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Getting Rid of That Darned White Box

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How many times have you imported a bitmap graphic into CorelDRAW only to find that this stupid white box is surrounding it? Even if the background isn't white, commonly you will want to isolate an irregularly shaped object in the image such as a person. I'll walk you through the steps of getting rid of the white box as it is the most common problem and also the easiest to remove.

Why Is There a White Box Anyway?

To understand how to get rid of the white box, it is important to understand why it is there first. When you are working with a vector graphic (the type of file native to CorelDRAW), each of the shapes you see is a distinct shape. But when working with a bitmap (such as scans and files native to Corel PHOTO-PAINT), you are always working with a rectangular collection of very small dots or pixels as shown in Figure 1. Each of these pixels can be a separate color and there are literally millions of potential colors. Quite often, these pixels will be set to white in the "background" of an image. And white is not "nothing" so it will cover up other objects. So since the file has to be rectangular, these white pixels form the white box that you've come to dislike so much.

Figure 1

Figure 1 shows the image we are working with on the left and an enlarged version to show the pixels on the right.

OK, Let's Get Rid of It

Figure 2

Figure 2 shows the Bitmap Color Mask with white selected as the color to hide. But since the bird has white in its eye, this will not work correctly.

There are several ways to do this. If the box is truly white and there is not any white in your image, then the Bitmap Color Mask in CorelDRAW may be a viable answer for you as shown in Figure 2. Unfortunately, the situations where this applies are fairly limited. Another solution is to draw a vector shape around the object and then use the PowerClip command to place the bitmap into this shape. While this method works great, it can be fairly difficult to do accurately. The last two options are very similar and they both involve using Corel PHOTO-PAINT to isolate the irregularly shaped object.

Masking

Open the bitmap in Corel PHOTO-PAINT. If it has a solid color background, the masking process is very simple. The second tool down in the Toolbox is the Mask Tool. Click on the arrow to get the Mask Flyout and select the Magic Wand Mask Tool (it has the picture of a magic wand on it). Set the tolerance for the Magic Wand to 5 (or lower) as shown in Figure 3 and outlined in Green. Using the Magic Wand Mask, click on the solid colored background. You may need to select additional parts of the background. To do this, select the small + icon on the Property Bar shown in Figure 3 outlined in Red and click on another part of the solid colored background. Repeat this process until the marching ants are surrounding the entire background.

Figure 3

Figure 3 shows the Property Bar when the Magic Wand Mask tool is selected. The two important parts are circled.


Note that this method will only work reliably if the background is a solid color. If that isn't the case then the masking is more difficult and more time-consuming. To learn more about masking visit Grandpa B's for several excellent articles on more advanced techniques.

At this point, it is possible to stop and save the file, but there are a few more steps which will provide a more complete solution. I'd highly suggest that you continue through the remaining steps.

Floating Object

While the mask can be used to hide the background, we can also make the desired part into a floating object. Currently the mask is surrounding the background so we need to invert the mask. This is done by selecting Mask | Invert Mask. Now select Object | Create From Mask for Photo-Paint 7 or Object | Create | Object: Cut Selection for Photo-Paint 8 or 9. This will make the masked area into a separate bitmap that floats above the background. You'll also notice that the color of the marching ants has changed from black to blue (unless you've changed the default marquee colors).

Once you've changed the mask into a floating object, you need to delete the mask. Select Mask | Remove to get rid of it. If you want to skip the step of creating a floating object, do not remove the mask as it will be used to isolate the part of the image we want to retain.

Saving the File

It is very important to save the file as a CPT format file. This is Photo-Paint's proprietary format. If you are not working with floating objects, you can save as CPT or TIF. The reason these formats must be used is that they are the only formats to support the features we need. So if your goal is to remove the white box when importing into your favorite word processor or presentation program, you're out of luck because they don't support any file formats that support the features we need.

Importing Into CorelDRAW

Now we're all ready to import the CPT files into CorelDRAW. After you've imported the file, take a look at the Status Bar. Note that it says "Group of 2 Objects" which means that the file we imported is actually two separate objects. Click on the Ungroup button, find the "white box" object and delete it. You're now left with an irregularly shaped bitmap object!

Figure 4


Figure 4 shows the bitmap before and after we removed the white box so that you can see how this can improve your documents.

Note: If you've followed the steps EXACTLY as written, you should have gotten rid of the white box. If you have not gotten rid of it, then you must've missed a step. These instructions have been tested very thoroughly and work perfectly if they are all performed as written.


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Last Updated Wednesday, June 04, 2014

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