Corel gets creative with the Surface Pen in its latest graphics software suite

Corel’s latest suite of graphics design tools, CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2017, arrived in April, packing new features such as a touch-friendly user interface, interactive sliders, the ability to import legacy workspaces, and support for the Microsoft Surface Dial. However, the suite also includes a new LiveSketch tool for free-form sketching using a stylus, including Microsoft’s latest Surface Pen peripheral.

“We went all-in developing a natural, fluid experience with the new Surface Pen,” says Gérard Métrailler, Corel’s vice president of global products. “It gives us opportunity to zoom in, pan, and move around very naturally.”

With LiveSketch, CorelDraw artists can now sketch directly on the screen just like they would with pen and paper. Métrailler says the software understands the intent of the designer, making it the first graphics design software product to provide “pen-first” input. The technology fades into the background, allowing artists to focus on their work rather than fight with inputs and screens.

According to Corel, LiveSketch is based on artificial intelligence and machine learning. That means the software adapts to the artist’s style, whether they use folded strokes, overlapping strokes, or chicken scratch-based strokes. The software includes a timer as well, so artists can create and shape their lines before they become “final” in the artwork.

The first-generation Surface Pen arrived alongside the Surface Pro in 2012. Since then, Microsoft’s peripheral has endured several generations of enhancements and refinements up until the release of Microsoft’s fifth-generation Surface Pro 2-in-1 last month. The digital pen is now offered as a stand-alone product, supporting the Surface Book with Performance Boost, the Surface Laptop, the Surface Studio, and Surface-branded devices.

Microsoft says the latest Surface Pen is “better than ever” with a precision ink tip on one end, a rubber eraser on the other, and support for tilt shading for a more natural, artistic input and style. It consists of 4,096 pressure points that responds to the lightest of touches, and weighs a mere 0.04 pounds. The rubber “tail” eraser serves as a button in addition to the button located on the pen’s narrow barrel.

“The tilt mechanism lets me really control the curves and be more precise with the vectors,” says artist José-Tzontlimatzi-López. “The pen is essentially an extension of my hand.”

The full version of CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2017 costs $500, while the upgrade from previous versions costs $200. Corel provides a subscription plan too for $198 a year, which breaks down to $16.50 per month. While that may some a little expensive, the suite includes seven programs including CorelDraw 2017, Corel Power Trace 2017, Corel Website Creator, and more.