Tag Archives: X8

Innerscape update

In my ‘They. Have. Arrived’ post, I mentioned that I wasn’t completely happy with how the covers had turned out. It’s taken me the whole weekend to fix them, and I’ll have to re-upload all the cover files, but I’m finally happy with the ‘final final‘ versions. Yes, I know, don’t say it. πŸ™‚

One of the things I noticed once I had 3 physical books in my hands was that the spines didn’t completely line up. They were close but not 100% [and I know Dawn likes to line the spines up…]. So while I was fixing the width of the Miira spine, I decided to get all three spines right as well. And here they are:

-grin- They now line up to the hundredth of a millimetre…

Another thing that brought out the anal in me was The Godsend background image. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t completely control the level of transparency of the original background image so…I made my own. Who’d a thunk all that math my Dad made me study would come in handy?

I am proud of the perspective I managed to create by hand, but I have this nagging feeling that Corel must have a function somewhere that would have done the same thing a million times faster. Needless to say, I didn’t find it, but if anyone out there knows an easier way I’d really love to know. Anyway, here it is, and please don’t say it looks just like the old one. 😦

So that’s it. All I have to do now is proof read the interiors, re-upload the cover files, reconvert the Word files to StoryBox, get more ISBNs for the ‘new’ e-versions and…

I’m calling it a night. Time for dinner and some play time.

cheers

Meeks

 

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Miira cover – in 3D

Just finished the Miira cover, version nth [honestly? I’ve lost track], so I thought I’d celebrate by playing around with a 3D version. I think it turned out okay. πŸ™‚

The new blurb for the back is:

In 2101, the average person can expect to reach one hundred and ten. Miira Tahn, last Lady of Dhurai, is dying at just fifty-two. Faced with a slow, agonizing death, her only hope is a virtual paradise called Innerscape. There, the Residents inhabit beautiful, digital bodies indistinguishable from the real thing.

Or so the brochures say. But even Eden had a snake, and once inducted, the Residents of Innerscape can never return to the real world. If anything goes wrong, they will be lost in the dark forever.

Yet for Miira Tahn, even a tenuous hope is better than the fate that awaits her.

‘…sometimes you just have to close your eyes and jump…’

And finally, underneath the blurb will be this:

β€˜Miira’ is the first book of the Innerscape cyle and corresponds to Episode 1 of the original series.

After way too much angst, I finally decided to bite the bullet and redo the ebooks as well. Once I’m finished, both print and digital versions will comprise just three books:

  • Miira, book 1 = Episode 1 of Innerscape
  • The Godsend, book 2 = Episodes 2 and 3 of Innerscape, and
  • Nabatea, book 3 = Episodes 4 and 5 of Innerscape.

It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s the only one I can think of that will translate a five-part serial into three, organic story arcs. And as an added bonus, the new splits will allow me to make book 1 permafree…once I persuade Amazon that it’s necessary.

But those are long range plans. For now I’d just like to thank everyone who commented on version 1 of the covers. You’ll never know how valuable your feedback was. Massive hugs all round! Now I’m off to make a pretty toy out of books 2 and 3. πŸ˜€

love

Meeks

 


Corel X8 tips for beginners – moving objects precisely

I have to start this post by saying I am not an expert in Corel X8, but I have been using vector graphics for a very long time, and there are some labour-saving tips I’ve learned along the way that I’d like to share. The first of these involves a basic feature called ‘Object position’:

The ‘X’ and ‘Y’ numbers describe the left/right and up/down position of the object on the page. But they’re more than just co-ordinates – they can also be used to change the position of the object on the page, precisely. So precisely in fact, that you can use ‘Object position’ to move your shapes one pixel at a time.

What’s a pixel?

If you zoom in on a digital image far enough, you will eventually see a grid of coloured squares. Each one of those squares is a pixel, and they are the building blocks of the most common digital images:

In the screenshot above, the image has been magnified to over 3000%. Despite this extreme magnification, however, small errors of alignment can and do show up in much large images. In the following screenshot I created two, almost identical pairs of shapes. The pair on the left is just one pixel shy of being aligned perfectly. The pair on the right is aligned perfectly. When you place the images against a contrasting background, the small imperfection in pair A can be seen as the hint of a ‘bump’:

The next screenshot is a super closeup of that one pixel difference:

 

In bitmap images [the kind you get from photographs], there are so many shades of pixels that you would never notice such a tiny imperfection. In vector drawings, however, especially of objects with straight lines, one pixel can make a difference.

The magnitude of the difference one pixel can make was brought home to me over the last few months as I’ve been working on the covers to my books. Like most people, I began by eyeballing the position of the shapes and moving them around manually. If I’m careful, I can line them up perfectly, most of the time. But if I have a lot of shapes, and they all have to be aligned perfectly, the strain on my eyes, neck and shoulders can become intense. That’s where the ‘Object position’ comes in. Instead of relying on hand-eye co-ordination, I simply type in co-ordinates, and X8 does the work for me.

