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CorelDRAW 101

CorelDRAW X5

(*Would need to be adapted for later versions - current version is X8)


  • CorelDRAW is a 2D drawing program for creating and editing vector graphics (plus some bitmap editing) (X8 is most recent version)

  • Other similar programs include Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape (Open Source- recommended for WITT & WPFP, ULS manual covers how to set up engraver with Inkscape), VectorWorks etc.

  • Licensed program

  • CDR file format is the default, but can import/export other file types (see below)

  • Great program for:

    • web graphics

    • print projects

    • digital projects

    • setting up files for digital tools!

Vector vs Bitmap images

  • Vectors are true lines (done with numerical formulas) plotted/drawn between points (as though on a grid), which computer-controlled machines can follow

    • File types which can conserve vector properties include CDR, PDF, AI (adobe iIlustrator), SVG (inkscape), DXF(autocad), DWG (autocad), etc

  • Bitmaps are made up of pixels (little squares of colour)

    • Include file types PNG, JPEG, PSD, TIF etc

  • How they affect the laser: raster engrave function can read bitmap and vector  images, vector trace/cut function can read vector images only

User interface and important icons in CorelDRAW X5:

  • New document setup- set it up same size as the  “work bed” off the laser bed you are working on.

  • First glance:  Page vs. canvas, rulers, scroll bars

    • Rulers:  Double-click on either ruler, then set vertical to height of laser’s y-axis (ex/ 18”)

  • Menu bar; focus on

    • File drop-down menu

      • Save as: CDR, PDF, AI, SVG or “export”

      • Import: PDF, AI, SVG

      • (point out shortcuts on right side of drop-down list)

    • Arrange/object  menu:

      • Transformations

        • Rotate: watch for grain direction if rotating image

        • Scale, size, etc as well

      • Align and Distribute

        • Allow you to align/centre objects

        • (look for keyboard shortcuts.  Ex/ E = align centres horizontally, C = align centres vertically)

      • Order

        • Can stack shapes one in front/behind another

    • Help drop-down menu

  • Command bar (New document, save, print, etc)

    • Snap to

    • Options

      • Workspace options

        • Ex: edit snap options to snap to centre, midpoints, etc

        • Tool box; focus on

    • Pick tool: selects objects

      • Keyboard shortcut = spacebar

    • Shape tool: edits nodes and lines

    • Crop tool

    • Zoom:

      • How to zoom in and out using mouse scroll wheel

      • Ctl + scroll wheel to pan

      • Alt +Scroll wheel = panning vertically

      • Ctrl +Scroll wheel = panning horizontally

      • Double click on Zoom tool = zoom to fit

    • Freehand tool (polyline)

      • Line width MUST be set to hairline to laser cut

    • Rectangle/Ellipse/Polygon draw tools

      • Line width MUST be set to hairline to laser cut

    • Text tool

      • Line width MUST be set to hairline to laser cut

    • Drop Shadow Tool -> Contour tool

      • offset the outline (for borders or enlarging/thickening text before cutting)

  • Tool control, or “Tool property” bar:

    • Gives tool options

    • Changes depending on tool

      • Ex: draw two overlapping shapes, select both

        • Intersection, difference, etc

      • Ex 2: select an object with Pick tool, set line width to Hairline

  • Colour palette (stick to top/simple colours for laser cutting)

    • Ex: RED line for vector cut and BLUE line for vector tracing, BLACK fill for raster engraving

    • Change Fill by left-click selecting a colour

    • Change Stroke by right-click selecting a colour


  • Microsoft word documents and other file conversions

    • Open in Google Docs (try first) or Open Office

    • Ask client to convert (check quality of the new file they send!)

    • Files that don’t open/import may include: DXF/DWG (AutoCAD), EPS, ZamZar online file converter - last resort

  • How to communicate parameters with clients

    • Request easy-to-use file types: CDR, PDF, AI, SVG

    • Confirm outer dimensions

      • In case of import scaling issues

    • Max # of tones/greys - to be determined during course


1. How to open/edit an image from the web:

  • Find desired image

  • Check that it’s high enough quality for you

  • Open in CDX5

  • Edit if desired

  • ex/ Add a rectangle to trace and a rectangle to cut; centre all

2. Creating "cake topper style" signs for students' names:

  • Text (use a script font so letters will be connected)

  • set Fill to none

  • set Stroke to a colour

  • Stroke thickness: hairline

  • At this point, try the Contour tool (can be found in the Blend tool’s fly-out menu)

    • Should automatically outset and weld.  You can play with the outset amounts, etc

    • Then Arrange -> Break Apart, in order to delete the old line now inside the outset contour line

    • Draw with the Polyline tool to connect any floating letters (ex/ the first letter if it’s uppercase)

    • Select only the outside lines (ex/ not the centre of the “e”, etc) and then Arrange -> Shaping -> Weld

  • Alternate method:  Arrange -> Convert outline to object

    • This will allow object commands, such as Weld

    • Select all, Object -> Break Apart

    • perform Weld so it has one solid outline (do not have inner shapes selected)

    • Select all and break apart again

    • Delete old text object, and any new objects created by weld

  • this design can now be laser or CNC cut

3.  Trace a bitmap (simple)

  • Open a bitmap image: Try a screenshot of a font that a client requests that isn’t free

  • Tool command bar: Trace bitmap -> Quick trace

    • Trace will be laid over bitmap image

  • Move traced vector

  • Object -> Group -> Ungroup all

  • Letters can now be selected and edited individually

trace bitmap example 1.png

4. Trace bitmap (complex image):

  • Open a bitmap image: Try a colour photo of someone's face

  • Note: To enlarge a bitmap, don’t simply drag the corner (will become blurry):

    • Bitmaps -> Resample

    • Size as needed

    • DPI = 200 (if etching)

  • Tool command bar: Trace bitmap -> Outline trace

    • Trace will be laid over bitmap image

  • Move traced vector

  • Object -> Group -> Ungroup all

    • Shapes/shadows can now be selected and edited individually

trace bitmap example 2.png