Ron's Vector Graphics for PSP 7

Vectors are nothing to get your fins in a flap over, they're just a different way of defining images on a computer. Basically there are two types of computer graphics, bitmaps and vectors. Bitmap files such as jpegs or gifs contain information on each and every individual pixel while a vector file is object orientated and mathematically contains information on individual objects as to there shape, position, color, etc.

Well, there are a number of advantages to using vector graphics the most important being quality. You may have noticed that when you resize a bitmap image upward the quality degrades, vector objects can be resized with virtually no loss of image quality. As well you can deform a vector object and retain it's integrity. Size is also a factor, vector files tend to be smaller than bitmaps. You can also change vector attributes (fill color, stroke width, etc.) easily and again, without compromising image quality.

There are some limitations on vector graphics. For one, you can't create photographic type images, for that bitmaps are necessary but, for crisp high quality graphics, vectors are the way to go. Vector graphics are particularly suited to rendering cartoons and clipart. With that in mind I'll walk you through the creation of a 'toon cat and along the way introduce you to some of the basic PSP7 vector tools and procedures.

First of all you'll need to familiarize yourself with the basic vector tools on the tool bar, don't worry there are only four of them. They are the last four buttons as illustrated above. The first three are the text tool , the drawing tool , and the shape tool . While these are the vector creation tools they can also be used as raster or bitmap tools so make sure that you have the "create as vector" box checked in the tool options palette. As well it's a good idea to check the "antialias" box checked to eliminate the dreaded jaggies. For now we'll ignore the text tool, after all this isn't an English class, and deal with the shape tool. Most of the routines described here will apply to the drawing tool as well.

The last tool is the vector selection tool and is used to select, or make available for editing, individual or groups of vector objects. You can select objects by simply clicking on them with the shape tool or by surrounding them by dragging the cursor over objects while holding down the left mouse key. Single or multiple objects can be selected with either the drag method or clicking on several while holding down the shift key.

Vector objects have two basic attributes, fill and stroke, the fill being the color inside the object and the stroke being the outline. In PSP7 these are controlled by the style palette which is pictured to the left. The stroke is determined by the foreground box and the fill by the background box. PSP7 allows for both stroke and fill to be either a solid color, a gradient, a pattern, or to be turned off. These functions are controlled by selecting the desired attribute from the flyout which is activated by clicking on the little arrow in the box, the first on the flyout menu, the paint brush, is for a solid color, the second is for a gradient , the third for a pattern , and the last turns off the fill or stroke , commonly referred to as the null setting.

Okay we'll get started. First off open PSP7, create a new image of a convenient size, being sure to make it large enough to be able to move objects around and set them aside, you can always crop it later. Set the foreground, stroke, to solid color black and your background, fill, to solid color whatever color you want your cat and check the lock check box as in the example to the left.

We'll start with the shape tool , click on it and, in the tool options uncheck "retain style", then select the ellipse shape. To use the shape tool simply drag your mouse across the canvas while holding down the left mouse key. If you're not familiar with this convention practice a bit noting how the direction of the mouse drag affects the resulting shape. You can also adjust the shape after it's been laid down by clicking on the selection tool and then the object and grabbing one of the handles by placing the cursor over it and right click dragging it, this will preserve the aspect ratio while left click dragging won't. Holding down the shift or ctrl keys will apply deformations while dragging. As well an object can be moved by grabbing the center handle and rotated by grabbing the right of center handle.

Now create an ellipse as in Step 1 below, that will be the body. Lighten or change your fill color and create another ellipse for the belly. Change back to the original fill color and, as in Step 2, create the two back legs and then the fore legs. Now the head and muzzle as in Step 3. It's important that you create the objects in the right order so the correct objects are on the top. Should an object be created out of order it can be rearranged by selecting the offending object, right clicking, and choosing "arrange" from the drop down. From there you can either send it to the bottom, bring it to the top or moving it up or down one object at a time.

Now you're ready to make his front paws. You don't have to make little tiny paws, make them big in a blank area of the image, no sense straining your eyes, remember, vector objects resize without sacrificing quality. Make them out of four ellipses as in the image below, be sure to create the foot first and the middle toe last this way they'll be in the correct order. Now, using the vector selection tool, either surround the entire foot by dragging the mouse over it or click on each ellipse while holding down the shift key. This will select the entire paw and you can now grab one of the corner handles and make it the appropriate size. Then grab the paw by the center handle and drag it over to one of the front legs. While the paw is still selected press ctrl+c (copy) and then ctrl+g (paste as new vector selection). You should see an outline of the paw around your mouse cursor simply drop it where you want it by moving the mouse cursor to that location and clicking. You've just cloned your paw, Dolly ain't got nothing on PSP7.

Time for the eyes, change your fill to white and make an ellipse, again it's not necessary to make the eyes to scale, make them big and use the same method you did with the paws to place them. Now in the style palette activate the foreground flyout and select null (the universal not allowed sign , and change your fill color to black. Create a smaller ellipse for the eyeball. Finally change your fill color back to white and make a small highlight ellipse inside the eyeball. Use the copy and paste method to create a second eye.

Finally the nose, leave your stroke as null and change the fill color to black. Create two triangles and arrange them as below.

So there you have a basic 'toon made out of shapes. In Part Two we'll make use of node editing to give him some real character not to mention ears and a tail.

2000 Ron Lacey