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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.
You might not ever think of using InDesign to draw 3D shapes. After all, InDesign has no tools or commands devoted to 3D. But it is possible to make some basic 3D shapes using only the Pen tool, the Polygon tool, and a little understanding of Perspective. You can use the Polygon tool to create lines of perspective and trace those lines with the Pen tool to draw 3D shapes. It's a manual task and it's never going to replace Photoshop and Illustrator's 3D tools, but in a pinch, it works! First we'll try drawing some one-point perspective. I will grab my Polygon tool and click -and-drag in my document to create a three-sided polygon, or a triangle.
This is going to serve as the top of my object. I am going to try drawing a box shape using one-point perspective. Up at the top of my document, this is my horizon and this is my vanishing point at the very top of the triangle. I am going to copy my triangle, and choose Edit > Paste in Place, so now I have two copies, and now I am going to choose Object > Convert Shape, to a rectangle. I am going to grab the bottom-center anchor point and drag it up a little bit to reveal this portion. This is going to be the top of my box. I will select both objects and choose Pathfinder, Subtract, so I subtracted the rectangle shape from the triangle shape to leave me with this little shape that's going to form the top of my box.
I am going to press Shift+X to exchange the stroke and the fill. So now I have no stroke on my object, but a fill of black. I am going to set the Reference Point in the Control panel to the bottom-center, and Option or Alt+Click the Flip Vertical button. This is going to be the front of my box. Now I can just adjust the effect by clicking-and-dragging on the bottom-center anchor point to make the front of my box, and I can also click-and-drag the top anchor point to adjust the top of the box, to show more of it or less of it, and then I can adjust the fill in the Swatches panel so I can see the top and the sides more distinctly.
I will reduce the Tint down to something like 50%. There's a basic box shape created using one-point perspective and starting out with a triangle. Now let's try some two- point perspective drawing. Again I'll start with the Polygon tool. I'll click-and-drag all the way across my document to create a giant triangle and this time I am going to have two vanishing points. I am going to press the Flip Vertical, and these are my two points of perspective. The two top corners of the triangle, and the top of the triangle is my horizon.
Just move it up here. I will copy and choose Edit > Paste in Place and I'll click-and-drag the center anchor point down a little bit. Again, I am going to draw a box but this time I'm going to have the corner of the box facing in the center, and these are going to be the sides. So these two triangles I am going to select and lock, so they don't get in my way. I'm only going to use them to trace with. I will press the W key on my keyboard to go into Preview mode. So now I can use these as nice tracing objects without anything else getting in my way. I will take the Pen tool. I will click in the center.
I will hold down the Shift key and click again to draw a vertical line and now I am just going to trace along my lines of perspective. Hold down the Shift key to draw another vertical line, and then click once more to close the object. Again, I am going to press Shift+X on my keyboard to exchange the stroke and fill, so I have no stroke and a fill of black. I will switch to my Selection tool, set my reference point in the Control panel to the center-right, and I will hold the Option or Alt key and click on Flip Horizontal. Now, I have two sides of my box.
I am going to Shift+Click to select both my sides of my box, copy them, and choose Edit > Paste in Place. Then I'll go to my Pathfinder panel and choose Add. I am creating the top of my box now. I will switch to my Direct Selection tool, click on the bottom-center anchor point, and drag it up. Now I will switch to my Pen tool by pressing the P key and I'll delete these extra points that I don't need. We can get a sense that I'm creating a box with a top and two sides. I will switch to my Selection tool, open my Swatches panel, and I'll start reducing the Tint of some of these shapes, so I can see them distinctly.
There is the top and I will reduce the Tint on the side to say 80%. I'll press Command+Option or Ctrl+Alt+ L to unlock my lines of perspective and delete them because I don't need them anymore. I will zoom in and see my box. That's pretty good. It's true that other programs have far more powerful tools for creating 3D effects automatically, but you can draw basic 3D shapes in your InDesign layouts. The key is to use triangles to create perspective. One triangle with a horizontal side on the bottom gives you lines for one-point perspective. Two triangles with the horizontal sides on the top give you lines to trace for two-point perspective.
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