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When Lightning Strikes--Creating Lightning in CorelDRAW and Corel PHOTO-PAINT

© 1999 by Clifford Anderson. All Rights Reserved.

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This tutorial will walk us through the act of creating a lightning bolt using both CorelDRAW and Corel PHOTO-PAINT. The two foci will be the Natural Pen Tool (Draw) and channel operations (Photo-Paint).


Before we actually create the lightning, let's set up our Draw environment.

  1. Open up Corel Draw and go to Tools | Options (Ctrl J)
  2. Select Document | Page | Size and change the settings to Width = 640 Height = 480 Resolution = 96
  3. Click OK to return to the document

Drawing Lightning with the Natural Pen Tool

Using the available pen nibs within the natural pen tool gives us the necessary freedom to create jagged, random-looking lightning bolts. Of the four available types of nibs, two are the more useful for creating lightning: the Fixed-Width Pen Type and the Preset Natural Pen Type. The basic difference between the two is the shape they give a lightning bolt.

Let's try our hand at a bolt of lightning using the Preset Natural Pen Type.


  1. Select the Natural Pen Tool from the toolbox, then select the Preset Natural Pen Type from the property bar, setting the pen width to 10 pixels as shown above.
  2. Using your mouse, begin around the top center of our canvas, press and hold the left button to draw a staggered, vertical line downward. Just think of the randomness of lightning in order to determine the bolt's dramatic lines or subtle curves. Remember to stay within our 640 x 480 area.
  3. When we release the mouse, our lightning has an outline only. Remedy this by left-clicking the black color well of the color palette as shown below.

  4. Select the Rectangle Tool from the toolbox and draw a box 640 x 480 to match the size of our canvas. Press Ctrl A and choose Align to Center of Page to center the rectangle onto the canvas. Lastly, remove the black outline by right clicking the 'null' well in the color palette.
  5. With the rectangle selected, shift-select the lightning bolt and press Ctrl H to export the items.
  6. At the Export dialog shown at right, choose a folder, give the file the name "bolt_channel_1", save as a *.cpt, checking the "Selected Only" box. When the Bitmap Export dialog comes up, choose Black and White for the color and 640 x 480 for the size. Leave the resolution at 300 dpi. Click OK.

That's it! Let's close up CorelDRAW and open Corel PHOTO-PAINT. To set up Photo-Paint's environment:

  1. Open both the Objects and Channels dockers
  2. Reset Colors in the Status Bar
  3. Set the Mask Mode to Normal

Bringing Our Lightning Bolt to Life Using Corel PHOTO-PAINT

Let's match the canvas size to our CorelDRAW file: Go to Open | New from the File menu, choose Black as the Paper Color and 640 x 480 for the image size. If it requires, change the resolution to 96 dpi. An example is shown at right.

We want to retrieve the work done in Draw and use it as a channel mask. So go to Mask | Load | Load from Disk from the menu and locate the exported *.cpt file created earlier. The file will come up as a mask to which we want to commit the following steps:

  1. Invert the mask and select Save Mask to New Channel in the Channels docker.
  2. Select the current mask from the Channels docker and delete it.
  3. The Alpha channel should now be selected. If it isn't, click on Alpha 1 in the Channels docker now as shown at left.
  4. Choose Blur | Gaussian Blur from the Effects menu, setting the radius to 2.00 pixels. Click OK.
  5. Back in the Channels docker, choose Channel to Mask at the foot of the docker. Once the mask has been created, select the RGB Channel in order to bring the background into focus.
  6. Go to Edit | Fill… and pick the paper color (white). Click OK.
  7. From the Standard Toolbar, click Create Object: Cut Selection which will turn our lightning bolt into its own object. Select the Background in the Objects docker, go back to Edit | Fill…, choose Current Fill this time, and click OK.

Now our lightning is finally beginning to look like the real thing as shown at right (I hope!). But let's do a couple more things to further enhance it.

  1. Select the lightning object in the Object docker.
  2. Bring up the Drop Shadow dialog found in the Object menu and set it up as follows: Offset = 0 px, Opacity = 80, Color = white, Feather Width = 10, Direction = Average. Click OK.
  3. Ungroup the bolt from its shadow and select the shadow from the Object docker.
  4. Choose Noise | Add Noise from the Effects menu, accepting the default values.
  5. At the Effects menu again, choose Blur | Motion Blur and give it the following properties: Distance = 5.00 px, Direction = 45°, Use Paper Color. Click OK.
  6. Regroup the bolt and its shadow in order that they can move about together as shown at left.

(From here, we can use our Transformation tools to resize, skew, scale, rotate, distort, or give perspective to our bolt. Resizing vertically is especially useful in that we can make the bolt skinnier, thereby making it appear further away.)


And that about wraps it up! With a little imagination there's no end to the number of lightning bolts a person can create.


Tutorials by Clifford Anderson

Creating Realistic Orbits in Flash · Objects a la Mode: Working with Corel PHOTO-PAINT's Object Color Modality · When Lightning Strikes--Creating Lightning in CorelDRAW and Corel PHOTO-PAINT

If you have comments or questions, contact me in the Graphics Unleashed Forums.

Graphics Unleashed
Last Updated Wednesday March 21 2007.

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