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The Flow Between Fireworks & FreeHand

The Flow Between Fireworks & FreeHand

These days it's a slippery slope we wander between graphics for onscreen viewing and graphics designed for printing. Depending on your own background, you may be more prepared for one application than the other. Working with FreeHand and Fireworks can be slightly daunting, but immensely rewarding.

Macromedia defines Fireworks as "the easiest way to create, optimize, and export interactive graphics in a single, Web-based environment." FreeHand is described as a vector-based drawing application used to "create print and Web graphic illustrations such as logos and advertising banners." If I may, I'd like to add a little information to those descriptions.

Fireworks works primarily and ultimately in bitmaps, or rasters as they are also called. By definition, these files are created for viewing on a computer monitor in one way or another, usually via the Internet. Vectors are used in some drawing procedures, but in the end are converted to bitmaps. The drawing tools are adequate, but not nearly as precise or numerous as those contained in FreeHand. Conversely, FreeHand uses vectors for the majority of the work done, and has a few bitmap effects that both soften and amplify the vector art.

Fireworks isn't the program to use if you are ultimately going to print your artwork. That's not to say that you cannot design and complete a logo in Fireworks with the hopes of getting it on paper; it only means that there's a bit more work to be done ­ in FreeHand. Alternately, you shouldn't spend a lot of time creating Web graphics in FreeHand that could just as easily be done in Fireworks. Instead, general or precise shapes can be created in FreeHand and exported to Fireworks for Web preparation.

Beyond obvious differences in the tools involved in creating artwork in the two programs, there are major and minor inconsistencies between the programs guaranteed to irritate or confuse the best of us, if not drive us mad! First we'll discuss the ins and outs of Fireworks, then the same situations in FreeHand in order to help you create a smooth and efficient workflow. Each of these programs is good in its own right, but when they're used in combination, they become downright powerful.

To begin, you must remember that finished artwork from Fireworks is bitmapped, and that means it is resolution dependent. If you enlarge the artwork, you'll be embarrassed by jaggies and crude imagery. One-size-fits-all does not apply for Fireworks. What all this means is that if you want a logo to fill a 300-pixel by 150-pixel space, you must create the logo at exactly that size. Yes, you can create it larger and reduce it, but you're better off doing the artwork on a 1:1 basis.

The resolution in a Fireworks document is 72 ppi (pixels per inch, sometimes referred to as dots per inch) by default, but that number can be changed in the Modify>Canvas>Image Size menu. Figure 1 shows the difference in resolution from 72 ppi to 144 ppi to 300 ppi. Briefly, increasing the resolution increases the image's physical dimensions. What is happening is that your monitor displays 72 ppi, and doubling the image's resolution requires the image to double in size ­ on the monitor ­ in order to maintain the 72 ppi view. If you notice the file dimensions, you'll see that the number of pixels will increase as the resolution increases, while the physical dimensions of the object remain the same. If you look a little more closely at Figure 1, however, you can see that the crosshatched patterned fill remains the same size throughout the resolution range. If you did a logo such as this at 300 ppi and saved it as a TIFF file, the pattern would be pretty much negated when ink hit the paper. By the same token, if you did the logo at 300 ppi and changed its resolution to 72 ppi, you may not be pleased with the way some effects appear. So, to summarize, it's best to do your Fireworks Web-bound artwork at same size or 1:1 to keep your sanity.

Fireworks has many nice bitmap effects, such as shadows, bevels, glows, transparency, and so on, but depending on the file type or method of export, not all of these effects will be retained. As long as your art is headed for the Web, there's nothing in Fireworks that won't work just fine.

Export to Freehand
The rub can happen when you remove an object from Fireworks for use in another program. This article will only describe what happens between Fireworks and FreeHand.

Raw File Transfers
If you have both FreeHand and Fireworks running, it's pretty simple to select the Fireworks artwork and drag and drop it onto the FreeHand page. Be sure to save both documents before attempting any file transfers! Crashes usually happen when you can least afford them. You can also copy the Fireworks object and paste it into FreeHand. However the most convenient method is to select the object or objects and click on the Quick Export button at the top right corner of the Fireworks document window. That menu offers exports to FreeHand, Director, Dreamweaver, and Flash. There's an extended "Other" menu that allows you to export to other programs as shown in Figure 2. Any of these methods will give you the optimum file transfer for the next intended use of the graphic. In the case of FreeHand, copy and paste, drag and drop, or copying from the Quick Export menu, all provide an editable illustration. Depending on the settings you apply in the various dialog boxes that will appear, most of the artwork will remain editable ­ or not, as you see fit ­ in vector form.

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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