March 31, 2018

Vladimir Putin - vector portrait

I started my third vector portrait - no pixels, all vector. This one is the first I did in full colour. Subject is Russian president Vladimir Putin. By far the smartest and most likely the most sincere politician of these days. This is a work in progress, so far only the vector shapes have been created. At this point it still contains matters that must be changed. Vector texture brushes will be drawn after this stage to make it more realistic. In all but the last phases I draw first and amend and tune later to get colours right and accents in balance with each other.

The image was created in Affinity Designer - the best vector drawing program around. Putin, along with Xi Jin Ping and Trump, is working with the White Dragon Society behind the veil to build a better, more fair world, void of poverty and environmental pollution. It is a horrendously complex process that involves countless measures that must be taken. But if one person is smart and powerful enough to accomplish this tremendous feat, it is Vladimir Putin.

Tip
To see the often subtle difference between the various stages, click on an image and use the mouse scroll wheel to flip through the stages in Blogger's Lightbox viewer. Each stage increment contains at least 50 vector bush strokes and / or shapes in addition to the previous stage.




Added and tuned many custom made brush strokes
that were created for this particular portrait.






This is what the image above
looks like in vector outline view.





Started with texturing of wrinkles and pores
with custom vector brushes and vector shapes.





Worked on mouth, face, forehead and hair textures.





Tweaking of vector shapes - April 2 2018 - 00:23





Stage 10 - March 31 2018 - 19:31




Stage 9 vector shapes outlines




Progress sequence showing stages 1-9



Western leaders are inventing all sorts of unfounded accusations in an attempt to make Putin look bad with the assistance of the corrupt mainstream media. The miserable traitors are all under the influence of the occult, satanic Deep State that aims to wipe out 90% of the world population. An increasing number of people in the west begin to see through the devious smear campaigns of their leaders, many of whom have come in office through election fraude. Once Vladimir Putin and Xi Jin Ping succeed in killing off the petro-dollar it will mean the end of the utterly corrupt capitalist banking system and evil, deceiving politicians. People will lynch them in the streets (as Bush Sr. once remarked in an interview), which is why the Bush crime syndicate has prepared an escape to Paraguay and other wealthy parasites have bought property in New-Zealand. It won't help the bastards, they will be found and still be dragged into the streets.





March 15, 2018

Marlon Brando vector portrait

This is my second vector portrait created in Affinity Designer. It's still a work in progress. I started drawing vector shapes only. After this I drew skin and hair texture details with custom made vector brushes - so far I've created 16 of those. It will be a more subtle texture than in the Abe Lincoln portrait, because in this image Brando is younger than Lincoln, featuring less wrinkles and pronounced pores. This portrait's appearance will be indistinguishable (I hope) from one created by a bitmap-editor once it is completed. Accuracy and subtleness will be just as good or better. The difference with bitmap images is that the vector image will be re-scalable to any desired size without loss of quality. What is very helpful in Affinity Designer is that it is parametric, which means that you can later still apply changes to what you have drawn before. Endlessly. This function of the program is absolutely brilliant.

Below you see its current state and a compilation of its previous states. Also the outline views are added, which reflect what shapes and lines were actually drawn. Of course gradient fills and transparency were used a lot, as well as blurring of shapes. Designer's most recent version does not yet have mesh-fill, but I didn't miss that function much. Click on the images to see larger versions of them. I work in many layers, which sort of resembles the glacis technique used in painting and in airbrush. It gives the portrait depth and allows to make many changes, like darkening areas or making them lighter than they were drawn originally. The fills can also be given completely a controllable level of noise which gives an instant texture.




This is how the portrait could look when framed.





Neck & jacket basics done.





More changes applied to skin and hair texture.





Outline view showing the vector shapes and lines
that were used to draw the image above this one.





Some more texturing & colouring test.





The head after further texturing - adding
some vector shapes and vector brush strokes.




Skin texturing with custom vector brushes in an early stage.




Outline view showing the vector shapes and lines
of the portrait as it is visible in the image above.




Only vector shapes are drawn. Skin and hair texture will be added later.



Previous stages + vector outline view.



