Serif’s illustration package DrawPlus X5 has become an altogether faster and more attractive proposition to designers in version 5, not just thanks to the fact that it’s been updated with a new drawing engine intended to take advantage of Windows machines with multi-processor configurations.

With the help of a startup wizard, Serif DrawPlus X5 offers a range of project types such as print document/drawing or animation in the form of stop motion or keyframe, while export options include Flash for animation and professional PDF for printing.  

There’s a new imposition mode in Serif DrawPlus X5 for previews of books, booklets and other folded print documents, but the biggest print enhancement in Version 5 is the end-to-end CMYK workflow. This is useful for designing with colours that will be more faithful to your final output than the RGB images you see on screen.

You can start to use CMYK in your design process by clicking on Colour Management in the Tools menu and selecting CMYK as the Primary Colour. Then you can work with the four colour channels in the View palette and also accurately preview the colour separations required by a professional print workflow. You can also assign different ICC profiles to each RGB or CMYK drawing.

We also explored the new ShapeBuilder Tool. This can be used to combine simple shapes, such as those found in the application’s palette of QuickShapes, into more complex forms. Dragging between shapes combines them, while clicking once on shapes that overlap each other will split and create new forms along the lines defined by strokes. It’s quick and easy to use, and effective too.

New drawing mode

There’s a new drawing mode in Serif DrawPlus X5 that works with overlapping objects. This allows you to Draw In Front, Behind or Inside any targeted object. Draw Behind for example means that you can apply strokes and fills to an object in a normal manner, even though the overlapped object is largely hidden when the mode is off.

There’s also an enhanced ‘solo’ mode for a similar purpose, though it can apply its isolating effect across multiple levels.

It’s also now possible to reorder objects dynamically in Serif DrawPlus X5, simply by drag the Arrange tab's Depth slider. Getting correct transparency and colour settings for overlapping objects is also made easier by the addition of a Knockout feature and the new functions that assign composite opacity to overlapping objects or a composite blend mode to any object groups.

Other nice touches in Serif DrawPlus X5 include the Instant 3D conversion tool and the way you can apply transparency effects very quickly from a palette. These have been joined by a new Styles tab that lets you choose from various preset shadows, glows, bevels, feather edges, textures, text effects and more.

These Styles complement rather than replace existing object attributes, so if they already have a specific line colour and fill, these properties would be maintained after adding a Style.


Serif DrawPlus X5 has quite a few features in common with the latest versions of CorelDraw and Adobe Creative Suite, though are here presented in one fast and reasonably priced application. It certainly won’t match everything these suites can do, but should provide the occasional user with everything they need to produce good quality graphic content that fits most requirements.