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Vectors: Object Alignment, Distribution, and Grouping
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Vectors: Object Alignment, Distribution, and Grouping
Created by:Doro Sensen

With Paint Shop Pro 7 came the Object menu which provides some great features to handle vector objects. In this tutorial, we won't create anything spectacular but explore what the Alignment, Distribution and Grouping features can do for us when constructing a vector image.


Standard Toolbar - New (image) button
Begin with a new image:
Width and Height = 350
Background color = white
Image type = 16.7 Million colors

Tool Palette - Preset Shapes tool

Click on the Preset-Shapes tool in your tool palette:
Shape = Ellipse
Retain style = checked
Create as vector = checked
Line style = Default line

Hold your Shift key pressed and draw a circle of about 30x30 (third pair of brackets in your status bar) somewhere into your image.

Change the Form = Rectangle. Again hold your Shift key pressed and draw a square into your image, somewhere near your circle.

Don't worry about the size of the square, we'll take care of that in a moment. Deselect with Selections || Select None (Ctrl+D).

Tool Palette - Vector Object Selection tool
Click on the Vector-Object Selection tool in your tool palette. Now first click on the circle to select it, press the Shift key and click on the square to select it as well (you have to click on the outlines to select the objects since they're not filled).







Tool Options palette, tab 2: Make Same Size buttons

We now want to make our objects the same size. There are three ways to do that:

  1. Go to Objects || Make Same Size || Both;
  2. Right-click into your image and go to Make Objects Same Size || Both in the pop-up menu;
  3. Click on tab 2 in your Tool Options palette for the Vector-Object Selection tool, and in the button row "Make same size" at the bottom of that tab, choose the button on the right.
Choose the way that is most convenient to you to make your two objects the same size. Your circle and your square are now made the same size as the object you had selected first, in our case the square is made the same size as the circle.


Standard Toolbar - Copy button





For our image, we need some more of these circles and squares, so go to Edit || Copy (Ctrl+C) to copy your objects into the clipboard. Then right-click into your image and choose "Paste New Vector Selection" from the context menu. Place the new objects to the right of your old ones. Don't worry about exact placement, we'll take care of that later. The objects can even overlap a bit when you place them roughly into a row.

Repeat this twice, until you've got four circles and four squares in your image. Finally, click on just the circle and again copy and paste it as a new vector selection, and place it next to the last square in the row. Your row of objects should now begin and end with a circle.









In the next few steps, we will distribute our objects evenly in a row that's properly aligned. So first right-click into your image and choose "Select All" from the pop-up menu.

For distributing objects evenly in a given space, there are again three ways:

  1. Go to Objects || Distribute || [an option];
  2. Right-click into the image and go to Distribute Object || [an option] in the pop-up menu;
  3. Click on tab 2 in your Tool Options palette for the Vector-Object Selection tool, and choose one of the options in the button row "Distribute object" or one of the last two options in the button row below, "Can[vas]".



When you move your mouse over the buttons there will be a tool tip popping up explaining what the button will do.

In our case, we want the objects distributed evenly horizontally over the whole canvas, so on tab 2 in your Tool Options palette, just click on the fourth button in the "Can{vas]" button row.









Now we've got our objects distributed nicely in our image, but still not in a proper line. Again, there are three ways for aligning objects properly:

  1. Go to Objects || Align || [an option];
  2. Right-click into the image and go to Align Object || [an option] in the pop-up menu;
  3. Click on tab 2 in your Tool Options palette for the Vector-Object Selection tool, and choose one of the options in the button row "Align object", or one of the first three buttons in the row "Can[vas]" (shown above) to align them in relation to your canvas.
Since our objects are all the same size, it doesn't matter if we align them "Top", "Bottom" or "Vertical Center", so either choose one of these options from the Objects menu or the pop-up menu, or click on either the first, second or last button of the "Align object" button row in your Tool Options palette.
Next, we want to deform our objects a bit. You know that you can deform objects with the Vector-Object Selection tool the same way you can deform layers or selections with the Deformation tool. So, hold your Ctrl key pressed, grab the top right corner handle with your mouse and drag it downwards towards the right middle handle. When you release the mouse button, your circle at the right end of the row has become a very narrow ellipse.
Now let's align this row at the top: Either go to Objects || Align || Top, right-click into your image and go to Align Object || Top in the pop-up menu, or click on the first button under "Align object" in your Tool Options palette.








