Cast in Gold 2015 Guest Tutorial by Francis Proctor

A Tips and Tricks Tutorial By Frances Proctor (“angelize” online)
Cast in Gold

Eureka! There’s gold in this tutorial! Follow along and you’ll learn how to use a noise texture created in Filter Forge. The colours already chosen for you from a metal gradient that’s part of a set donated to the TalkGraphics Clipart Forum by Member and Moderator Albacore. Xara’s embossing filter is then used to transform a plain sans serif font into lettering that looks like it was cast in solid gold. As a bonus, you’ll see how to create a background that makes it look as though your golden treasure is popping out of the dirt!

You’ll be using a Google font called Open Sans Extra Bold for this tutorial. If you have Xara Designer version 9 or 10 you can click the Add button to the right of the Google Fonts section on the Fonts drop-down list to then browse and download this typeface or others from the Font Finder panel (shown in Figure 1). If you are using an older version that doesn’t have the add fonts feature, you can easily download it from the Google fonts web page. You also need to download the tutorial resource file by clicking the above Download button.

Figure 1

Once you have installed the font and downloaded the .xar file, open the file in Xara and you’ll see the texture and the colour swatches at the top and a blank work space at the bottom where you will create your gold cast letters. You should also see a row of named colours on the left side of the colourline. These colours should be in order of use in the tutorial. Before you begin, this tutorial will make use of GNOMRA (Give New Objects Most Recent Attributes) so make sure this feature is enabled by pressing Ctrl+Shift+O (the shortcut to Options). Choose the General tab and make sure Give New Objects Most Recent Attributes is checked. See Figure 2 for both the Options box and the Xara file you should have open right now.

Figure 2

Hit Pay Dirt

You’ll begin by creating a background that will make the gold cast letters pop off the page (so to speak. No actually popping is guaranteed).

  1. Create a rectangle 600 pixels wide by 400 pixels high.

  2. Give the Rectangle an elliptical fill as shown and click centre fill handle and either click the named colour “start” on the colourline or use the eyedropper tool to sample the colours watch of the same name.

  3. Click the outer fill handle and apply the colour “end” to it in the same way.

  4. Clone the rectangle (Ctrl+K) and while keeping it selected, open the Fills gallery, expand the Earthy Fills folder and then select Ground 2 toward the top of the thumbnails.

  5. Click the fill button and your cloned rectangle will fill with dirt. Now, you don’t want just any kind of dirt — you want dark, rich pay dirt, where the gold is found! With the dirt layer selected, you’ll give it an elliptical transparency as shown in Figure 3.

  6. Click the centre handle and set the transparency slider to 50%, click the outer handle and set it to 100% Select both background layers and group. You can set this background aside for now.…

    Figure 3

  7. Save the file to a new name on four hard drive; keep the file open.

Casting the Gold

Now it’s time to create the text and refine it with some of the features in Xara Designer.

  1. You need to type some text using Open Sans at 86pt and then make it bold. You need to round the edges of the letters just a bit to get the look of a sand cast ingot. To do this, select your text with the selector tool (not the Text) tool and then on the effects tools flyout (containing the Bevel tool, Mold tool, and so on) click the bulls-eye icon to choose the Contour tool and reveal its options on the Infobar.

  2. On the Infobar, set the join type to round and beside the three join type buttons, click the button that looks like half a bullseye and half a solid circle; this is called the Inset path button. Make certain you don’t have any typographical or other errors in the text because the Inset path option is coming up, which automatically converts text to non-text shapes. Figure 4 shows the location of a lot of these items.

    Figure 4

  3. Type 2.5px into the Contour width field, and then press Enter. The Contour shape command and you have a nice plump Gold word shape now.

  4. Ctrl+S (File>Save). Keep the document open.

Glimmering the Gold

Next you are going to add some colours and texture and create the illusion of depth to the word.

  1. Start by giving the letters the base colour. Again, you can sample with the dropper or use the named colours on the colourline in the tutorial document. The Hexadecimal value for this colour is #362210 if you’d care to highlight and copy this value and paste it into your Colour Editor’s Hex value box.

  2. Clone the letters (Ctrl+K) and give this duplicate shape the L2 colour (hex=845f2c).

  3. With this clone still selected, open the Bitmaps galley, select the clouds2.jpg texture and click the Transparency button on the Bitmaps gallery at top to apply a bitmap transparency. Apply just a little Feathering, such as 3 or 4 pixels. Offset this copy slightly up and to the left using your keyboard arrow keys to nudge the selected shape. You’ll see the letters gaining depth already.

  4. Keep the clone selected and hit Ctrl+K again to make a new clone. The transparency is already applied to this duplicate, so only recoloring the shape is necessary; the L3 colour (Hex: #dcb757). Apply a little more Feathering than is applied to the L2 shape and nudge this shape up and to the left a bit more.

