A Tips and Tricks Tutorial By Bob Taylor (“iamtheblues” on tg)
Designing a Vector Camouflage Pattern
Whether you need to illustrate a catalogue on hunting garments, create a disguise for vehicles in a video game, or just make a pattern that looks like a Hawaiian shirt that was manufactured on Mars, the art of camouflage pattern-making can be yours, directly within Xara, for the price of a few moments of quality-time learning right here.
And one of the best things you’ll soon realize is that by following these steps, your camouflage pattern will be vector, and as such, you can scale it up or down to cover a matchbook, or New Zealand! Let’s get to it:
Creating the Basic Patterns
- Draw a square that measures about 200 × 200 pixels. Make three clones of this square for a total of four squares. The easiest way to do this is to hold Ctrl, and then right-drag the original square to the right on the page. When you release the right mouse button, you’ve dropped a clone (a duplicate.
- Give the 4 squares different colours. The base colour used in this tutorial should be black, but optionally, you could use a very deep olive (R= 64, G= 63, and B= 0). Figure 1 shows the order and approximate values of each colored square.
- Take your first square, select the Transparency Tool, and then choose Fractal Plasma as the Transparency shape from the Infobar drop-down list. Set the Transparency Tiling to Repeating Tile, set the Transparency type to Mix and then…
- Click the Transparency tool on the filled square, but not on either control point or control line, as shown in Figure 2. This action makes the fractal resolution field available (by default, it’s dimmed), and this field controls some of the complexity of the fill. Type a value between 90 and 100 in this field and then press the Enter keyboard key.
- Click the Profile button (See Figure 3), and then drag the bottom slider (what might be called “contrast”) all the way to the left, to -1. Then drag (or type in the num box) the top slider (which might be considered “bias”, preferring transparency or opacity in the fractal) to about .2, and you now have the beginning of an intricate camouflage pattern). Make a bitmap copy of this square: press Ctrl+Shift+C, and before you click the Create button, make sure the Color Depth drop-down box is set to True color+Alpha. You no longer need the original rectangle so you can delete it at any time now.
- One at a time, you want to more or less follow steps 3 through 5 with the remaining squares (marked 2, 3, and 4 in Figure 1). However, you’re going to modulate the Profiles of these remaining squares so the result is a series of different camouflage patterns. For the 2nd square (the dark olive guy), set its Profile to -0.18 and the bottom slider to -1. For the dark brick red coloured square (#3), set the top Profile slider to -0.18 and the bottom value to -1 (okay, it’s the same as for the dark green #2 square!).
You should have the black (or nearly black) base rectangle, a solid colour, and three bitmaps with alpha transparency on the page at this point.
Your next stop is to convert these patterns to vectors via Xara’s Bitmap Tracer utility.
Auto-Tracing your Resources
You have three bitmaps to trace, and can select any one for auto-tracing, one bitmap at a time.
- On the main menu, choose Utilities>Bitmap Tracer.
- Click on the Default box and from the drop-down menu choose the Bitmap listed at the top of the list. Make these choices in the dialog box: Choose Limited Colour from the drop-down list directly beneath the name of the chosen bitmap. Remove Noise should be 100, Minimum Area should be 50, in the next column, Final Colour Tolerance, Smoothing and Accuracy should all be set to the maximum. See Figure 4 as a reference.
- Press the Save Settings button, as you will be repeating this process with the other two squares. Click Trace, and then Click Insert. You can close the Bitmap Tracer dialog box now.
- The result of this auto-tracing session is a grouped collection of shapes. Press Ctrl+U while this group is selected to ungroup the shapes.
- With the Selector tool, click the black portion of the group of shapes, and then press Delete or Backspace on your keyboard.
- All that remains is the pattern itself created from the color you used and the Transparency tool settings you worked with earlier. Select all the shapes and then press Ctrl+G to group all the shapes once again.
- Repeat Steps 1-6 with the two remaining bitmaps.
Putting Your Camouflage Gear Together!
You should now have three rectangular patterns on transparent backgrounds. and a fourth square with a solid fill of black. Place the three groups rectangles in any front to back order by selecting them and then pressing Ctrl+Shift+F to move the selection toward the front on the page layer, or Ctrl+Shift+B to put the group behind other shapes on this layer. The black (or nearly black “base shape&edquo; always should be on the bottom of the stack of shapes on this layer in Xara, however. Select it and then press Ctrl+B if you just want to make sure of the order.
- Select all four squares and align them centrally; press Ctrl+Shift+L which is the quick way to display the Align panel, and then just click in the center of the proxy window, as shown in Figure 5.
- You can still select each different coloured pattern by clicking on the colour you want, so you could flip each pattern vertically or horizontally as you see fit to create variations on the camouflage, and you can change the position of the groups’ order in the stack, giving you even more diversity in the finished camouflage texture.
- You can also double-click a group to call up a new window where you can “edit inside” a nested group of shapes, a new Xara feature added last year. By doing this, you can recolor a group of camouflage shapes and create camouflage especially designed for desert terrain, jungle terrain, and alternative universes!
When you are happy with everything, group all the rectangles. If you want to retain the editability of your camouflage as a vector composition, place the rectangle on top of the object you wish to fill, (i.e. text) select all (Ctrl+A) and press Q to apply the ClipView feature.
If you want a bitmap fill, just create a bitmap copy of the finished pattern and use the bitmap as you would any other image fill in Xara. See Figure 6.
Making your Camouflage seamless
Although you’re going to amaze your audiences with this clever method for making camouflage patterns, you might want to exceed even your own high expectations by making a camouflage pattern into a seamless camouflage pattern within a drawing.
No sweat, not a drop. Here’s how:
- Once you’ve made a Bitmap Copy of your texture (Ctrl+Shift+C), create any sort of shape you like, choose the Fill tool, and then choose Bitmap from the Fill type drop-down list on the Infobar.
- Choose the thumbnail of the bitmap within this document that you want to use (the camouflage), and then choose Repeat Inverted from the Repeat type drop-down on the Infobar. The result is a very subtle mirroring effect, almost kaleidoscopic, and no matter how you designed your camouflage sample, the filled shape will not show any abrupt, unsightly edges to your texture.
I think your newly acquired design technique is going to be a very popular addition to your Xara tricks and secrets. Except for one thing: how do you hide camouflage!?
Discuss this tutorial and show the work it inspired in the Xara Xone forum on TalkGraphics.com
was born in the middle of the last century. The son of a sharecropper mother and a bootlegger father who both died when he was five years old in a bizarre accident involving a whiskey still and an eleven foot sack, was raised in a home for wayward children on the banks of the Mississippi Delta.
With this background he was destined to become an Emergency Service Controller for British Gas in Bath, Somerset, England. Because he suffered from an undiagnosed affliction later described by physicians as “a real attitude”, he was pensioned off with some relief by his employers, as he was constantly in hot water for shouting at, and roundly abusing customers on the telephone.
He decided to move to Spain and settled in a remote village in the shadows of the foothills of the Alujarra Mountains, not far from Mecina Alfahar. Whilst out walking one day, he found a discarded copy of Xara Xtreme 5, The Official Guide…the rest is history.
The tutorial Designing a Vector Camouflage including the artwork and the downloadable examples file are Copyright © 2013 Bob Taylor. All Rights Reserved.