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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.
To create cast shadows or long shadows from a low light-source in InDesign, you kind of have to put on your thinking cap. There's no automatic cast shadow effect. Only drop shadows, which always mirror the exact shape of the original object. But we can create a cast shadow by combining other transparency features. In this case, we'll take an object and apply a standard drop shadow and we'll use blending modes to make that object invisible but still keep its shadow visible. Finally, we'll stretch the invisible object and with it its shadow. It sounds more complicated than it is in reality and it's totally worth the effort.
Once you get the hang of this technique, you can create shadows of any shape or size that you want. So here I have some text that I've applied my cast shadow effect to and if I select it and move it, you can actually see that it's a completely independent object. I can do anything that I want to with this. I did the same to these sunglasses that I drew in InDesign. Let's see how I did that. So I'll go to another page and here I have my text. I'm going to create a copy of this text and I'm going to paste it in place. Command+Shift+Option+V or Ctrl+Shift +Alt+V right on top of the old one.
Now I just want plain text with no effects, just filled with Paper. So I'll go to my Swatches panel, target my yext formatting. I'll set my stroke to None and my fill to Paper. I'll select Formatting Affects Container and I'll go to my Effects panel and I want to clear this beveling that's been applied. So I'm going to click on the Clear All Effects button down at the bottom. So now I just have plain paper-filled text. I'm going to double-click on the Object level or I could've also double-clicked on the Text level in this case.
It doesn't matter, and I'm going to set my transparency blending mode from Normal to Multiply. That makes that text disappear again because it was filled with Paper, and Paper set to Multiply just turns invisible. But it's still there and it's still 100% opaque. So if I apply a drop shadow now, the drop shadow is going to appear. With my Drop Shadow turned on, I'm going to uncheck this setting, Object Knocks Out Shadow. Now I can see the whole drop shadow. I'm going to check this setting, Shadow Honors Other Effects, and this is going to become key for creating that cast effect where we want to use the Shear command and a Gradient Feather to stretch out that shadow.
So Object Knocks Out Shadow is off, Shadow Honors Other Effects is on, and I could add a little bit of noise by selecting the Noise and tapping the up arrow key on my keyboard to just make the shadow a little bit more realistic. Now I want the shadow exactly behind the original text. So I'm going to change this Distance setting to 0, and I'll click OK. Now I have my shadow. Again, I can move it out of the way and see I have this completely independent object that just acts like a shadow. I'm going to undo to put that back where it was. I want to place it behind my text.
So I'll choose Object > Arrange > Send to Back. Now to create that cast effect, I'm going to shear it. So first I'll check in my Control panel and make sure that the reference point is set to the bottom-center. Then I'll go over to my Shear Angle, I'll click to highlight that, and then I'll hold down the Shift key, and press the up arrow key a few times on my keyboard to start shearing this shadow out into the right. Tap, tap, tap, and now we can see that long cast shadow effect being created. Now, the next thing I want to do is actually shorten this shadow a little bit.
I don't want it exactly as tall as the original text. So I'm going to hold down the Command or Ctrl key on my keyboard and click-and-drag the top control point. Drag it down a bit, let go, I'll deselect. Now that's a nice effect. I feel like the text is standing up straight on a surface that this cast shadow is cast upon. Now the next thing I want to do is to fade out the cast shadow with the Gradient Feather tool. The reason I want to do this is because this shadow shouldn't be as far away from the text as it is, right where it touches the text. So I'm going to select this object and get my Gradient Feather tool by pressing Shift+G on my keyboard.
I'm going to click-and-drag right along the shear angle to go from opaque to transparent. Click-and-drag, let go, and I'll deselect, and there you can see I have a nice cast shadow effect. I'm going to do the same thing to these sunglasses. So I'll press the V key on my keyboard to get my Selection tool, I'm going to Shift+Click to select both of the lenses, I'll copy them, and paste them in place. So now I have another copy that I'm going to create the same shadow effect with. For these, I've actually created an object style to make this as quick and painless as possible.
You can include all those things like the fill and the transparency blending mode and even the Gradient Feather all in an object style to apply these cast shadow effects almost instantly. So with the sunglass lenses selected, I'll click on Cast Shadow Object to apply the object style. Now it's sitting on top of the original sunglasses, so I want to send that behind them. I'll go Object > Arrange > Send to Back, and I'll apply that same kind of shearing that I did to the text. I'll select my Shear Angle, hold down the Shift key, and tap the up arrow key a few times.
I've sheared out the shadow. Now again, I'm going to shorten it a little bit by holding the Command or Ctrl key and click-and-drag this top control point, drag it down, and then deselect. There I have my nice cast shadow effect on both my text and my sunglasses. So by applying the Multiply blending mode to an object filled with Paper, we were able to hide that object while keeping its shadow visible. This powerful technique frees you from the limits on the shape and size of standard InDesign drop shadows and allows you to make a cast shadow in any shape or size you want.
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