So how do you use ‘Oject position’?

The first step is to ensure that your ‘Object position’ is counting pixels not milimetres etc. To change your page setup to pixels, click on the Layout tab and select ‘Page setup’ from the drop down menu as shown:

Next, select ‘Pixels’ from the drop down list and click ‘OK’:

 

The next step is to learn what those X and Y numbers actually mean.The X numbers show the object’s position from left to right, and increasing the number moves the object further to the right. For example, if the object’s starting position is 50, changing that number to 60 will move the object 10 pixels to the right. By the same token, changing the number from 50 to 40 will move the object 10 pixels to the left.

The following is a before-and-after screenshot of a real project I’m working on:

The X position of the shape in the pic on the left is 2266. The X position of the shape on the right is 2273. In other words, the shape moved 7 pixels to the right.

Unfortunately, using the Y numbers is not so intuitive. For reasons I will never understand, you have to decrease the number to move the object down and increase it to move the object up. In the following before-and-after shot, I increased the Y number from 406 to 411 in order to move the object up into alignment:

Using the Y position, in particular, is a bit hard to get used to, but once you do, a combination of up/down and left/right adjustment will ensure that your objects align with each other perfectly, every time.

The mantra to remember is:

  • Left = less
  • Right = more
  • Up = more
  • Down = less

In the next post, I’ll be talking about converting shapes to curves, adding and deleting nodes via the right click menu, and how to create a ‘mitred’ joint between two shapes.

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Using the Createspace cover template with Corel X8

This post is a bit premature as I haven’t yet shown you how to find the exact number of pages of your manuscript, but…I’ll do it now while it’s fresh in my mind. So, here goes. To create the cover, you will need:

  • the trim size of your finished book – i.e. the finished size you want the book to be. Mine is 5.5 x 8.5. You’ll find info. on trim sizes here.
  • the number of pages you end up with when you pour your manuscript into the appropriate trim size template – i.e. with the margins, etc., preset by the template.
  • and some kind of graphics package. The one I use is Corel Draw X8.

Finally, you will need the Createspace cover template for the trim size of your choice:

You can find the ‘Build Template’ here:

https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do;jsessionid=5C5EE350ED4B426685472D15E9996AB3.2129a643a7ae5ba6aeba4b626969fb21

To use the Build Template, simply select the trim size of your book from the drop down list like so:

Then type the total number of pages into the box for ‘Number of Pages’ and click the ‘Build Template’ button. The little app. does its thing, and in a moment you should be looking at something like this:

Click the ‘Click here to begin Download’ button and save the file to your computer. As the file is a compressed zip file, you will need a program to unzip it. Most people use Winzip. I prefer a non-Microsoft product called PowerArchiver. Whichever product you use, the file will be unzipped to look like this:

5.5×8.5_BW_230 is the name of the unzipped cover template and it comes in two versions – pdf or png. As I don’t have an app that works with pdf files, I imported the png version of the file into Corel X8.

This is what it looks like:

 

The instructions for using the template start with ‘Create a new layer in your image editing software. This layer will serve as the design layer.’ In other words, keep the cover guide separate from the graphic you build on top of it.

This is good advice as you don’t want to accidently meld the guide and your cover, with potentially drastic results. Nevertheless, I didn’t use the layers in that way. After tracing the dimensions of the cover template, I superimposed the tracing over my background image and worked with the tracing on the same layer as everything else. That’s what the faint white line is on the cover:

 

I could have used the guidelines in X8, but at one point I had so many of them all over the place, it would have been impossible to see what I was doing. Now I just have to remember to delete the guidelines before I send the image off to Createspace. [And boy do I hope I haven’t just jinxed myself!]

I hope you’ve all had a pleasant weekend,

cheers

Meeks


Corel Draw X8 – Miira cover final

I thought that X8 would be X6 with a slightly different interface, but it does actually have some nice features that I wasn’t expecting – like links to some very sophisticated fountain fills and a much improved transparency feature. Those features may have influenced the rather radical changes I’ve made to the cover of the first book:

Unfortunately, the image doesn’t quite show the depth of colour in the cover as the CMYK black has come through as a rather washed out charcoal in RGB [for web display]. Once the cover is printed it will be much sharper and the silvers will ‘pop’ more…I hope. Anyway, I’ll probably fiddle with the balance a bit longer, especially if you guys point out things I’m too blind to see, but this is basically the front and back cover spread that will go to Createspace for the print version.

One of the hardest things to figure out was what to put on the spine. Once I’d worked out the total number of pages for Miira, including copyright, Afterword, etc., I plugged the number into Createspace’s calculator, and it spat out the exact size the spine must be. Unfortunately, as the first book is quite ‘slim’ there’s not that much real-estate to work with.

