects often associated with blurring through a gradient mask. Some kind of built-in, small, test image would have been useful. Annoyingly, once it starts previewing, this can’t be cancelled. For 3D logos, buttons and effects, there’s a new Bevel feature with control over texture, lighting direction and colour. It’s useful, but slow, and not a patch on Photoshop’s Layer Styles, which set the standard for this kind of thing. Along the same lines there’s also an enhanced interactive drop-shadow effect. Where CGS 11 does well is in its broad range of effects and tools, yet it doesn’t support these with solid, simple functions that are the foundation of a pro-oriented graphics package. The fundamental things, such as selection masks and object/layer management, are clumsy. This is especially irksome when you consider that many of the effects require masks in order to work. The other parts of the suite R.A.V.E. and Trace have also improved. R.A.V.E. 2 features a new Symbols library system that can reuse objects and animations for improved speed and workflow. Behaviors have been bolstered with more types, and when you’re finished, the improved animations can be more efficiently delivered thanks to smaller Flash files. Interestingly, 3D vector extrusions can be tweened so they appear more accurately when animating rotation.
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