This portrait is being created with Affinity Designer 1.6.4.104 (beta). It allows me to do what I wasn't able to create in CorelDRAW 2017, without using its mesh-fill tool that I don't like (as I dislike the one in Illustrator). Using vector brushes is far more intuitive for those artists that do not wish to strictly copy a reference photo, but aim to add their own signature to a portrait, i.e. putting an emphasis on certain facial features while giving other less of a pronounced appearance. Affinity has been around for just a few years, while Corel and Adobe have been since the beginning of the nineties of the previous century. Adobe has 10,000+ developers and Serif (the company that created Affinity designer) 80. Creating such a wonderful and efficient program with so few people in such a short period of time, borders on a miracle in my mind, but they have managed to build a program that already now rivals the competition in a most excellent way and even surpasses them in certain aspects.

In addition, purchasing Affinity Designer will not force you to apply for an extra mortgage like the programs from the Adobe suit do - it cost just 54 Euro which includes the right to three updates.... Designer is also more stable than CorelDRAW, even if it does not have all the functions Corel does yet. Though as I wrote earlier, it does have certain functions Corel does not and for people interested in creating vector portraits, that is wonderful news. And what's more, it is available on Mac OS, iPad and Windows. Pixel pushers may find it nice to know Affinity also has a program for them: Affinity Photo, that is an equally promising development by Serif. Probably this summer (of 2018) Affinity Publisher will be launched, which is a DTP (Desktop Publishing) program, that will make it a suit of programs allowing artists to create art and publish it in documents, folders leaflets etc. with Serif products only.

I used to do a lot of airbrushing (as can be seen on an other page in this blog), but I have switched to digital art creation because of the undo functionality (up to 8000+ undo's in this file...), the parametric functions and the excellent history function that allows to go back in time and make changes afterwards. As I become more familiar with Designer's possibilities I expect to be able to draw portraits that are of the same quality as my airbrush work or better (in less time). I focus on the vector drawing program Affinity Designer mainly because it allows to rescale images without loss of quality. Affinity Photo allows me to make additional changes (once I have decided on the image size) before the image gets printed or published digitally to make final touches to portraits.








March 11, 2018

Abe Lincoln vector portrait

I have made a few portraits and paintings in photo editors, which process bitmaps, i.e. pixels. The problem with those is that I was basically stuck with one size - the original pixel measurements. Enlarging bitmap images causes them to lose crispness; they become blurry. Vector images don't cause such a problem, because the lines, shapes and colours (gradients) are expressed in formulas. Enlarging the image simply is a re-calculation of the original as a result of which the image retains its sharpness and detail. Up to recently I was restricted to use CorelDRAW, which lacks functionality to create a proper realistic portrait, unless one is prepared to use the mesh fill tool. Which I wasn't. Working with this particular tool is a horrendously tedious and time consuming process that didn't appeal to me at all.

And then I encountered Affinity Designer, a vector drawing program that has all the goodies to create vector portraits without having to spend huge parts of ones life with mesh colouring. When creating custom brushes, the program allows to 'paint' with vectors. In addition it has magnificent control over areas and lines (strokes) that are necessary to draw when making portraits - gradient colours, gradient transparency and blurring of the edges. Inkscape also has this type of functionality, but its user interface I find difficult to get familiar with. The stylish Affinity Designer UI is simple to use for artists that have experience in working with Illustrator or CorelDRAW, because of its similarity to their interfaces. In fact, less clicks are required to achieve the same in Affinity Designer than in Corel's and Adobe's vector drawing programs. And - best of all - Affinity Designer costs a very user friendly 54 Euro.... No wretched subscription model while three free upgrades included. What more can starving graphic artists wish for?

Actually, I considered dropping Windows some time ago, because I thought I had found all alternative Linux programs to do the graphic art I could do in Windows. But then I encountered the Affinity Designer and Photo, which made me decide to stick with Redmond's not always stable (cough) operating system. This first attempt at creating portraits in a vector drawing program - Affinity Designer - makes photo editors redundant, as well as the tedious and time consuming mesh-fill tools in vector drawing programs such as CorelDRAW and Illustrator. Affinity Designer, like Inkscape offers the possibility to blur vector shapes, which is a quick way to create the gradient coloured shapes to which gradient fills can be added. These are very effective functions to create realistic vector portraits, which allow to rescale to any desired size, without losing detail and unwanted blurring and jagged border shapes in unwanted spaces. Designer's competition is already now lagging behind, eventhough Designer is a relatively new program. Corel is too buggy, Illustrator too expensive and Inkscape's UI requires a type of intuition that I don't have.

