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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.
With InDesign you can create swatches of solid colors and of gradients, but you can't create a swatch that will allow you to fill an object with a repeating pattern. But with some precisely arranged objects and the Paste Into command, you can make an object that functions like a pattern swatch, then you can use the Step and Repeat command to fill an area with the pattern. You can also transform a single object into many and then fuse them all together with the Pathfinder command. Let's see how it's done. So here I have a scene of some cows in a field and there's just one problem.
These cows aren't contained. They are going to roam around free and all get lost, and I want to contain them with a fence. So I am going to create a pattern that looks like a fence and overlay it on top of the photo. I will press the F key on my keyboard to get my Rectangle Frames tool and click in the document. I am going to create a square of 100 pixels tall and wide. I'll go to my Swatches panel. I will target the fill and fill it with black, then I will press the V key on my keyboard to switch to my Selection tool and zoom in. And in CS5 and later, I have this yellow square on frames.
I can click on that to go into Live Corners mode and apply corner effects dynamically. You can see the yellow diamonds that appear around the four corners of the square. I will click and drag on one of them to apply a Corner effect. Now the first one that comes up is rounded and that's not going to help me make my fence pattern, but I can hold down the Option or Alt key and cycle through all the different Corner effects. Click on this diamond and I'll go to fancy, to beveled, and then to inset, and this is what want to create my fence pattern.
Now I will click and drag on that diamond to increase the amount of inset until it looks like about right what I want from my fence pattern. And that looks good, that little cross shape. I will zoom out. Place it in the top left corner of my document and then choose Edit > Step and Repeat. Now I am going to create a grid. I have the Vertical and Horizontal Offset matching the size of my square and I can just create as many rows and columns as I need to fill out my fence pattern and cover the document. There we go.
I will click OK. While they're all still selected, I will go to the Pathfinder panel and click on Add and what InDesign will do is now fuse all these individual fence segments together into one object and I can apply one effect to the entire object. So with that still selected, I will go the Effects panel, double-click on Object, and I will apply some Bevel and Emboss to give it a little dimension to my fence. I will increase the Altitude to make it a little shinier. I will make it say 70 degrees. That's a good setting for making things shiny and click OK and there's my fence pattern.
My cows aren't going anywhere now. Let's make another pattern. This time I want to create a tiled pattern. So I will press the F key on my keyboard and click in the document again and I'll keep the same values of 100 pixels wide and high. I will go to my Swatches panel and fill it with black. Now I like to rotate this to 45 degrees so it seems more like a diamond than a square. So I will press the V key on my keyboard to get the Selection tool. I will hold down the Shift key and hover over one of these corners and drag it 45 degrees.
Now I will place it in the top left corner and again choose Edit > Step and Repeat. Now this is left over from my fence pattern, so I want to change this. I will just decrease the rows and columns to 2x2 right now and what I need to do is to increase the vertical and horizontal offsets, so my diamonds just touch each other like they would in a tile pattern. So I will increase both of these settings to 140 pixels. Now my diamonds just touch. Now it's a matter of again creating as many rows and columns as I need to fill up the page.
There we go. I will click OK. Now I don't want to fuse these altogether like I did with the fence pattern, but I also don't want them falling out of alignment. So while I still have them all selected, I am going to group them. Now I'm going to apply an effect. I will choose Effects, target the Group level, double-click, and I will apply our friend Bevel and Emboss. Again, I like that shiny setting, so I am going to increase the Altitude from 30 degrees to 70 degrees and I would also like highlights on both the top edges of my tiles, so I am going to decrease the Angle and make the light source come from straight above.
So change it to 90 degrees and click OK. Now I have half the tiles I want. I want to fill in these gaps in between with another tile that's also beveled. So I can use the Selection tool for that. I will double-click to bring up the Move dialog box and I'll move them half the distance that I used in the Step and Repeat dialog box. So now it's 70 pixels in the Horizontal and Vertical directions, and because I want an extra set of tiles I will click on Copy. There we go. Now I can just go to the Swatches panel and change the Tint from 100 down to say 10% black, and there I have my tile pattern.
Let's make some wallpaper. I will press the F key on my keyboard and click in the document and I am going to create a rectangle that will function as the base for my pattern swatch. I will make it 160 pixels wide by 100 pixels high and click on OK. In my Swatches panel, I will give it a fill of this nice Victorian Blue. And now I want to create some elements that are going to repeat throughout the pattern. So I will borrow a glyph from the Adobe Woodtype Ornaments font. I will click and drag with my Text tool, and I am going to choose Type > Glyphs, and I've recently applied the glyph that I want so it appears in my Recently Used Glyphs menu.
I will double-click to put into the document, close the Glyphs panel, and I will increase the type size to 100 pixels. I will switch to my Selection tool and I'd like to actually convert this to outlines. It's not strictly necessary to do that, but I just find it easier to use if I've converted this glyph to outline, rather than leaving it as live text. So I will press Command+Shift+O or Ctrl+Shift+O on the PC. Now I have an outlined glyph that I can use in my pattern. I will zoom in and what I want to do is place this precisely at the center of this glyph at the four corners of my pattern swatch.
So when I create extra pattern swatches, they all line up perfectly. So I will click from about the middle of the glyph and use my Smart Guides to help me know exactly when the center of this glyph is aligned in the top corner of my pattern swatch. There it is. Now I want to make a copy, so I will hold down Option or Alt and I want to constraint it, so I will hold down Shift and drag down to make my second corner copy. Again, the Smart Guides is my friend. It lets me know I have perfectly aligned it with the bottom of the swatch. I will let go. I will Shift+Click to select both of my glyphs and Option or Alt drag across to create the other two corner copies.
Now I would like one for the center of the pattern. So I will grab any one of these, Option or Alt+Drag, and then again use the Smart Guides to let me know when I have it exactly in the middle and let go. Now I want to take these and paste them into my pattern swatch. I can only paste one object at a time into another frame, so I have to make these all behave as one, and I'll do that by grouping them. I will Shift+Click to select all five, group them, cut them, and then select the frame and choose Edit > Paste Into, and there I have it, my pattern swatch.
I will zoom out, put it in the top left corner of my document, and again choose Edit > Step and Repeat. I will choose Create as grid, and now I want to have the Vertical and Horizontal Offsets exactly match what my size in my pattern swatch was. So it was 100 pixels tall by 160 pixels wide, and I just have to create enough rows and columns to fill out the page. I need a few more rows, and I will click OK.
Now at this magnification it looks like there's a little gap in between the pattern swatches, but don't worry. It's not really there. If I zoom in, you can see that it goes way. It's just a screen artifact. At certain magnifications, it looks like there's a slight gap, but remember we are really careful using the Step and Repeat function to precisely align these things and the Smart Guides. So this really is a seamless pattern. InDesign doesn't have dedicated tools for building patterns, but with a little ingenuity and some careful attention to alignment, plus the Step and Repeat function, you can create objects that function just like pattern swatches.
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