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The Art of Freehand Pages

The Art of Freehand Pages

Freehand MX has to be one of the most powerful programs you can have in your arsenal of graphic tools. By purchasing Studio MX, Illustrator users are now finding out that Freehand is capable of many things that they couldn't do in Illustrator. One of the greatest advantages of working in Freehand MX is the capability to create multiple pages in a single document.

With multiple page support, you can create anything from two-sided flyers and brochures, to 24- or 40-page catalogs or presentations. I wouldn't say that FreeHand would be your program of choice for a text-heavy 60-page catalog, but it could be done. For brochures, packaging, small to medium-sized catalogs, and instruction manuals, however, FreeHand is a killer app.

Finding Pages
When you first start FreeHand, a default letter-sized page is located in the lower left corner of the pasteboard. New pages will be placed to the right until the far right of the pasteboard is reached. At that point, the next page will go beneath the first page, and following pages will continue across the pasteboard as before. Eventually - depending on page size and quantity - you'll reach a point where the pages are added above the first row of pages. It starts to get confusing because page 1 is no longer at the top left of the group of pages.

To make a more logical layout, open the Document panel and click on the page icon in the bottom left corner. Then drag the icon to the top left corner. From this point on, any pages added will go to the right and down.

If you were to save and close the document, the page would still be in the top left corner the next time you opened the document. But if you opened a new document, the page would be at the bottom left of the pasteboard again. To remedy that situation, create a new default page.

Your Personal FreeHand Page
Start with a fresh, untitled FreeHand document and open the Document panel as shown in Image I. At the top of the panel you have the option to select a master page if you have any (we'll get into the construction of master pages later). The FreeHand default page is letter-sized for English versions. Open the drop-down menu to see the other choices. If you don't see an appropriate page size for the work you usually do, select Custom and enter the height, width, printer resolution, and bleed information in the appropriate fields. For this exercise, we'll stick with letter.


The page is dimensioned using X and Y numerical entries, where X is width and Y is height. In this case, the entries are 8.5 x 11 inches. If I had the units of measurement for the document set to picas, the entries would read 51 picas x 66 picas. There are two buttons that indicate whether a page is portrait or landscape - make your choice and the X and Y values will change accordingly. If you have artwork that will print off the edge of the paper, you will need to set a bleed amount. Usually something in the range of one-eighth of an inch (0.125) or 1 pica will be fine for offset printing. Other methods of printing may have different requirements; check with your printer. Printer resolution tells FreeHand what you think the final output resolution will be, and uses this information to generate auto-created objects such as blends. The higher the number, the more steps. The three icons beneath the thumbnail window show the entire pasteboard, a medium view, and a single-page view. As noted before, I like to have my pages laid out from the top right corner of the pasteboard, so I drag the page icon to that location. It's very important that after you've moved the page in the thumbnail window you double-click the page icon. Doing so targets the view to that location on the pasteboard.

Now the mechanical page is set up. Let's move onto the page itself. Start by defining guidelines and margins. Drag guidelines to fit your general workflow. If you usually work with two columns of text, place guidelines on the page in the appropriate spaces. If you're like me, there's one font that is your workhorse. Do yourself a favor and select that font and size once and for all now.

Go to File>Document Settings>Raster Effect Settings, and enter the printer resolution you expect to use. This also sets on-screen resolution - higher numbers will slow down your display.

You're trying to make life simpler for yourself, so think about your most common jobs. What colors do you usually need? Do you work in CMYK or RGB, picas or points instead of inches? Are 4-point PANTONE 209 strokes with square end caps the norm? Pull colors from the Swatches option menu, or create your own custom colors and add them to the Swatches panel. Set a common stroke and fill if you have one, and go to the bottom of the application window and set the units of measure to reflect your work.

Making Your Page the Default Page
Go to File>Save As. In the Save dialog box, open the Format dropdown menu and change the entry to FreeHand Template. Navigate to the Settings folder that's inside the English folder. On a Mac, it's found in this path: Library>Application Support>Macromedia>FreeHand MX>11>English>Settings. The path is similar on Windows machines. Name the file something easy to remember - mine is called Ron's MX Default Page. Click Save.

Now, open FreeHand's Preferences and select Document from the list. You'll see a menu named Select a New Document Template and a dropdown menu (see Image II). Click the Select button and navigate that long path to the page you just created. That's all there is to it. Every time a new document is opened in FreeHand, all of your personal touches be in place and you can get right to work. The neat part is if you share FreeHand with other artists, they can have their own default page by making the switch in Preferences. To top it off, you can put your default page on a floppy or e-mail it to yourself at another location. Just place it in the Settings folder and you'll be up and running in comfortable surroundings.