In the next few steps, we need our objects to behave as if they were only one object, so we'll use another nice new feature of PSP 7, the object grouping. Again, there are three ways to group objects:

  1. Go to Objects || Group;
  2. Right-click into your image and choose "Group" from the pop-up menu;
  3. Click on tab 2 in your Tool Options palette for the Vector-Object Selection tool, and under "Group" in the bottom right corner of that tab click on the first button.

Choose the way that is most convenient for you to group your row of objects. In your Layer palette, when you open your vector layer, you now see another layer called "Group 1" with the group icon in front of it. When you now open this group layer you see all your ellipses and rectangles listed in this group.

You'll also notice that in the Tool Options palette most options are now greyed out; these are the options that are only applicable to single objects and not to an object group. In the "Group" button row, the first button for grouping objects is now greyed out and the second button for ungrouping objects is available instead.


Standard Toolbar - Copy button




Now go to Edit || Copy (Ctrl+C) to copy your object group, then go to Edit || Paste || As New Layer (Ctrl+L) to paste it as a new layer. Go to Image || Mirror and then to Image || Flip.

You now have two vector layers in your Layer palette, both with a "Group 1" layer in them. In your Layer palette, right-click on the "Group 1" layer in the lower vector layer, choose "Rename" from the pop-up menu and rename it to "Top". Then take the "Group 1" layer of the upper vector layer with your mouse and drag it down to the lower vector layer, and rename it to "Bottom". You can now delete the upper, now empty vector layer ("Layer2").

Your second group of objects is in the center of your image and still selected. Move it to the bottom of your image, then click on your first objects group and move it to the top of your image.

Selecting both object groups and clicking on the last button in the "Can[vas]" button group on tab 2 in your Tool Option palette doesn't work here because the objects then are distributed with even spaces above, between and below them which we don't want here.

Standard Toolbar - Copy button



Now we have got object groups on the top and bottom edge of your image, we want two more at the left and right side of our image. So, right-click into your image and choose "Select All" from the pop-up menu, go to Edit || Copy (Ctrl+C) and then to Edit || Paste || As New Layer (Ctrl+L).

Now go to Image || Rotate:
Direction = Left
Degrees = 90
All Layers = unchecked

Now go once to Image || Flip so that we have the circles meet the circles and the narrow ellipses meet the narrow ellipses in the corners.

You've now a "Layer2" again in your Layer palette, with a "Bottom" and a "Top" group in it. Right-click on the "Bottom" group in "Layer2", choose "Rename" from the pop-up menu and rename it to "Right", then rename the "Top" group to "Left". Drag these layers to the lower vector layer with your mouse and delete the upper, now empty vector layer ("Layer2").

Now let's work on getting the circles in the corners really tidy one above the other. In your Layer palette, click on the "Left" group, then hold your Shift key down and click on the "Top" and "Bottom" group layers. In your image it now looks as if all object groups were selected, but you can see in your Layer palette that the "Right" group layer's name isn't bold which means it's not selected.

In your Tool Options palette on tab 2, all your buttons are available again. Now click once on the third button under "Align object" which aligns your object groups to the left. Hold your Shift key down and click on the "Bottom" group layer in your Layer palette to deselect it, then click on the first button under "Align object" in the Tool Option palette.

Now, to get the circles in the bottom right corner one above the other, click on the "Bottom" group in your Layer palette, then hold the Shift key down and select the "Right" group. Now click once on the fourth button and once on the second button under "Align object" in your Tool Options palette. Deselect with Selections || Select None (Ctrl+D).

We're now at the end of this tutorial. I hope you didn't expect something spectacular as an outcome image of this tutorial; the goal was to show you what you can do with all the options on tab 2 of the Vector-Object Selection tool's Tool Options palette.

Take your time to explore those options that we had no need to use in this tutorial on your own they're all very useful when working with vectors!

Now what can you do with the vector frame that we constructed in this tutorial? If you like its weird appearance, I can just give you a few suggestions how you can use it:

You could for example fill the objects with a nice gradient and just use it as a picture frame ...

You could also copy the frame and paste it as another layer, then reduce this layer in size, fill all the objects with a black-and-white gradient and turn it into a mask. This could give an interesting photo edge like on the left.

Whatever you do with this particular image enjoy experimenting with aligning, distributing and grouping objects for constructing your own, more exciting vector images! :-))