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InDesign FX is a collection of self-contained effects projects designed to be completed in ten minutes or less. Taught by expert Mike Rankin, the series explores every aspect of InDesign's graphic effects capabilities through real-world examples, all without relying on Photoshop or Illustrator. The intent is to reveal the quick, practical, and sometimes surprising application of InDesign effects to creative projects.
InDesign's transparency effects enable you to blend the colors of objects and apply special effects like Drop Shadows, Glows, feathering and more. The Effects panel is where you will find the controls for creating, applying, and editing transparency effects. Let's take a look. So here I have my Effects panel docked with my other panels. Now we will just start by taking a little tour of the controls in the panel. First off I have this pop-up menu with the different blending modes I can apply. I have 16 blending modes available to me in InDesign. They are the exact same 16 blending modes that you have for use in Illustrator.
Photoshop has substantially more but we can still do a heck of a lot with just these 16 blending modes. Next up, I have some Opacity controls with a slider that I can click and drag to see through objects to what's underneath them. In the main part of the panel, I have these different levels at which I can apply effects. So I can apply them at the object level, at the stroke level, at the fill level, or just to the content within a frame. So if I have a text frame selected, I can apply effects just to the text, if I have a placed graphic I can apply just to the place graphic and if I had a group selected I could also apply effects at the group level.
Underneath this I have two controls, Isolate Blending and Knockout Group. We will get to with those do in a little bit. In the panel menu I can show and hide the options. To show and hide Isolate Blending and Knockout Group. I have a menu for my nine different effects and to also open the Effects dialog box. I have controls to Clear Effects and Clear All Transparency. So I can just clear effects that have been applied or I can Clear All Transparency which also resets an object to 100% Opacity and the Normal blending mode, and I have controls for this thing called Global Light that I will also get to in a minute.
At the bottom of the panel I have buttons to clear all effects and return an object to 100% Opacity and the Normal blending mode. I have another pop-up menu to open the Effects dialog box and access the different effects and I have a Trashcan icon where I can remove effects that I have applied at any level. Now I will select a couple of these objects on the page. My sunglass frames, and when I do I can see that I have applied effects at both the stroke and the fill level. When I hover over that fx icon InDesign gives me a tool tip to tell me what effect I have applied.
In this case I have applied a Bevel and Emboss. I can also target that fx button and drag it down to the Trash to remove the effect if I want to. I will just undo that. I can also drag this fx icon to different levels. So if I wanted to move a bevel from the fill to the object level I could do that. I can also drag that fx icon from one object to another in my layout. So if I like the bevel that I had applied at the stroke level and wanted to apply to this text, I can just click and drag the fx icon and drop it on top of the text.
And there, now I have that same bevel applied to my text. That's pretty cool! Let's change some of the opacity and see how that works. So right now I have the object level selected. I will change from the Normal blending mode to Multiply and if I zoom in, I can see that I taken the whole object and multiplied it into the background and that's actually doing something that I don't want. I can see through the sunglass frames to what's beneath and that's not very realistic. So I am going to undo that and I am going to target just the fill and set the fill to Multiply.
So I have independent controls for the fill and the object. And that's looking a lot better. Now the sunglass frames are opaque, but I can see through the lenses. Now let's look at those controls for Isolate Blending and Knockout Group. Here I have two squares, one filled with cyan and one filled with magenta, and they're both set to the Normal blending mode. So in the Normal blending mode a top object knocks out what's beneath it. I can't see through this. Here I have taken the cyan square and I have set it to the Difference blending mode. So now I'm taking the difference between the cyan color and the magenta color underneath and I get this orangey color.
Now if I group these two and apply Knockout Group, I am telling InDesign to knock out all group members, to don't apply the blending mode within the group. So it's as if I'd set everything to Normal. But that Difference blending mode still applies to objects outside the group. So if I were to drag this over this dotted object, I can see that the Difference mode still applies. The cyan square is differencing with the dotted object underneath but it's knocking out the magenta square because it's grouped with it and I applied Knockout Group.
The other control, Isolate Blending, does the opposite. It tells InDesign to just apply the blending mode within the group. So the Difference mode still applies between the cyan square and the magenta square but it won't apply to anything else. So if I drag this over the dotted object, it knocks it out. It's as if I'd applied the Normal blending mode. What happens if I apply both Isolate Blending and Knockout Group? Well, that's kind of like if I told InDesign, hey, don't apply blending modes inside the group and also don't apply them outside the group; just knock everything out.
So it's like I'm back to square one and I just applied the Normal blending mode to everything. And if I drag this over the dotted object you can see that everything knocks out. Let's take a look at Global Light and what that does. Global Light is a setting that applies to Bevel and Emboss, Inner Shadow, and Drop Shadow and it's a means of having a consistent lighting effect throughout a document. We can access Global Light through the Effects panel menu and it has two controls, Angle and Altitude. If I change the Angle, I will set it to 0, I can see that at 0 degrees the light source comes from the right-hand side and shines towards the left.
And that's what I see in this little proxy. The crosshairs represents the light source and the dot in the middle of this circle is the object. Now if I change the Angle and increase it, I can see the light source go over the top of the object and move from right to left. At 90 degrees, it's directly over the object shining down. I will continue on all the way to 180 degrees where now the light source is on the left side of the object shining towards the right. So highlights on the left, shadows on the right. I will reset the Angle to 0 and now we will look at Altitude.
Altitude is like the height of the light source off of the horizon. So it's like the sun rising up. At a very low altitude say 1 degree, I have a very weak highlight almost nonexistent here and half of my object on the other side is in complete shadow. Now if I increase the Altitude, I will increase the highlight and push that shadow back and the higher I get the more intense my highlight gets until it's this really bright white spot like the sun is just beating down on you.
Altitude is a key setting for making objects look shiny. If we think about a shiny reflective object, there is an intense highlight that shines off of it and that's what you can achieve with Altitude. I will cancel out of here. Now there is one more thing to be aware of when it comes to Global Light and that's that Global Light is a document specific setting. So I can have different Global Light settings in different documents and when I copy and paste objects that use Global Light from one document to another, I might get some unexpected results. Let's change the Global Light setting in this document to something like 90 degrees and a high Altitude of 80 degrees, so I will have a very sharp intense highlight and almost no shadow.
I'll copy this object and paste it into another document. Now this document has the default settings for Global Light and wow! Look at that. I have a deep dark shadow and the highlight is coming from the top left corner and that's because this document uses Global Light settings of 120 degrees for Angle and 30 degrees for Altitude. So how do I overcome this problem? I will go back to my original document. I will open the Effects dialog box and in the Bevel and Emboss settings I will turn off Use Global Light.
Now when I do that I might see that these values for Angle and Altitude change and I will have to manually reset them to what I want. So I will set this to 90 degrees and Altitude to 80 degrees and click OK. Now this particular object doesn't use Global Light anymore, so when I copy and paste it into another document it won't change. I will copy it, go back to that other document, and paste it in and now I see I have my small intense highlight and no shadow in the beveling. Learning the controls in the Effects panel is the first step in mastering the use of InDesign's transparency effects.
Now you know where to go to adjust an object's opacity, change its blending mode, apply effects, target them to a fill, stroke, or content, and clear effects when you don't want them.
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