Note: Whatever you do, do not delete or move the FreeHand Default pages from the Settings folder. You may need them in case you have to troubleshoot at a future date. They're labeled Default Letter, Default A4, and so on.

Changing Pages
What if your boss is the really artsy type that has the letterhead trimmed to an even 7 inches by 10 inches? Well, you can open the Document panel, open the page-size dropdown menu, and select Edit from the list. Click the New button. This allows you to enter a name for the page and customize dimensions. The list field at the bottom of the window (see Image III) will say Size-1, Size-2, and so on unless you double-click the name you gave the page. Doing so will put that name in the list and also in the page-size dropdown menu. Click the Close box to exit the dialog box.


Adding Pages
There are a few ways to add another page to your document. First, you should think about turning on Show Grid and Snap to Grid in the View menu. If you work on a Mac, turn the sounds on (in Preferences>Sounds). This is a great feature for an audible alignment of pages, objects, paths, points, and so on - but it can annoy other people.

At the bottom of the application window there are several very useful menus and indicators (see Image IV). The page view size and its dropdown menu, buttons to navigate forward or back a single page, the currently selected page, a dropdown menu to choose a page by its number, the Add Page button, and the view type and units of measure dropdown buttons. Click the Add Page button and a blank page the same size as the currently selected page will be added to your document. You won't get your guidelines, but there are other tricks to get around that.


Another way to add a page is to go to the Document panel and choose Add Page from the Options dropdown menu in the top right corner of the panel.

But possibly the coolest way to get a new page is to duplicate the page. First, you can go through the Document Panel Options dropdown menu and choose Duplicate. If you're like me and don't like to travel through menus, you can install the Duplicate button in your Main Menu bar (Windows>Toolbars>Customize> Tools/Panels). Duplication gives you everything on the currently active page.

Possibly the most underused tool in the FreeHand arsenal is the Page tool. It provides still another way to duplicate a page. Simply select the tool from the toolbar and click the page you want to duplicate. Hold down the Option/Alt key and drag the page. You'll get a complete duplicate of the page, and you can place it anywhere on the desktop you wish. With Snap to Grid activated (whether the grid is visible or not), perfect alignment is guaranteed. Use the page tool to move any page to a new location on the pasteboard.

To make the best use of multiple pages in Web page layout and presentations, use the Connect tool to draw lines from objects on one page to objects on another page in order to show the flow.

The beauty of FreeHand's multiple page system is that you don't have to have pages of the same size. You can have eight letter-sized pages, a couple of tabloid pages, and a suitcase-sized package design all in the same document. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't advise that kind of an arrangement for the simple reason that if your single document heads south on you, you have a lot of reconstruction to do. But the capability is there, and it's great for experimentation in packaging and other collateral print work.

Master Pages
Much as a custom default page saves you time, a master page can really increase your output. At first you might think that you don't need to create a master page because you have templates set up for documents that you reproduce frequently. But a template can only be opened or imported, whereas a master page can be applied to any page at any time. If a global change is needed in the type of document you've made from the template, you'll have to do each document individually. With a master page, all you have to do is change the master page, and all its child pages will reflect the change (when the child document is opened again - obviously it won't affect a document that's sitting on a floppy disk somewhere). Master pages are stored in the Library, and appear in the Document panel, making them very convenient to use.

Prepare a master page as you would any other document. I like to create a page and convert it to a master page, but you can start a new master page and lay it out as you go. To convert a page, get everything exactly where you want it - guidelines, logos, phone numbers, photos - whatever elements you want in a fixed location. Then, go to the Document panel Options menu and choose Convert to Master Page. A generic name will appear in the Master Page menu. Open the Library and you'll see a thumbnail image of your new page (see Image V). Hover the cursor over the generic name in the Library for a second or two and the name will become highlighted so you can type an appropriate name.


To create the master page from scratch, choose New Master Page from the Library or Document panel Options menus. A new document opens with a page the same size as the currently active page. Put the page together the way you want it and close the window. The Library and Document panel have the new page in their menus, but the page is not visible in the document.

In order to retrieve a master page, you must export it. The process is simple - just select the master page in the Library list and choose Export from the Library Options menu. The Export Symbols window that shows all the symbols in the Library will open. Just as you would export any symbol, select, Shift-select for adjacent symbols, or Command/Control-select for nonadjacent symbols. When your selection is complete, click the Export button. That will open a standard Save window, but you'll be saving in the Settings>Symbols folder. Type a name for the master page and click the Save button. Nothing changes in the current document, but now you have access to the master page in future documents. All that's necessary is to select Import from the Library Options menu. The Symbols folder will open, and you can choose the master page you want. A dialog box opens that contains all the symbols and master pages in the group you've saved. Select any or all of them and click the Import button. The symbols and master pages will be listed in the Library.

