Xara Day: Xara Xtreme’s Live Effects

Xara Day on D:Illustration

With Xara Xtreme’s Live Effects, you can use your Photoshop-compatible filters on both bitmaps and vectors; and because they are applied as Live Effects, they are completely editable and reversible.

This month on Xara Day, we look at Xara Xtreme’s Live Effects tool. Adding filters to enhance images or make them more artistic is easy in Xara Xtreme. Because Xtreme supports both Xara Picture Editor Tools and Photoshop-compatible plug-ins, you can add almost unlimited effects with ease. The difference in applying these effect in Xtreme as opposed to applying them in Adobe Photoshop is that Xtreme applies them as Live Effects.

When you apply a filter in most graphics programs, once the image is saved and closed the effect is applied permanently. Undo is the only way to reverse them, and when you close the image the undo buffer goes with it, leaving you no way to undo changes to the image. Live Effects are effects that can be edited or even removed even after the image has been saved and closed.

Applying Live Effects

Live Effects are bitmap effects that can be applied to any object in Xtreme either using the Picture Editor or from within Xtreme itself. We’ll look at applying them from within Xtreme.

To see the available effects, choose the Live Effects tool from the toolbox. In order to see the list of effects you need a selected object, bitmap or vector, on the page. Otherwise, the New button will be grayed out. I have a star object drawn and selected on my page.

Live Effect toolLive Effect tool

The Live Effects Info Bar changes to Live Effect options. To see the list of effects, press the New button.

Live Effect menuLive Effect menu

Xtreme ships with a default set of effects, including Alien Skin Xenofex 2 and Alien Skin Eye Candy 4000 demos. A bitmap version of the Shadow and Feather effects is also included.

Choose an effect from the menu. I chose Xenofex 2’s Crumple filter. The interface for your chosen filter will open; choose your settings and click OK to apply the effect. In the Info Bar the name of the filter will be listed in the applied effects menu.

crumple filterCrumple Filter

You can apply multiple effects; they will be listed in the order in which they are applied. If you use the Bitmap Shadow filter the Info Bar changes to the Shadow Info Bar; if you use the Bitmap Feather, set the Feather amount using the Feather Control Bar.

ShadowBitmap Shadow Effect

Deleting Live Effects

To remove one of the effects, click the Delete Current Effect button.

delete effectDelete an effect

The selected effect is removed. The beauty of Live Effects is that you can remove any applied effect, even one in the middle of the list if you wish. I removed the Shadow, and the Crumple and Television are still on the list:

effect removedEffect removed

If you decide you want to delete all of the applied effects at once, click the Delete All Effects button on the Live Effects Info Bar.

delecte all effectsDelete all effects

Editing Live Effects

Editing applied effects is a snap too. Simply highlight the effect in the list of effects and press the Edit button to open the filter again and adjust the settings. Click OK to apply the new settings.

editEdit an applied effect

Editing the Shape

Because the Live Effects leave the shape totally editable, you can edit the shape and the effects will adjust to the edits you make. I chose the QuickShape tool so I could edit the star, and changed to rounded corners and increased the number of sides to 10. The effects adjusted to the new shape of the object.

editedLive Effect edited

I can still edit the shape later, removing the rounded corners and changing the sides to three so I now have a triangle.

making changesMaking even more changes

Live Effects can be copied the same as other attributes and pasted onto another object by using Edit > Copy to copy the object with the Live Effect or set of Live Effects you want to apply; then select the object you wish to apply the Live Effects to and go to Edit > Paste Attributes.

Locking Effects

When you resize or rotate a shape with an effect applied, Xtreme regenerates the effect. This may not be what you want. In my star example, if I rotate the triangle, by default the stripes from the television filter rotate with the shape, but will revert to horizontal and be aligned to the page when I release the mouse button.

locking effectsLocking effects

This may not be what you want; maybe you want the effect to align to the shape rather than to the page. In this case, you can lock the effect with the Lock button on the Live Effects Info Bar. The Lock button is located between the Delete Current Effect and Delete All Effects buttons. Depress the button to lock the effects.

lockedLocking Effects

If you share your Xtreme files with others, you can give them files on which you have used Live Effects. The caveat to this is that if they do not have the same plug-ins installed on their computer as you, they will not be able to see the effects. However, locking effects allows people who do not have the same plug-ins installed as you to see the effect on their computer when you share an Xtreme XAR file with them. Each applied effect must be locked or unlocked independent of the other applied effects. That means you can lock some effects and not others; for example, you might want to lock effects added with Corel’s KPT Collection you have on your computer, but not lock an effect like Xenofex 2’s Crumple, which is installed by default on Xtreme, and therefore will be available to anyone who owns Xtreme.