I could fill a lengthy blog entry with the advantages I found in Affinity Designer compared to its competition, and I may do that in future, but not now. After a brief test in which I explored the techniques that I thought I would need to create a realistic vector portrait, I looked for a subject for a portrait that would be suited for my first vector portrait attempt. I remembered I did a test of a new, synthetic type of paper when I was still airbrushing for which I used creepy prez Abraham Lincoln. I thought I would make a portrait of him again in vectors, so that I could compare the results. And low and behold: the vector program made my airbrush skills totally redundant...(except for its therapeutic usefulness perhaps). The only problem is that you have to get your artwork printed when you want to hang your portrait on a wall, which is a rather costly affair, although A3 printers are becoming relatively affordable. Their ink cartridges on the other hand remain ungainly expensive. Other than that, Affinity Designer absolutely blew me away with respect to its ease of use and most magnificent functionality. Below is the result - an oversight of the various stages and the portrait so far. The head is completed (I think) and all that is left for me to do, is draw the neck and costume.



After having had a tip at the Affinity forum
the colouring of the jacket has improved a lot.




Outline view showing vector shapes and lines
as they were used in the image above this one.





Colour test





Head is close to completion. I plan to
also draw the neck and his costume in
the near foreseeable future. Stay tuned....



These are the various stages of the portrait.
Click the images to see larger versions of them.



There still are numerous mistakes in this portrait, but they won't be repeated in future projects. Visually the portrait appears to be okay, so I'll settle for this and consider it to be part of an unavoidable learning curve. While drawing I continued to run into new possibilities and questions I had with regards to Designer's functionality were promptly answered in the Affinity forum. The portrait was drawn in a beta version after I had a horrendous crash with the previous versions of Designer and Photo. I guess this is all part of the early stages of the development process in which Affinity currently finds itself. The beta version gave no problems at all, which raises my expectations for their next upgrade. In their forum they announced its change list, which is huge; it most likely will make Designer even more effective than it already is now.


A few words on digital art
I've noticed that many artists and art lovers find that digital art is not real art or inferior to analogue methods of creating art at best. I have done a lot of airbrushing in the past, which also isn't considered to be real art by fans of the hairy brush artists and to such people, digital art is even worse than airbrush. In all honesty, I must admit that I couldn't care less what people think about it. What matters to me is that I find the level of control digital means offer, are beyond anything other techniques do. I'm not a control freak at all, except when creating realistic portraits. I always aim to bring out the essence of the people in my portraits, making changes that aren't present in the photographs that I use as reference material, and for now digital methods suit me best to achieve such matters.

I like the tinkering to get things right, without having to go through a lot of time and effort to revert to a previous state (after having made a mistake) and work from there have an other go to express what is in my mind's eye. Affinity Designer is over 90% parametric, which means that the original - any stage of the drawing I created - remains untouched if I don't touch it. Modifications, additions and subtractions are simply stored in different layers on top of the original, which theoretically allows to create and endless number of changes. That is also possible to do in traditional painting with brushes or in airbrush of course, but it simply takes a lot more time and effort. In addition, Affinity's History Panel allows to make changes in any stage of the project, while it offers a 1000 (!) undo actions.

With a vector drawing program like Designer I don't need to waste time and effort; I can make any change I want immediately and accurately. Outside critiquing art, those that dislike digital art, love all the handy digital gadgetry they use on a daily basis while being dependent on computers, tablets, smart phones, smart household applications, the internet and cloud storage etc., but when it comes to art, they suddenly have an opinion that is incongruous with the rest of their largely digital life. In most cases just because they've heard other people, who they consider to be influential, say that digital art creation isn't 'real art' and therefore choose to remain in denial, since everyone else who is similarly conditioned, does that too. To me, for the reasons mentioned here, digital art actually is art. Perhaps in 50 years from now people will barely know what analogue painting and airbrushing is, because all artists have gone digital. So digital artists may be nothing more or less than a poorly understood avant garde group of creative souls.





