From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 18 No 11 - NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2005
M-Color 9 adds a human touch to AutoCAD plots
If you want to use your plots for presentation purposes, but find the
capabilities of AutoCAD a little limited in this respect, and don't wish to go
to the whole hog and export the plot to some expensive and time-consuming
graphics package, there is another option. M-Color, developed by Motive Systems,
and distributed by Allied Images, is a presentation plotting package for AutoCAD
The software provides graphical effects and other functions that are unavailable
in AutoCAD, and publishing tools that include high-quality PDF, PostScript and
the ability to export bitmaps. M-Color also has advanced pre-viewing
capabilities, a better plotting performance and smaller plot files, providing
dramatic increases in productivity through layer-based plot appearance settings
M-Color bridges the gap between traditional AutoCAD drafting and presentation
graphics software. You can use AutoCAD's precision drafting capabilities to
create and edit your CAD drawings, and then take advantage of the advanced
graphical effects and publishing possibilities of M-Color to produce
high-quality presentation plots. M-Color is tightly integrated with AutoCAD so
there’s no need to import AutoCAD drawings to some external graphics software,
losing the editing link with AutoCAD.
Recently, Allied Images announced the release of the latest version of the
software, M-Color 9, which adds some further presentation functionality to the
software. Amongst these additional graphical effects not found in plain AutoCAD
are various translucent effects, hand-drawing effects and drop shadows.
Instead of using just solid colour fills, you can fill objects with translucent
fill styles, letting you see the details under the colour fill. It’s like
placing a piece of coloured glass on top of the other objects. Shadows are one
example of the many practical uses for translucent fills.
Another key application is with aerial photography: M-Color lets you make the
colour fills on top of aerial photographs translucent, allowing you to see the
details of the aerial image through the highlighted area.You can also use the
translucent effect for bitmap texture fillings and gradient fills. For example,
imagine the possibilities of a gradient fill transitioning gradually towards
transparency, showing fully only a part of the layer behind.
Translucency can also be used for glazing materials such as windows. Your
renderings can then show building interiors or alternatively the land/townscape
looking out from the building interior.
M-Color also supports bitmap texturing. Using bitmap texture styles is just as
simple as using solid colour styles: just assign a bitmap texture fill style to
a layer in M-Color, and the objects on that layer will be filled with the
specified bitmap pattern.
M-Color provides users with several types of gradient fill styles. Plain AutoCAD
includes some gradient filling capabilities as well, but they are not comparable
with the gradient filling capabilities of M-Color. For example, the gradient
hatching of AutoCAD is very heavy during plotting so it is not usable in a
Perhaps most importantly, the way you define plot appearance settings in M-Color
is so much easier and more productive that you can produce a high-quality
presentation plot without sacrificing project deadlines.
Antti Nivala of Motive Systems said "Using only AutoCAD it is impossible to make
plots that look as impressive as when they are done using M-Color with
translucent colour fills, gradient colour fills, shadings and use of different
solid fills.Customers often want to see colourful and impressive plots when they
see a presentation of their architectural/land design project. Companies that
have M-Color are able to present impressive designs to customers, helping the
companies to get more customers and keep the current customers satisfied and
impressed. Also, customers want the drawing to look like it was hand drawn.
Essentially, the hand-drawn feature takes the lines of an AutoCAD drawing and
introduces variations of line thickness, colour or style transforming it into a
Drop shadows provide a sense of depth to a design. Also, they give a design
greater visual contrast and allow it to appear larger than when placed on a
white background. Previously, AutoCAD designs were taken into other software
packages such as Illustrator or Photoshop to get these realistic effects. Now,
the one-click drop shadow in M-Color 9 allows you to produce this effect quickly
and with minimum effort.
In contrast, M-Color 9 can be used for smooth blending of an image into the
background feature, integrating the design with the environment for maximum
visual realism and stunning presentation. The 8-bit alpha channel support allows
you to add photos of trees, people and other features that blend perfectly into
It is worth remembering, whilst we are talking about the alternative solution,
that a principal advantage of retaining the image within an AutoCAD environment,
instead of exporting it to a specialist visualisation package, is that changes
to the image are reflected immediately in M-Color, instead of having to export
new plot files every time a change is made.
Motive has made improvements to M-Color's rendering engine to produce the
highest quality images for presentations.This includes enhancing the performance
of the preview module, enabling users to see rendered plots, especially when
transparent effects are in the plot, that much quicker. Rendering engine
improvements also mean that higher-quality bitmaps can be exported in a fraction
of the time previously taken to send them to DTP, office and presentation
M-Color can export plot files to PDF, and the latest versionhas cut the process
down by half - 50% smaller PDFs improving transmission of files to
clients.M-Color 9 also supports PDF 1.5, allowing inclusion of CFG layers in PDF
files. Hyperlinks in PDF files are also supported, allowing a direct link from
designs and proposals to company web sites.
Setting up plot files has been simplified by integrating paper frame function.
Users no longer need to use the set paper menu and zoom to paper frame to set
The ability to save CFG and PAL in old formats allows you to send M-Color 9
output to users who have previous versions of M-Color - backwards compatibility
that gives greater flexibility in working with other members of the M-Color user
Motive has added a couple of APIs that provide sets of standard functions to
export bitmaps or manipulate the CFG and PAL files. Users with domain expertise
can use the API functionality, saving them the task of decoding the file formats
and writing all the code from scratch.
The many new features in M-Color 9 have not affected its ease of use. M-Color 9
is more effective and productive than ever, supporting an extensive range of
export options and output file formats including 50% smaller PDF files.
Steve Morin, MD of Allied Images, said "Many potential customers do not yet know
about M-Color but they need to get impressive drawings. They now take the
drawings into a graphics package to add effects such as translucent colour
fills, gradient colour fills and drop shadows.
“When they change their original AutoCAD design, the work they did in the
graphics package needs to be redone. As M-Color is integrated with AutoCAD this
does not happen, so their productivity increases. Also, with M-Color it is much
easier and faster to plot these large designs than with some graphics packages
which are fully bitmap based."
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