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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.
If you've ever tried to use InDesign's Shear tool, you may have experienced more than a little difficulty in understanding how it works in getting the results you want. Sometimes it seems to have a mind of its own, but you can use Shear to create interesting effects like a 3D book shape from a flat cover design. You just need to approach shearing from a different angle. So here I have a mockup of a book, and it looks like a nice little 3D version of the book and I just created this from the cover image, just a flat placed photograph and a text frame, and I mostly used the Shear command to do this. So let's see how it's done.
Here's the cover image. It's just a placed photo of some rust and one text frame with The History of Rust, Volume 1: The Early Years, and I am going to start out by selecting the placed graphic, copying it, and choosing Edit > Paste In Place, or Command+Shift+Option+V, Ctrl+Shift+Alt+V. Why I am doing this is so I can make the spine. I need an extra copy of this photograph. I need two separate objects that I can shear in opposite directions. Now, you might be tempted to just slide this over or to grab the right anchor point and drag it across to make the spine, but that's probably not a good idea, because if I zoom in, you can see what happens.
When you use the Selection tool, you mirror the image, you flip it. So I get this mirrored copy of the photo and up in the Control panel you can see what's going on. I've flipped it horizontally and that's not really realistic. That's not what a real book cover spine would look like. So let's undo that, and instead of using the Selection tool, I will use the Direct Selection tool. So I will press A on my keyboard and I will click the right-hand segment and Shift+Drag it across and create my spine. That looks like a pretty good width.
So I have a continuation of the photo instead of a flip of it. Now let's do some shearing. I'll take my Selection tool and Shift+ Click on both the text frame and the picture, I'll group them, because I want to shear them together, and I'll set the reference point at the left center. So this is the lockdown part that we're going to be shearing around. In my tools panel, I'll double-click on the Shear tool and I will set a Shear Angle of 10 degrees in the Vertical direction, and what that does is it pulls up the right side, and we can just see what it would be like to shear along the horizontal axis.
That would pull it towards the right. But in this case, we want to use vertical. I'll click OK and now I want to shear the spine in the opposite direction. So I will select the spine, I will set the Reference Point to the right-center, so it's sheared around that same point as the front cover. I will double-click on the Shear tool and now I want to change the Shear Angle. I am not sure exactly what angle I want yet, but I know it's in the opposite direction of the front cover. So I am going to hold down the Shift key on my keyboard and I am going to tap the down arrow key a few times just until I start to see this angle that I like.
I want a nice angle that seems sort like a right angle from the front cover to the spine and -60 looks pretty good. I will click OK. Now when I did that, I got the angle I wanted, but it really stretched out the spine and distorted the picture and I don't want that at all. So I am going to take my Selection tool and I am going to Command+Drag or Ctrl+Drag this middle anchor point to scale it back to something little more reasonable. That looks pretty good. So they'll give me the width that I want and the photos are not quite so distorted now. Now let's make a back cover. I will click on the front cover, I will ungroup it so I just have the photo and not the text frame, and I'll copy it and choose Edit > Paste In Place.
Command+Shift+Option+V, Ctrl+Shift+Alt+V, and then I want to just drag, so this top left corner touches the top left corner of the spine. I will zoom in to make sure I got that right. That looks pretty good and then I'll send it to the back by choosing Object > Arrange > Send to Back. I will zoom out. So now I have a back cover, a front cover, and a spine. Now I just need some pages. I will click on that back cover, I'll copy it, Paste It In Place, I'll send it to the back, and then I will double-click to select the placed graphic and delete it.
Because remember, I have two copies. I just want this frame so I can fill it with a paper color that looks like pages. So with that frame selected I will go to the Swatches panel, target the fill, and fill it with a really light tint of black, say 10%. Now, I just want to move it a little bit, so I can see the back cover image. I will take my Direct Selection tool, I'll click on the top segment, and I'll tap my Down-arrow key a few times just to reveal some of that back cover. Then I'll click on the right-hand segment and tap my left arrow key a few times, just to nudge that in.
I will zoom in and take a look, and that looks pretty good. I will zoom back out, and now I want to extend this line over behind the front cover to about here. So I will click on the bottom-right corner and pull it up and zoom in and that's a little too much in the corner, so I will tuck it in just a little bit. Now that looks pretty good. I will zoom back out. Now I just want to apply a couple of effects to make it look a little more realistic. So the first thing I'll do is select the pages and go to my Effects panel.
Double-click, and I'll apply an Inner Shadow and what I want here is a little shadowy effect like there's light coming and shining from the back cover and creating a little shadow on the pages. I will take the opacity down a little bit, 75% is usually too intense, and click OK. Now, I'll just add a little beveling to the cover. So I'll select the front cover, the spine, and the back cover. I'll double-click and turn on Bevel and Emboss and I will increase the size a bit.
20 pixels is probably too much. I will take it down to 15 and I'll increase the Altitude a little bit to make it a little shinier and have less of a shadow down in the bottom and on the right-hand side. 50 degrees. That looks pretty good. I will click off, and there I have my next book cover, courtesy of the Shear tool and a little work with the Selection tool and the Direct Selection tool. Now, a cool thing you can do once you've done this shearing work is you can use it to create another book cover, just by replacing the title and the placed photo.
So I will go to my Links panel, select the rust picture, and re-link it. I'll choose this cow picture and I will click through the dialog boxes to re-link all the instances. Now I just want to reposition Bossy here, and change the title, and there you go. another book cover. So it's great when we can reuse our work and work efficiently. Shearing is the trickiest transformation in InDesign. Dragging with Shear tool can be an exercise in futility.
So instead, try shearing precisely using numerical values, either in the Control panel or by double- clicking with the Shear tool. That way you can keep the effect under control and use it to build things like a quick 3D mockup of something like a book.
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