March 7, 2018

Native American Paintings

I've always felt attracted to the Native American way of life and their often spectacular appearance. Needless to say I was intrigued by the work of photographer Edward S. Curtis and painter Howard Terpning. They both captured an age in which people were brutally massacred by invaders. An estimated 100 million Native American people were slaughtered; the biggest genocide perpetuated in modern history. Yet only few are aware of this as a result of intentional falsification of historic records and the (mis)conduct of current broadcasters that either distort facts or omit them on order of the descendants of those that committed the cleansing.

The indigenous people's closely related spiritual approach to life and and its oneness with nature is without doubt the fact that appealed to me most, because I intuitively sensed that this is how beings in this material realm would perhaps one time be able to return to their original, majestic and magical existence. All is transient - some situations are ended by violent interference while others sought harmonious ways to transform. I believe the latter is the process that the Native American people attempted to do. I realize of course that there were wars between various Native American nations, but consider such to be the consequence of the ominous legacy that this material realm imposes on all life forms present in it.

I made two digital paintings so far (that are more or less finished) that depict the Native American life style. Both of which contain rifles, which is some sort of symbol that reflects their battle with the invaders that brought an entirely different way of living to the North-American continent. Also visible in the paintings are the traditional dresses, hair styles and environment. I chose to show these paintings in frames, because that is how they would look once they were giclee-printed, which is the goal of every painter. I used a computer to create them, so that they would be preserved beyond the life span of traditional materials. I started creating them in Corel PhotoPain(t), but after it continued to crash, I switched to Affinity Photo that has an UI that I find pleasant to work with.

Please click the images to see the paintings in full screen full HD resolution.



Tribe gathering



Peace Pipes & Winchesters



Lakota warrior 'Kills First'



Proud Men



Powow



Kiowa warrior





January 31, 2018

Affinity portrait test

After Corel PhotoPaint suddenly ceased to export png and GIMP was somewhat troublesome to use, due to the rather diverging UI, I gave Affinity Photo a try in creating portraits. Results so far is quite good, although I had a mess up with layers, that I haven't yet figured out. Usually I create a set of layers during the process, that I may explain once I've become more familiar with the program. GIMP and Affinity both produced good quality files, but I find the Affinity UI much easier to use. GIMP is a free open source program and Affinity a surprisingly low cost photo editor. I will never use Corel PhotoPaint and Photoshop again. Affinity and GIMP are more than adequate replacements that don't force artists to apply for a mortgage to purchase photo editing software.

What I do miss is the possibility to use shortcuts for brush size, transparency, and layer switching / activation. I've peeked on forums, but the suggestions offered there weren't very helpful for these functions. Having shortcuts for these would greatly speed up the painting process. Below you see the first 9 stages of the portrait. Subject is Steven Brown, leader of a recently established local political party in Amsterdam. The party - Stem van de Straat (Voice from the Street) - states things like they are and announced to do something about misery ignored or even created by other parties. This didn't make them popular with corrupt mainstream (both media and other political parties), which caused them to be boycotted everywhere.


With color overlay - I used the 'color'-filter at 91%



Finished (I think). Stage 15
Feb 02 2018 12:42 CET
Click image for larger version



Portait stages 1 - 12
Steven Brown, party leader
of Stem van de Straat,
political party Amsterdam


Please click the image to see a larger version of the png-file. These are created on Jan 31 2018. I will post updates to the portrait soon. Stay tuned.

Update Feb 01 2018
It appears to be possible after all to change brush size on-the-fly in Affinity Photo. Press Control-Alt simultaneously and press both right and left mouse buttons. Moving the mouse from left to right changes the brush size and moving it in the vertical directions changes the (edge) hardness of the brush. Quite useful.