  5. Repeat step 4 one more time. Give this shape the L4 colour (Hex: e8df7c). Feather it even more than L2 is feathered, and don’t forget to nudge it up and to the left a bit more. By now you will have a bit of feathered shape showing around the top and left edges of the bottom shapes. To clean that up, select all four letter layers (press Ctrl+A), and then press q to apply a ClipView. See Steps 1-5 in a progression in Figure 5.

    Figure 5

Making Gold from Sponge Cake

At this point the letters have depth and texture, but they look more like ladyfingers that spent a little too much time in the oven than gold ingots. Here is the recipe for turning burnt sponge cakes into gold!

  1. With the letters selected click the FX icon on the Photo tools flyout, and then click the New button. Under Stylization, select Emboss —the Emboss filter panel appears.

  2. Start by setting the light colour. Click the little box under light colour and the colour picker panel will come up at the bottom. Set the red value to 253, the green to 238, and the blue to 177; click OK. See Figure 6.

    Figure 6

  3. Now those ladyfingers look really burnt! But don’t worry you won’t have to sell them as hockey pucks. Set the Light direction to 132, Luminous intensity to 63, Shine to 300 angle of incidence to 7, Depth to 100, Smooth to 4, and Reflection to 255 and like magic, gold ingots are growing, as attested to in Figure 7.

    Figure 7

Spit and Polish

Your ingots are nearly done but they need a bit of tidying up and a little buffing.

  1. First to get rid of the sharp looking edges left from the embossing —give your letters about 4.3px of feathering (Feathering is on the Standard Bar and available when a shape in the drawing window has been selected and then with the Feathering feature still chosen, click the arrow icon beside the feathering slider. The feathering profile box appears. Set the top slider to -0.44 and the bottom slider to -0.34 Small amounts of feathering will clean up the edges without over-softening them. See Figure 8.

    Figure 8

  2. Your ingots are still a little rough looking, and really too dark in places, so you’re going to buff them up a bit. With nothing selected (press ESC), choose the Transparency tool and set the transparency to 70%. This is where GNOMRA comes into play.

  3. Select the Shape Painter tool and set the brush size and softness quite high you will want to experiment a bit with this as it really depends on what your zoom is set at. Click the named colour “light” on the colourline or select the light brushing colour swatch with the Shape Painter to set the colour. Now lightly brush over areas of the gold ingots to even the colours out a bit. Don’t worry about going over the edges: you can clean that up later. See Figure 9.

    Figure 9

  4. Make sure nothing is selected (press ESC) and go back to the Transparency tool. Reduce the transparency to 60%

  5. Select the dark brushing colour and reduce your brush size and the softness value again you will need to experiment with this. Brush some smaller strokes in the centres of the letters. This will give the appearance that the gold was not poured into the mold exactly evenly. Marquee select all of the parts of the lettering and then press q to apply a ClipView, as you can see beautifully illustrated in Figure 10. Your ingots are ready for the Grande Composition!

    Figure 10

Buried Treasure

You have your gold cast letters and your pay dirt background. Now, you are going to put them together and make it appear that the gold letters are actually in the dirt, not merely sitting on top of the dirt.

  1. Fetch the background you set aside, and place the gold letters on to it so that they are centred over the lighter area, in the middle. At this point, you may want to feather the gold characters a bit, just to blend them into your background.

  2. The trick to burying your gold is to use the Eraser tool. Set the brush size at about 40 and set the softness at 55. The great thing about this technique, is that the Eraser tool will create an opacity mask and your live effect won’t keep regenerating as you work!

  3. Start by taking a little off the bottom: not too much, because you are going to zoom in, and remove more of the gold to expose the rocks and dirt, and make it appear that the gold is partially buried. See Figure 11.

    Figure 11

  4. If you accidentally remove too much, no worries. Just hold down the Shift key and paint it back in, as seen in Figure 12! Work your way across. When you are done as a finishing touch, add a bit of a Soft Wall shadow using the Shadow tool.

    Figure 12

  5. You probably don’t want the Transparency tool’s default property to be 60% for future creations; press ESC to deselect anything, and then with the Transparency tool chosen, choose No Transparency from the Transparency Shape drop-down list on the Infobar.

I hope you struck it rich…in fun and learning! The final image is shown in Figure 13. I look forward to seeing some wonderful golden treasures at Talkgraphics!

Figure 13

Show off your digital goldsmithing or to discuss this tutorial go to the thread for this tutorial in the Xara Xone forum on

Photo of Frances Proctor

Frances Proctor (Angelize online), is the co-publisher of the weekly, Good Morning Sunshine! that has brought a smile to the faces of print and online subscribers for 14 years. She uses Xara products extensively in her work for her firm, SunWings Graphic Design. She loves to teach and share her love of Art though her YouTube channel, her contributions to The Xara Xone and her work on Xara’s TalkGraphics forum as a moderator. You can drop her a line through her website or better yet stop by the Xara Xone forum on Talkgraphics and chat with Angelize there.

The tutorial Cast in Gold including the artwork and the downloadable examples file are Copyright © 2015 Frances Proctor. All Rights Reserved.