Showcase and discover digital art at yex

Follow Design Stacks

Subscribe to our free newsletter to get all our latest tutorials and articles delivered directly to your inbox!

Working With Layers, Fills, Clipping Paths, Text Blocks, and Dashed Lines


You may have noticed this previously in strokes, fills and blends, but in the FreeHand Import dialog box there’s an option for dealing with Freehand layers. There’s something that direct SWF import never even came close to giving you—direct conversion from FreeHand’s layers into Macromedia Flash layers.

It may not seem like a lot, but it is. Organization is good, plus now you know that by using layers and symbols in FreeHand you can save a lot of time that you might otherwise have invested in turning those bad old pasted vectors into symbols and organizing them on your Flash layers.


Lens fills

These are cool. There’s no other way to say it. If you want to apply alpha channel transparency to a Macromedia Flash object, you have to make the object a symbol and apply the alpha transparency to the symbol.

Now try this. In FreeHand, make a transparent lens fill on a closed object. It doesn’t matter what’s underneath it, just so long as it isn’t an EPS (which won’t come into Macromedia Flash). Try a color JPEG (in RGB mode). This effect looks cool with a JPEG. Don’t make it a symbol. Save the file and open it in Macromedia Flash.

One example of each type of lens is included in the sample file: Lens_fill_autumn_leaves.FH10.

What happens? Somehow, without making the object a symbol, the Flash import maintains transparency!

All of the lens fill types are supported, with the exception of monochrome and invert, which don’t work in Macromedia Flash MX. However, the transparency lens and magnify both work very well.


Tricks with gradient fills

There are two things you need to know about FreeHand gradient fills and Macromedia Flash. One, you can use them. Two, use them sparingly.

Macromedia Flash can really only handle a gradient of up to eight colors. If you use more colors (which is very easy to do in FreeHand) Flash will have to break up the fill into separate shapes with clipping paths. You’ll get the same basic effect, but the file size will be much bigger. Try not to do this.

Here’s another cool trick. What if you made the world’s coolest gradient in FreeHand, imported it into Macromedia Flash, and then wanted to use it again? Easy. Import the FreeHand file and double-click the item with the gradient fill. Open the Color Mixer. The gradient should be displayed in the fill pop-up menu. (If it isn’t, then you’ve got the wrong thing selected.) Now click on the options pop-up arrow to the upper-right of the Color Mixer Panel and choose Add Swatch. That’s it. Now you can reapply that gradient to any other object in the file.

Try this using the included sample file: gradient_fill.FH10.


Importing clipping paths

Clipping paths, called “paste inside” in FreeHand, are directly imported into Macromedia Flash. The clipping path comes into Flash as a graphic symbol containing the clipping object on a mask layer and the clipped object on a lower layer. If there’s a stroke on the path the stroke comes in on its own layer above those two. Don’t forget that when you work with clipping paths, Macromedia Flash imports all of the information outside the clipping path too! If your file size is extraordinarily large and you’ve been bringing in clipping paths from FreeHand, then that’s probably the culprit. Wherever possible, trim out all areas that won’t be seen in the clipping area before importing the FreeHand file into Flash.

Try importing the included sample file: paste_inside_autumn_leaves.FH10 as an example.

You could try to create masks in Macromedia Flash using the new Bézier curve tool and get the same effect, but give it a shot in FreeHand anyway. FreeHand has much better control over what’s inside the path and can save you time and effort once you know what to do.


Text blocks and preferences

Macromedia Flash MX has only one preference that affects its ability to import from FreeHand. On the Clipboard tab of the Preferences dialog box (via Edit > Preferences) is a checkbox for FreeHand Text with only one option: the Maintain Text as Blocks checkbox. Actually this has nothing to do with importing FreeHand; rather, it controls what happens when a block of text from FreeHand is pasted into Macromedia Flash. If this preference is checked, the text block will paste into Macromedia Flash as editable text. If it’s unchecked, only the outlines of the letters will be pasted and you won’t be able to edit the test in Flash.

There is a similar checkbox in the FreeHand Import dialog box and it does the exact same thing. If you want to preserve editable text boxes when importing a FreeHand file, be sure to check this box.


Those crazy dashed lines

You’ve probably scratched your head over why you could never get dashed lines from FreeHand into Macromedia Flash before. After all, Flash 5 added support for dashed lines, and FreeHand had dashed lines.

Macromedia Flash MX makes this situation better. Instead of automatically converting dashed lines from a FreeHand file into a group of outlined paths, it imports the stroke as an actual stroke with a dashed pattern. Cool!

So there you have a rundown of how well FreeHand 10 and Macromedia Flash MX work together. I hope you can put some of this to use. Be sure to download the sample files and experiment on your own.