In the brushes panel there are a ton of brushes available. Default it is set to basic, which is good for basic drawing, but there are also a number of Textured brushes and DAUB Dry media which are particularly useful when drawing portraits. Click on the top right hand corner to define the properties - including dynamics - of the brushes to easily and swiftly create textures. Leaving this dialogue open while painting speeds up the process (especially when you work with dual screens.

For making subtle changes to the portrait the Liquid Persona in the top icon bar is very handy. It allows to apply the millimetre accuracy alterations which are imperative in creating portraits to preserve the likeness of the subject.








October 29, 2017

How to anchor images and tables in runaround text in QuarkXpress 2016

Until Adobe chose to lure its clients to use their subscription model for its programs, I used InDesign CC for desktop publications. Anchoring images and tables was no problem whatsoever. Anchoring objects is a way to make sure that the objects in runaround text moves with the related paragraph when before that paragraph text is inserted, edited (resulting in different text length) or removed. In QuarkXpress 2016 achieving this is a different ball game. The Quark forums weren't very helpful (to say the least) to get this done properly and when looking on the Internet one finds out that many (newbie) users like myself struggle to get this problem solved.

Usually you see fuzzy answers, like cut the image after selecting it with the Item Tool, then switch to the Text Tool, place the cursor where you want to insert the image or table to be inserted and paste the object there. This does not work. I don't understand why this type of advice is given over and again, because the people providing such advice must have an unsolved problem themselves. But if you have this issue, I'm sure you will run into many instance of flawed tips when searching for an answer on the web, until you're sick of it. At least that is what happened to me.

What is wrong with this advice? The wrap option ceases to work doing the above when the image is narrower than the width of the text that you want to wrap around it. The text is visible though the image when it has a transparent background because the image is placed on top of the text, while an opaque image simply hides the text that runs below it as if no wrap around image was inserted. Even when the selected image, according to the Measurements Palette, has the text running around the Item, the text continues to run below the image. So, these standard 'solutions' that are abundant on the Internet, will not help you one bit to get rid of this problem, which is a basic function of DTP programs.




What does actually work then? In the image above this paragraph, the image and table (indicated by the red arrows) are both anchored in a full page width text area that actually does runs around them. When you add, remove or edit text before them, they will automatically move with the text to which they are anchored. How is this done? The answer is quite elaborate, but it pays off to read it all. It took me a week to figure this out and I did not find the solution in the QuarkXpress forums and in Youtube. QuarkXpress should have noticed many users were unable to properly do this, simply because I noticed and I'm sure many others did as well.

How to properly anchor images and tables in runaround text
Use Callout Anchors. InDesign users may find this a strange name. In various Youtube clips I found that in demonstrations, the image was either placed outside the text area or it covered the entire width of a column. This isn't helpful if you wish to place your image inside text that fills the width of you page minus the margins, while your image is narrower than the text. I became confused with this since I initially thought that it only worked for images outside of a text area. None of the videos mentioned that it also works when placing images inside a text. I find this strange, since many QuarkXpress users have run into this problem, bearing in mind the number of (unanswered) questions with regard to this matter that I encountered.

If you wrestle with anchoring objects in text, place the image you want to use in the text where you want it to be. When you click the image and move the mouse cursor towards the Measurements Palette, below it several tabs will pop down (or up if you placed that palette at the bottom of you screen). Choose the Runaround tab and in the top left corner of the Measurements Palette, select Item. This causes the text to run around the Item, i.e. your image (or table). Below the image and table I placed a text box with a caption (the red type 'Fig. 001' and the 'Table 001'). Make these text boxes as wide as the image or table and select the runaround Item function for them as well. Place them near or against the image or table, so that no text slips between them. I centered these caption texts horizontally and vertically inside the text box and gave them a style. Create a new Character Style, not a Paragraph Style to do this.

Then Group the image or table and caption by selecting all images and text boxes that must be grouped, while pressing the Shift key and then pressing Control-G. I did this because I wanted the image and its caption and the table and its caption to be moved simultaneously inside the runaround text. Place the Text Tool near the image inside the text. I prefer to do it somewhere just above the image, because it makes the editing of the placing of the image easier as I will explain later. Then right click and choose Callout Anchor in the pop up and the Insert Callout Anchor in another pop up that pops out of the side of the pop up (sounds confusing, but this is how it works). A small blue square with a red frame around it appears in the spot where you clicked; this is the anchor.

