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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.
The Drop Shadow effect allows you to create a shadow in the shape of an object. The effect helps lend a three- dimensional feel to a design, lifting an object up off the page or screen. You can control the color, distance, and size of the shadow to simulate lighting of varying intensity and angle. It's a very versatile and popular effect, but it can be overused and it's very easy to overdo. So just make sure your Drop Shadows are supportive players, not the main attraction, and they'll really adds some welcome pop to your designs. Let's see how they work.
So here I have a simple document with a placed picture of some flowers and some text and I'd like to apply some Drop Shadows to these things. First thing I'm going to do is open a second window, so I can see the effect in action more clearly. So I'm going to choose Window > Arrange > New Window and I'll drag the divider over to the left, so I have one big window and one small one. I'll select the picture of the flowers and one interesting thing about Drop Shadow is because it's so popular, it's the only effect that comes with a built-in keyboard shortcut, Command+ Option+M or Ctrl+Alt+M, to bring up the dialog box.
So, here we have our default settings for our Drop Shadow, and if we look at them they look really too dark. In most cases, 75% Opacity is really dark for a Drop Shadow and the Distance of almost 10 pixels in this Angle of 135 degrees is usually too far from an object. Again, a subtle Drop Shadow is often the most effective one. So let's take this opacity down to say 40% and reduce the Distance down a few pixels. that's looking a little bit more like a realistic Drop Shadow.
If I want to, I can increase the Size, but I'll keep it at 5 pixels. I can also increase the Spread. The Spread is the amount of the Drop Shadow that set at the full color and opacity up here in the Blending settings. So right now 0% of the shadow is 40% opaque, but if I increase the Spread all the way to 100%, now 100% of that Drop Shadow is 40% black. I'll take that back down. Maybe 10% would look good here.
A little Noise is almost always advised when you use a Drop Shadow. 1 or 2% will do. This just adds a little randomness and breaks up the affect and makes it look a lot more real and a little less digital. I'll keep these settings for the Drop Shadow on my flowers. Now I'll select the text frame. I'll press Command+Option+M, Ctrl+Alt+M to bring up the dialog box and again I have my default settings. This time I'll just reduce the Opacity to 40% and I'll decrease the Distance a little bit.
That looks pretty good to me. I'm going to increase that spread to say 10%. A subtle Drop Shadow just helping to lift that type off the page a little bit. And of course a little bit a Noise, and I'll click OK. I'm going to select the picture of the flowers again and bring the dialog box back up, because I want to show you a couple of important settings. The first one I'm going to talk about is Shadow Honors Other Effects. It's off by default. Now if I apply another effect of this picture of the flowers, something like say a Gradient Feather, here I've applied a Gradient Feather to make the photo seem like it's almost in a round picture frame.
I used a radial gradient. Most of the picture is opaque, but for the last 10%, I made that transparent. So it has this nice rounded effect, but see the problem. The Drop Shadow still thinks it's in a square frame. it's not honoring this gradient feather effect. So I can go back to the Drop Shadow Settings and click on Shadow Honors Other Effects, and now InDesign is paying attention to that Gradient Feather and using it when it calculates the Drop Shadow. That's pretty cool.
There's another setting I want to draw your attention to in the dialog box. I'll select these circles and press Command+Option+M again to bring the dialog box back up. This setting is Object Knocks Out Shadow, and I can see there is a minus sign here, so it tells me that I have multiple settings selected with these objects. Some of them are using Object Knocks Out Shadow and some of them are not. Let's cancel out and I'll just click on these darker circles on the top and bring up the dialog box. These ones are not knocking out their shadow.
They use the exact same color fill as the bottom circles. Now why do they look different? Well, that's because all of these circles are using a transparency blending mode that's not the normal blending mode. They all use Hard Light. Hard Light tends to saturate colors and intensify highlights and shadows. The interesting thing here is because I unchecked Object Knocks Out Shadow for these top circles, the color of the fill of the circles is blending with its own Drop Shadow.
This is really interesting because usually it takes at least two objects for a blending mode to take effect. A foreground object and a background object. But in this case by not knocking out the Drop Shadow and making the fill color of the circles blend with its own Drop Shadow, I'm also adding some texture to the objects with the same setting. If I zoom in, I can see that there's some noise, adding a nice little texture here. That noise is coming from the Drop Shadow. I'll bring the dialog box backup again, and I can see that I have 20% noise.
If I change this setting I can change the texture. I'll increase it. Or decrease it to make something more subtle, like 20%. With Drop Shadow you can quickly create a 3-dimensional feel to a design. By varying the size and darkness of the shadow, you can control how far objects appear from each other and the direction of the light source, but a little caution is advised. A little Drop Shadow goes a long way. It's easy to go too far making shadows, too big, too dark, or too far from the objects they're attached to.
Often the most effective drop shadows are small and subtle ones.
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