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This A.I.-powered tool from Corel turns chicken scratch into digital artwork

Why it matters to you

CorelDraw's new LiveSketch tool could seriously cut down production time for graphic designers.

Computer-based design has been a mathematical art of arranging points to create vector shapes, but artificial intelligence is turning design back to paper and pen. LiveSketch, a new feature inside CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2017, is powered by neural networks that not only translates the touch from a touchscreen or trackpad into graphics, but also understands the designer’s intent – translating the pressure, tilt, and barrel rotation nearly as seamlessly as actual pen to paper.

Called the “industry’s first artificial intelligence-based vector drawing experience,” LiveSketch is part of Corel’s rebranding of Graphics Suite X8. The new suite of design software, announced on April 11, includes Photo-Paint (a Photoshop competitor), PowerTrace, Website Creator, Corel Connect, Corel Capture, and Font Manager applications. In addition to AI touch support, Graphics Suite 2017 also brings a number of new tools and features optimized for Windows 10 systems as well as two-in-ones (laptops that convert into tablets) and the Microsoft Surface Dial.

While hardware and software packages, such as a Wacom tablet, have worked to bring graphic design back to a pen-and-paper experience, LiveSketch makes two big steps forward for touch interface design. According to Corel, LiveSketch is the first time a touchscreen and stylus (or finger) has imitated the tactile experience of pen to paper, reading the pressure and angle of the touch to automatically adjust the weight of the brushstroke. With the pressure, tilt, and barrel rotation all factored into the touch, the tool creates lines much like an actual paintbrush, adjusting weight and angle mid-stroke.

But, LiveSketch also uses neural networks to interpret intent. Designers work with a number of different sketch styles, Corel Vice President of Global Products Gerad Metrailler said during a demonstration for Digital Trends. Some may use what’s commonly referred to as chicken scratch, or using small slanted lines to create a single line. LiveSketch recognizes those sketching styles and interprets the user’s intent, turning chicken scratch into a single line.

Metrailler said most graphic designers sketch on paper before using the computer, because thinking creatively while simultaneously using mathematics to craft shapes, like Bezier curves and polylines, is tough to do. LiveSketch creates the same vector points that designers are accustomed to working with, but crafts them with the same tactile experience as pen to paper, shortening production time for many users.

“Graphic designers over the years, because of the limitations and the technology, were limited to thinking about the mathematics, not interacting and thinking about how to create naturally,” Metrailler said. “We take away the mathematics and turn design into a creative tool again, and the program recognizes your intention.”

Once the line or shape is drawn, the graphic can be edited using those traditional vector points, or by moving back over it with the LiveSketch tool. The system is also the only touch-based design program to store the original data from that first touch for adjustment later, such as pressure and angle, Corel said.

LiveSketch works best with a touchscreen and stylus but will also work without a stylus, with a laptop’s trackpad and with systems like a Wacom tablet. Other new features include editable node settings to make those vector points easier to see while working on complex graphics. For example, if you are working on a blue background, a blue node (which you can drag to manipulate the shape) is hard to see; with the update, it’s now easier to change that node to red so it’s easier to spot.

Every program in the new suite is optimized to work with two-in-one devices. The software UI switches between a traditional interface (when in laptop mode) and a touch-based option with larger icons. The entire software suite is also now compatible with Microsoft Surface Dial, as well as being optimized for 5K screens and multi-monitor setups.

The user interface in each program can now be customized; it could be set up to resemble a competitor’s program, such as Adobe, for example. With a new store option, users can download additional features, including free and paid tools. Corel’s Font Manger has a searchable database that lets users look for a particular font by style and mark favorites for easy access within the suite of programs.

While the latest update marks two years since the predecessor X8, Corel said they are moving to an annual update schedule to continue to offer advanced features to their user base.

While it isn’t as prevalent as Adobe’s Creative Cloud in terms of users, CorelDraw has a big following – it has more than 15 million users. The latest update allows users to choose either a “one-and-done” license or an annual subscription. Downloads are available beginning today, with boxed versions shipping on May 8. A full license costs $499, or existing users can upgrade for $199. Subscriptions with free updates are also available for $30 a month or $199 a year.