Tables may require additional settings
Then right click on the image or table and select Callout Anchor again and then Associate with Callout Anchor. As a result a blue dotted line connects the anchor with your image or table. Now test if it works by inserting the cursor in the text above the image or table and hit Enter on the keyboard or remove at least one full line of text. You will notice that the image or table will now move with the changed amount of text. Long tables with many rows, by the way, can be defined to break - if they're not grouped with other objects - but you must define this before grouping them by right clicking on the table and selecting Table in the pop up menu and then Table Break... If you choose Height you can indicate of how many rows the Header and / or Footer consists, in order to prevent them to be separated on a different page from the rest of the table. If you still get ugly broken tables, fiddle around with the cell height to make the layout look good. This will cause tables to break properly if it spans more than one page.




If the image or table jumps to strange places on the page you can fine tune the exact location where you want it to be. This is done as follows: right click on the anchor that you placed in the text and choose Edit Callout Settings. You will notice that as you hover over the anchor, a white square appears; this means your cursor is in the right place and you can right click. When you clicked Edit Callout Settings the dialogue below appears:




In the upper part of this dialogue you can define the callout (your image or table) relative to the page, paragraph or anchor in the horizontal plane. Playing with the options, is my best advice - I did it to figure out how these things work. You'll get the hang of it soon enough and finding the proper procedure yourself makes you remember it better - the choices in the drop down menus do exactly what they mean. The Offset value is to be used to define how far the image or table is placed from the option you selected. For instance, if you wanted the image or table to be placed 10 mm to the right from the center of the page (if that is what you selected), fill in 10 mm. If you fill in -10 mm, it will be placed 10 mm to the left of the center of the page. Positive values will cause a box to be moved to the right, negative valuse will cause it to be moved to the left.

The values in the bottom part of the dialogue, allow you to determine the distance of the image or table, relative to the anchor you placed in the vertical plane. Again, explore the options; they explain themselves. You learn more from trial and experience than I can explain in this blog. Here you can also fill in an Offset value to fine tune the placing of you image or table below (or even above when entering negative values) from the anchor. Positive values will cause the box to be moved downward, negative values will cause it to be move upward. Should you run into trouble defining the values when the dialogue prevents you from clicking OK and you can only Cancel to close the dialogue, select the image or table by clicking on them and go to Item. Then choose Callout Styles and select Default. Then start all over again. Why this option isn't included in the Callout Settings dialogue box, riddles me. To work around this matter, open up the Callout Styles panel that you find under the Windows menu item, which allows you to set the style to default immediately.

If you have many images all of which have to be placed relative to the related paragraph in the same manner, create a new Style in the Callout Styles panel, which will allow you to copy horizontal and vertical values to each of the instances without you having to type them in over and again. Just click the bold +-sign in the top left of the panel and configure the values once and apply them often.

Note:
The definition of callout values will NOT show until after completing the definition, a left mouse button click outside of the page area is done. The callout only then will jump to the position that was defined by the values you have just entered in the dialogue box .... QuarkXpress isn't always good at refreshing the screen. I have an excellent graphic card and 16 GB RAM, which is powerful enough to work with demanding 3D programs, but QuarkXpress doesn't refresh well after editing the Callout Settings. To work around this problem, scroll the page off the screen and then back in the screen where you can see the callout - it then will be visible according to your editing.

I prefer the on-the-fly approach InDesign offers to get these things done, but the absurd amount of money Adobe asks for the use of its programs, made me accept the learning curve QuarkXpress forced me to overcome. Adobe had a 44 % increase in revenues since the introduction of the subscription model. Guess who is paying for that? You! The user. So in spite of the headaches QuarkXpress (and their lack of proper support) gives me, I will continue to explore it and save myself a bucket of money.

***********


Other tips - Change Zoom Increments
Another major annoyance that I encountered when working with QuarkXpress, is that the Zoom Increments are ridiculously big. When turning the scroll wheel (definable in Preferences), depending on the direction in which you turn the wheel, the image on the screen immediately becomes humongous or very tiny or disappears from the screen all together. To solve this, double click on the Zoom tool in the Tool Box while pressing the Control Key, causing the dialogue as shown below to pop up.




