Close to the end of last year, I bought a new vector graphics program called Artworks. (Link: MW Software – ArtWorks2) Skimming the manual, it was plain that most of the possibilities this software offers were going straight over my head, so in order to get on top of the program I had a stab at drawing a couple of Celtic knots. I know I can handle simple geometrical designs, y'see. There is also a rather quiet ArtWorks Wiki, so I uploaded my handiwork there, and wrote a Celtic knot tutorial to go with it. (n.b. The location of the tutorial is likely to change, when/if more material is added to the site.)

Doing a search on Google or Wikipedia gives some good information on constructing Celtic knots, including a very effective 'grid' method. However, the technique I'm currently using takes advantage of one of Artworks' features and saves having to construct these grids. I've done a handful of knots now, starting with an intentionally simple one as a demonstration, then a slightly more sophisticated intermediate-grade knot. Knot #3 was started before #2, but it was much more ambitious and I've only just finished it off.

And here they are:

Celtic Knot – No. 1

Celtic knot, 27kB

This version has been 'cleaned up' and resized from the demonstration version posted on the Wiki. I've left the Wiki version unaltered because part of the point was to demonstrate how slightly different drawing techniques produce better or worse results. Click on the image for a larger version. Depending on your browser, you should be able to either shift- or control-click on this link to download the master version in ArtWorks format (19k).

Celtic Knot – No. 2

Celtic knot, 187kB

This is the third version of knot #2, and it has some slight refinements on the first version I posted. I have straightened up the kinks in a couple of lines, and altered the overlapping sections slightly. The latter change was necessary because if you have two lines exactly next to one another without any overlap, ArtWorks' anti-aliasing causes a sliver of the underlying colour to show through. So you can see tiny hair-thin 'cracks' wherever two lines abut one another, which is distracting. If you make the two lines overlap slightly the effect disappears. My first version had lots of lines exactly abutting one another (I'm fussy like that), so I had to do a second pass to correct them.

Click on the image for a larger version, or shift- or control-click on this link to download the master version in ArtWorks format (23k).

Celtic Knot – No. 3

Celtic knot, 553kB

This is the most complex of the three knots and has a number of further refinements. The 'thread' of the knot is now multi-coloured, and the line width tapers towards the centre of the shape. That's rather fiddly to do in ArtWorks because it does not currently have the ability to do 'line profiling'. I had to use a multi-step blend instead, and that meant I could only taper the lines along the straight sections. Fortunately that was what I wanted from the outset. Even so, using a line profiling feature would probably make the ArtWorks master a fifth of its current file size. I also had to manually curve all the joins between sections, and I used radial transparency with a 95% profile offset (95% of the line is solid, the last 5% fades to invisible) for the overlaps. This is another way of avoiding the 'cracking' problem I encountered in knot #2. About the only Celtic knot feature I haven't used on this image is to put shadows under the 'thread' of the knot. Doing shadows in ArtWorks (particularly soft shadows) would be a moderate challenge, but it's not one I'm planning to take on any time soon.

Click on the image for a larger version, or shift- or control-click on this link to download the master version in ArtWorks format (347k).

Outside of the RISC OS platform, I believe the Xara Studio family of products will also display these images.

Celtic Knot – No. 4

Celtic knot, 129kB

This one was done in Adobe Illustrator CS2, mostly to try out this different graphics package. I was interested in comparing the two packages, and Illustrator's a handy application to have on one's CV. My impression was that it's roughly as powerful as ArtWorks, but the user interface is a lot more clunky. I found it tended to 'get in the way' much more than is the case with ArtWorks. Its layering facilities are more sophisticated, and the colour management is a lot more comprehensive, but overall I was not all that impressed, really. I estimate it would take me about twice as much practice to get to the same level of skill as I have with ArtWorks. It also looks like the file format is less efficient. This rather simple doodle, which I completed over a few evenings after work, is 733kB in its native format. Hmm.

In truth, Illustrator is presumably a lot more powerful than ArtWorks. After all, it has probably had 50–100 times as much development effort put into it. But that was not the impression I got from my first attempts at trying to use it. It's partly a difference in the user interface philosophy between RISC OS and Windows. In a Windows (or a Mac) application, if a feature is available, it will probably have an entry on a menu somewhere. If you want to import a .JPEG file into your image, there will be a tool to do it. If you want to import an .EPS file, there may well be a different import tool to do that. So that will give two entries in an 'Import' menu, probably somewhere under the 'File' top-level menu. Importing will involve opening the correct menu, selecting 'Import', browsing to the correct part of the hard disc to find the target file, turning on various import options, then clicking 'OK' to start the process. Once the import has completed, you can then fine-tune the positioning of the imported file, image, or whatever it is. This can be cumbersome.

In RISC OS, if you want to import a file you can probably drag and drop it from a filer window directly into an application window. So whatever file formats the application can handle, all you have to do is browse to the correct part of the hard disk, drag and drop the file into the destination application, and if the filetype is understood it will be processed there and then. If the filetype is not understood, nothing will happen. You can take this further; you can even drag and drop a file from the Save box of one application directly into another application's waiting window, and if both programs understand one another's file formats you can shuffle a file from one program to another and back again, making incremental changes to the file in each. It's far, far simpler and quicker than negotiating a series of 'Save As' dialogs in one application and then 'Load file' in the other. Having just tried this with ArtWorks, I find I can drap and drop ArtWorks files, Draw files, .JPEG files, .EPS files, Sprite files and even plain Text files into Artworks without having to use an 'Import' menu at all. This makes some types of editing, when you're shuffling a file between two or more different applications far more efficient than on Windows or Mac OS. The downside is that because there's no Import menu to click on, those unfamiliar with RISC OS assume you can't import non-native formats at all! After all, if a feature isn't listed on a menu somewhere, it can't exist, can it?

Click on the image for a larger version, or shift- or control-click on this link to download the master version in Illustrator CS2 format (733k).

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