Applying a master page to a standard page is a matter of dragging the master page icon onto an existing page, or selecting the master page from the dropdown menu in the Document panel.

Releasing the Child Page
Everything in the newly applied child page is locked unless you release the child page or modify its master page - you cannot change anything but the layering order or visibility. In fact, you can't even select anything! That's the design, it's not a flaw or bug. The master page is to remain intact. If you need to make adjustments in the layout, you must first release the child page. Select the page with the Page tool and go to the Document panel. Choose Release Child Page from the Options menu and the page is now a simple FreeHand page. Any changes you make to the master page that gave this page life will not be reflected in this page - there is no longer a connection between the page and the master page. If you have multiple pages to release, select them with the Page tool and release them all at once. To work on the new free page, you must first ungroup it.

Applying Master Pages - Making Child Pages
Starting a job with a master page is as easy as choosing it from the Document panel menu. The fun starts when you have several master pages that are similar, such as might be used in a Web site, newsletter, or product data sheet. You can prepare a "normal" page with new elements, and then by choosing a master page from the Library, have a completed page on your screen. If you don't like the graphic arrangement, try another master page.

Making the Most of Master Pages
To get the most use out of a master page you need to plan ahead. I made a Web site for a hypothetical travel agency. I needed a home page and four other types of pages (in my example, the pages have a very common appearance). I created the home page with all the common elements that had been converted to symbols, placing key elements on individual layers. Then I chose the Page tool and selected the page. Holding down the Option/Alt key, I dragged a duplicate of the page to a new location beneath the original. Using the same technique, I made three more duplicates. Master pages were made from each of the pages in two ways. I wanted to keep the home page as a possible working space later, so I selected everything on that page and copied it. Then I chose Create New Master Page from the Document panel Option menu. I pasted the objects in the Master Page window, closed the window, and named the page in the Library. Then each of the other four pages was selected in turn, Convert to Master Page was selected from the Document panel Option menu, and the pages were named. Using the Page tool again, I Option/Alt-dragged copies of pages and arranged them as shown in Image VI. I added the necessary text.


I thought (hypothetically) that the layout looked a little boring, so I made changes to some of the master pages by double-clicking their master page icon in the Library. This opened the page for editing, and it was a simple matter to change background and text colors. When I closed the Master Page window, all of the child pages had changed (see Image VII), reflecting the edits.


I still wasn't satisfied, so I made a few more changes and modified the logo symbol. With two or three mouse clicks, I changed the logo on all 10 pages, as shown in Image VIII. All of this could have been done with a few template pages, but the process would have taken hours instead of minutes. By placing elements on individual layers, I gained one more versatility factor: layers can be turned on or off, and rearranged in their stacking order - even in a child page, which is normally "locked." The key is that now I can add new elements on new layers that I can move under or over existing layers. With a little foresight, many design options can be built into the layout.


Printing Multiple Pages
Printing is fairly straightforward with a PostScript printer. But an old tool has been brought into the daylight with FreeHand MX - the Print Area tool. Use it to drag a red-dashed rectangle (Image IX) around any portion of your desktop that you want to print, then choose File>Print. In the FreeHand section of the dialog box, check Print Area. The page outline can be printed by checking Print Page Boundary. If the area is larger than the paper you will be printing to, choose Fit On Paper from the Scale% menu. Then click the Print button. Only the area you have selected will print - it's pretty slick.


Moving Pages
It's pretty common to need to move entire pages from one document into another. One way is to do a Save As and delete pages that you don't need. Another is to draw a rectangle around the borders of your page. Select the rectangle and everything else on the page and copy it. Then open a new document of the same size and paste the elements. I usually group the objects before maneuvering the rectangle to fit the page. Then I ungroup and delete the rectangle.

. . .

Multiple pages are just one of the strong points about using FreeHand MX. The more you experiment with multiple and master pages, the more you'll find you can build just about any graphic project in FreeHand.

More Stories By Ron Rockwell

Illustrator, designer, author, and Team Macromedia member Ron Rockwell lives and works with his wife, Yvonne, in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Ron is MXDJ's FreeHand editor and the author of FreeHand 10 f/x & Design, and he co-authored Studio MX Bible and the Digital Photography Bible. Ron has just introduced a "Casual FreeHand" course available at www.brainstormer.org.
He has Web sites at www.nidus-corp.com and www.brainstormer.org.

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