Click on the Zoom icon, indicated by the top red arrow and then click the Modify button, indicated by the lower red arrow. An other dialogue pops up, in which you can change the increments. I set it to 2 mm, which makes the program work a whole lot better. QuarkXpress is very good at hiding functions, while not placing others in the menus, forcing users to use poorly documented short-cut keys.

Adding page numbers
An other hidden shortcut key combination that is often used in Master pages is the adding of page numbers. Draw a tex box, place the cursor in the box and press Control-3 to insert a page number. You could also type 'Page' and a space and then use the shortcut key combination. I can't remember having this many pains in the butt when I was in the process of getting familiar with InDesign, but it also reflects how much I object their subscription policy.

Place Master page objects on a separate layer
When you're done creating Master pages, lock that layer after making sure it is all the way to the back and create a new layer in which text, images and tables etc. are placed. This prevents you from involuntarily creating inconsistent object placing in the wrong layer which can be very confusing. Changes to the Master page(s) can be made afterwards nevertheless.

Selecting objects beneath other objects
If you need to edit an object that is below an other one, click that object and then click again while pressing Control-Alt-Shift, which will select the object below the one on top. Clicking again while pressing the key combination will select objects still lower in the Z-axis. This way you can avoid moving and repositioning objects when you need to select objects below others. Quite useful.

Switching between Master pages and Layout pages
When in the process of adjusting Master pages (before you've finished editing them), switching between them is very handy. The shortcut is not shown in the Page menu, but the shortcut you can use, is Shift-F4. It can speed up your work a lot. Note: Always have Dynamic Guides under the View drop down in the menu bar turned on; when drawing text boxes or image rectangles the cursor will snap to them, signalling that you're in the right spot by displaying red lines and measurements. This is important for working consistently.

How to Create an Automatic Text Box in Existing Layouts
If you forgot to select automated linking of text boxes while creating a new document or if you discover that automatically linked text boxes may come in handy while you are busy making the lay-out for a book (because your assigner keeps adding, deleting or modifying text while you are creating the book he wants, for instance), do the following:

In the Page Layout palette, drag a page icon (facing or non-facing) into the Master Pages region of the palette. It will be named B-Master B by default.

  1. Double-click on the new B-master B Master Page to display it in the layout window
  2. Create a text box that matches the point of origin and height/width you want for the Automatic Text Box
  3. Select the Linking tool in the Tools palette
  4. Click on the Unlinked Chain icon located in the top left corner of your B-Master B master page and then click on your text box. If your Master Page is a Facing Pages Master Page do the same thing for the other facing page of the master page

Note: This procedure will work for any master page, including your existing A-Master A master page.

Switching Views
Pressing F7 toggles between a view in which the Guides are shown or hidden. Control-Alt-Shift-I (capital i) shows the Authoring View - The view in which guides and margins are visible. Control-Alt-Shift-G shows the Output View - The view of the bare product without bleed zones, margins and guides. F7 works in both Authoring View and Output View.

Fading a photo in QuarkXpress 2016
You could of course edit photos in a bitmap editor, but to some extent this is possible in QuarkXpress as well. Place a rectangle over the image and with the Colour Blends panel (to be found under the Windows drop down in the menu bar) fade the rectangle  that you have to give the background colour fading into transparency or an other colour. This looks as if the photo fades into the background colour of the page.

Fit picture in box maintaining aspect ratio
Especially when having to fit large size images in a box pressing Control-Alt-Shift-F is useful. Sometimes images are so big that they fall outside the screen reserved for a page, which means resizing the image also requires moving it to get to the handles. The shortcut does this job in a blink of the eye and the image's aspect ration is preserved.