Locked Effects: Unscriptable Plug-ins

The term “locked effects” is used two ways in Xtreme, and they mean very different things. There are some limits to Live Effects, however; when applying some old-style (or unscriptable) Adobe Photoshop plug-ins the effect is locked in and the underlying shape is not editable unless you first remove the effect. In that case, you can remove the effect, edit the shape, then apply the effect again. The Mehdi effects that ship with Xtreme are examples of this. When you apply a locked effect, the effect will be shown in the list as locked, so you will know you have to remove it to edit the shape. Make your edits, then reapply the Live Effect.

lockedA different kind of effect locking

All “new style” (scriptable) Adobe Photoshop-compatible plug-ins as well as Xara Picture Editor effects can be applied as real Live Effects. For an up-to-date list of known compatible locked and live effects plug-ins, go here.

Live Effects and Resolution

All live effects are bitmap effects; therefore when you apply a Live Effect to an object it is first rasterized, which means it is converted from vector to raster. You can control the resolution at which this rasterization takes place by using the Resolution setting in the Live Effects Info Bar.

For screen and web it’s best to leave the resolution at the default of 96 ppi. If the image is to be printed, you can increase the ppi to 150 or higher. Usually 150 ppi is sufficient for home printing; if you are using a service bureau for printing, consult them for the resolution they require.

The resolution can be changed two ways: temporarily by changing the resolution setting on the Live Effects Info Bar:

resolutionResolution

You can change it permanently (at least until you change it again) by going to Effects and Plug-ins tab of the Options dialog.

optionsChanging the options

The Enhance Effect

The Enhance Effect lets you non-destructively correct color and exposure on photos without opening the XPE (Xara Picture Editor). It also works on vector objects as well. Click the Auto Enhance button to let Xtreme analyze and correct the object automatically. Click the Compare button to see the object before the corrections were made.

enhanceThe Enhance Effect

There are sliders for saturation, brightness, contrast, and blur and sharpen. The effect shows up on the object as you change the sliders or type values in the data entry box so you can see the corrections as you make them and make adjustments as needed.

enhancedEnhanced

If you want to start over, reset the enhance effects by hovering over the center indicator on the sliders until you see the double arrows, then click to reset.

resetResetting the Enhance Filter

The Enhance effect is just as editable as the other Live Effects; just press the Edit button on the Live Effects Info Bar to open Enhance and make changes.

Using Your Photoshop Compatible Filters

To use your own Photoshop-compatible filters as Live Effects, you have to tell Xtreme where to find them. You can do this one of two ways.

1. Click the Setup button on the Live Effects Info Bar and choose the location of the plug-ins.

setupSetup the plugins using the Info Bar

2. Go to Utilities > Options and open the Effects and Plug-ins tab. Click the Setup button and choose the location of the plug-ins.

setupSetup plug-ins using the Options

The plug-ins you have installed on your computer in that (or those, you can choose more than one) location(s) will now appear in the Live Effect menu when you click the New button to select a Live Effect.

Alien Skin Xenofex

Xtreme ships with a trial version of Xenofex 2, which includes full working versions of the Crumple, Mosaic, and Television filters, and demo versions of the other filters in the package. The rest of the filters have all of the controls, but they cannot be applied to the image. For a full working version of all of the filters, Alien Skin has a special price on a version of Xenofex 2 that only works with Xara Xtreme. This package is available for $59 here.

Alien Skin EyeCandy 4000

Xtreme also ships with a special version of EyeCandy 4000. It includes full versions of the Chrome, Melt, and Swirl filters which may be applied to your images; like Xenofex, the rest of the filters have all of the controls, but they cannot be applied to the image.

For a full working version of all of the Eye Candy 4000 filters, Alien Skin has a special price on a version of EyeCandy 4000 for Xara Xtreme. Even though these filters will only work in Xtreme, they are the same filters in the full retail package that sells for $129. This package is available for $59 here.

Xara Day is a regular feature on Designorati:Illustration. The fourth Thursday of every month we’ll bring you a new tutorial for Xara Xtreme.