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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 doesn't provide you with tools for achieving sophisticated 3D effects quickly or automatically. But if you just need some basic 3D shapes, you can build them by starting with a simple shape and using the Pen tool and Pathfinder to add sides and extrude an object. Let's try taking an ellipse and making it into a cylinder. I'll press the L key on my keyboard to get the Ellipse tool. I'll click-and-drag in the document to make an ellipse. I'll press Shift+X to exchange the stroke and the fill. now I have no stroke and a fill of black.
I'll press the V key to get my Selection tool and then I'll Option or Alt+Shift+Drag straight down to create a second copy right underneath the original ellipse. Next I'll copy this and choose Edit > Paste in Place to create a second copy of the lower ellipse, and then I'll choose Object > Convert Shape > Rectangle. So now I have created a rectangle right on top of the lower ellipse in the exact same size and dimensions as the ellipse. I'll take the bottom center anchor point and drag it up until it snaps to the center of the ellipse.
Then I'll take the top anchor point and drag it up till it meets the center of the top ellipse. Now I want to create the front side of my cylinder. I'll select both the side and the lower ellipse, I'll go to Pathfinder, and choose Add. Now I have one shape for the front of my cylinder. Next I'll select my top ellipse, copy it, then I'll select both the top ellipse and the side, and I'll choose Pathfinder, Minus Back, which eliminates that top ellipse and makes this nice curved shape for my cylinder.
Then I'll choose Edit > Paste in Place to put my original ellipse back where it was. Now I'll just go to my Swatches panel and apply some different colors so I can actually see my cylinder. I'll apply this blue color to the top and reduce the Tint to say 50%. I'll apply the same blue color to the side at 100%. Deselect and there I have a simple cylinder out of an ellipse. Let's try another shape. This time we'll make an extruded star shape.
I'll start with my Polygon tool, click- and-drag in my document to make a star shape. Again I'll press Shift+X to exchange the stroke and the fill so there's no stroke and a fill in the object. I'll press the V key to get my Selection tool, and I'll Option or Alt+Shift+Drag straight down to make a copy of the star. Next I'll press the A key to get my Direct Selection tool. We'll select each of these sides and make copies of them, and they'll form the sides of our extrusion. Click once here, I'll copy it, and choose Edit > Paste in Place, or I could use the keyboard shortcut Command+Shift+ Option+V, Ctrl+Shift+Alt+V, and I have a copy of this segment right on top of the old one.
I'll do the same on the lower star. I'll click on it, copy it, and press Command+Shift+Option+V, Ctrl+Shift+Alt+V. Then I'll press the P key to get my Pen tool and I'll connect these two segments. Click once on the bottom and once on the top. Now I have a basic shape I want for the side, but I want to close this. So I can go to the Object menu and choose Paths > Close Path. I'll send this to the back, choosing Object > Arrange > Send to Back, and I'll give it a fill.
I'll just use the star fill. So I have my first side that I need. Now let's repeat the process. I'll press the A key to get my Direct Selection tool, click on this segment, copy it, paste it in place, and do the same for its twin down below. Click on it, copy it, paste in place. P key for the Pen tool, click once, click again, and then go Object > Paths, close this path. And we'll apply that same Star gradient here. Let's do it again.
Click once on this segment, copy it, paste it in place, click once on its twin down below, copy, paste in place. P key for the Pen tool, click, click again, and in the Object menu choose Paths > Close Path, and we'll give it that gradient fill. One more time. Click once, copy, paste in place, click again down below, copy, paste in place, click once with the Pen tool, click again, Object > Paths > Close Path.
Fill it with the Star gradient and choose Object > Arrange > Send to Back. Now I don't need the bottom copy of the star anymore, so I'll take my Selection tool and click on it and delete it. And I'll just also change the fill color of the top star to this blue color. Deselect, and there I have my extruded star shape. Drawing simple 3D shapes in InDesign is a fun way to get some quality time with the Pen tool, Pathfinder tools, and Path commands like Close Path. It's not a substitute for the powerful 3D effects you can achieve in Illustrator or Photoshop, but it is a means of giving a design element that extra dimension.
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