Table of Contents with dotted Fill character
When you're done creating your document, books in particular, you may want to create a Table of Contents. First create a list. Go to Edit and then to Lists....  You will then see this dialogue pop up:




Click on New to create a List indicated by the red arrow. After clicking the following dialogue will pop up:


First give it a name as indicated by the red arrow with the number 1, in this case called TOC. In this document all Header 1 Styles will appear in the TOC. Then select a Style from the list by clicking on it, indicated by the red arrow with the number 2. Once you have selected the Style click on the big black arrow in the dialogue, indicated by the red arrow with number 3, to add the Style to the Styles in List part of the dialogue. Next click on the downward pointing arrow to the right of the Numbering header after which a pop down will show, indicated by the red arrow with number 4. Select the Text ...Page# option by clicking on it. Leave the Alphabetical box unchecked if you want the TOC to reflect the order as in the sequence of the book. Finally click on the OK button. After doing this go to the Windows in the menu bar at the top of the screen. Then to Lists which will make the Lists panel open, which looks like the image shown below, but before generating the TOC, place your cursor in the document where you want the TOC to appear:



Then find the List in the List Name drop down list. Then click on the Build button. In the place in the document where you placed your cursor the TOC will appear. Press Control-A to select the entire TOC listing. Then go to the Measurements Palette and click on Tabs tab, indicated by the red arrow with number 1. The tabs indication bar will now appear right above the TOC list as shown in the image below:


Then type in the fill character in the Fill field, indicated by the red arrow with the number 2, which usually is a dot. Finally drag the Right tab onto the tab indicator bar above the newly generated TOC in the document. The Tab indocator bar looks like this:





If you exactly followed the steps described above, a TOC will be generated that looks similar to this in your document:



Note:
You really have to drag the tab into the tab indicator bar above the text of the TOC, or the fill characters will NOT appear. I first thought I could cause the fill characters to be shown afterwards by filling in the dot and then hit Enter, but this does not work. I also noticed other users were confused by this and that no additional support was provided by QuarkXpress' helpdesk moderators.

Another remark that may be important for the lay-out of books in particular, is that the TOC text box was not linked to other text boxes other then text boxes necessary to accommodate your entire TOC (i.e. if you have more than one page of items in the TOC). It does not mess up the TOC's indication of your page numbering, but you may have to click the Update and Build buttons in the Lists panel if you created the TOC after completing the entire lay-out of your book and you placed the TOC before the actual contents of the book.

TOC hyperlinks
A final word to make sure the links in the TOC work. When exporting the Lay-out to pdf, make sure you click the Options button in near the bottom of the dialogue, indicated by the red arrow with the number 1. Then an other dialogue window will pop up, as indicated with the red arrow with the number 2. Select the Hyperlinks in the left column of that box and select and select all instances under the Include Hyperlinks option as indicated by the red arrow with the number 3. Click the OK button and proceed the exporting process. Also make sure you selected Include Blank Pages, if that is what you want, because by default does not export blank pages to pdf.




Crashing of QuarkXpress and Auto-Save
I've noticed crashing of QuarkXpress twice when copying text and an anchored image to a different place in the document and while inserting and configuring callout nodes. The program goes in to Not Responding mode and never comes out of it, while your machines CPU fan goes berserk, indicating the machine is confused and working hard. DTP-ers should be aware of this and probably set the Auto-Save to a reasonably small period of time. I set it to 5 minutes and configured the Auto-Save to place data in a specific folder so that I can always find it, in case QuarkXpress doesn't. Auto-saving doesn't take much time, so it's wise to configure and apply this function. If QuarkXpress crashes it will save data up to the point of the last Auto-Save and make this known in a dialogue that pops up immediately after restarting. The Auto-Save works properly, but be aware of the copying and callout-nodes editing that can crash the program. This is a serious problem that QuarkXpress should urgently address.

PDF-export
The export function works well, but the fact that it does not allow to export a range of pages instead of the entire document, is annoying. One would think a program that has been present in the DTP-market for such a long time, would offer this functionality, but QuarkXpress 2016 doesn't.

Download samples
To see this simple test document in which all functions described above were applied, you can click the link below to see and / or download it:

PDF-version
Best viewed in Adobe Acrobat Reader
with pages side-by-side selected
to get an impression of a book



These are the shortcuts and functions I have found to be useful so far, while trying to compose a nice looking and properly editable document. If I run into more things that are useful, I will update this blog entry.