I experimented with a number of fonts, but none gave me the crisp look I was after. And then, as I looked at the circuit board, I suddenly realised that I had all the components from which to make my own ‘font’, one that would mimic the wiring of the circuit board. Thank goodness, the end result didn’t turn out to be too kitsch. The new look circuit board also gave me the pattern for the back cover blurb. Making the text fit, however, was another exercise in patience.

And finally, a word about the new background photo. I was all set to use the bush sunset photo I’ve shown you before when I found a pic I’d taken ages ago of my own backyard:

 

I was trying to capture the amazing play of light through the trees and fluked it. The shot is nowhere near perfect, and I haven’t touched it up in any way – I don’t know how – but I instantly knew it would give me the feel I’d been searching for. Pretty happy with the result but annoyed at myself for wasting time and money on the bush sunset pic. Ah well…

I promise to do a how-to post about the Createspace calculator as soon as my eyes uncross. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks

 


Circuit board vectoring, version xxxx….

I’ve deliberately turned comments off this time as the graphic isn’t done…I just wanted to share what I’ve done so far:

505 separate objects, no background as yet so the silver effect isn’t that obvious, and the edges have to be trimmed blah blah, but I think the circuit board will look good in print and reasonable in thumbnail. That’s what I’ll be testing out next but for now I feel as if my eyes will never uncross!

I hope you’ve all had/are having a great weekend,

cheers

Meeks


#Corel X8 vector graphics vs photos

In my last post about the new Innerscape cover, I vented about the trouble I was having getting the silver effect I wanted. Your suggestions were brilliant so I thought I’d do a quick update of my progress. The pic below is a test graphic to illustrate the difference between the two methods and how they might look in the finished product:

The silver ‘wire’ was created using Corel X8’s fountain fill. It is clearly silver, even when I reduce the size down, i.e. it scales well. Unfortunately it is absolutely uniform, something a real ‘wire’ would never be.

By contrast, the gold ‘wire’ is a photo taken of a thin needle shape covered in foil. The foil was silver, but the lighting created this decidedly golden effect [evening, overhead light and table lamp, both with bulbs of ‘warm white’]. I only know this with the wisdom of hindsight. 😦 If you look closely at the column on the right, you will see that when I increase the size of the gold wire, it becomes more and more pixelated, i.e. it doesn’t scale well. [Clicking on the image should display a larger version]

Finally, I created two, identical slices of the circuit board. Both were made by creating the individual components and ‘grouping’ them together. The silver, vectored one is shown below:

Although each of the tubular components comes from the one, basic shape, I fiddled with the fountain fill to a) make the image more realistic, and b) to reduce the uniformity. The golden slice is also made up of individual components, but essentially I just cut them out and stuck them together. I really like the way the image turned out, and I like the golden colour, but it’s not what I was after.

Which will I use?

This question is not as either/or as it looks. In designing the covers for the Innerscape print version, I wanted each one to:

  • have a unifying ‘theme’
  • be different
  • tell a subtle visual ‘story’

Thus, as book 1 is about Miira leaving the real world and entering a virtual one, I want her facing towards the stark, artificial image of the circuit board. That’s why the image has to be instantly recognizable as part of a computer. Books 2 and 3, however, will show a gradual blurring of the lines between real and virtual, with the changing circuit board being the unifying ‘theme’ that binds each image of the series.

At least, that’s the idea. Whether I can actually pull off this ambitious idea is moot. To make it work I’ll have to create two, completely different images of the circuit board – one with the silver wires and one with the gold. As each small wire will be made up of at least 3 components, it’s going to be a huge job. Not impossible, but it will test my patience as the original circuit board image has very few wires that are exactly the same.

To be honest I think I’m crazy to even think about doing this, and yet…how often do you get to create your first print book? Sitting here, calmly typing about my options, I know I’d hate myself if I gave this project anything less than my best, and fudging the graphics would definitely be a cop out. So…I’m going to be a busy girl. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks


DIY silver foil photos [update]

My scrunched aluminium photos didn’t work terrible well, but Dawn sent me some pics of real silver:

Going to have a play with them tomorrow. Fingers crossed. πŸ™‚

* * *

I was searching online for photos of silver foil to use as a texture in the Innerscape cover when I had a light bulb moment – why pay for someone else’s graphic when I have metres of aluminium foil in the draw?

This is a screenshot of the five photos I took in the kitchen:

I lightly crushed the foil before positioning it in various places to achieve different light effects and angles. I’m still a lousy photographer, but I hope these pics allow me to create a true metallic effect for the ‘wires’ on the circuit board. And the best part is, if it turns out to be an absymal failure, it won’t have cost me anything but time. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks


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