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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.
All InDesign frames, no matter what content they contain, are vector objects. You can reshape these objects using tools like the Direct Selection tool and the Pen tool, or you can use a script that comes with InDesign to quickly reshape paths into interesting shapes. The script is called PathEffects, and with it you can instantly create complex shapes that would be tedious or impossible to make using InDesign's path manipulation tools. Let's see how it works. Here I have a set of squares and circles that I'm going to apply the PathEffects script to.
I'll click OK and we can see it made a pretty dramatic change in my square and circle. Let's zoom in to see what happened. I'll switch to my Direct Selection tool and drag over an anchor point and I can see what the script did. It added direction handles pointed towards the center of the object and the length of the direction handle was derived from that Offset value. It's 50% from the anchor point to the center of the object, because I had a 50% Offset value. The script didn't add any new anchor points.
It just added direction handles to existing anchor points and they all point to the center, and what this does from the Punk effect is it pushes in all the sides of the object. Remember, this was a square starting out. This one was a circle. it only looks different because the anchor points on a circle are in a different place. They're at the top and bottom and on the sides, but the script did the same thing. It added the direction handles pointed towards the center, 50% of the distance from the anchor point to the center of the circle.
I'll zoom out and I'll run a different option in the PathEffects script. This time I'll choose Bloat. I'll click OK and zoom in to see what Bloat did. I'll drag over one of the anchor points. And again, I have direction handles that have been added, but this time they're pointing away from the center of the object. So Bloat is sort of the opposite of Punk. Where Punk pushes the sides of an object in, Bloat will push the sides of an object out. And again, that Offset amount of 50% means the length of the direction handle is 50% of the distance from the anchor point to the center, making for a puffy object.
I'll select another square and circle and run the script again. This time I'll choose PunkBloat. This is going to combine the Punk and the Bloat functions and give me direction handles pointed both away from and towards the center of the object. The direction handles are connected, so if I click and drag one, they both move. This gives me a sort of a twisty effect. I'll select another square and circle and run the next option, BloatPunk.
I'll bet you can guess what this one does. It does the same thing as PunkBloat but in the opposite direction, so it was as if I twirled this handle around. Again, one direction handle points towards the center and one points away and they're both connected. I'll run the script again. This time I'll choose Twirl, select an anchor point, and now I have independent direction handles, one pointed towards the center of the object and one pointed slightly away but almost tangent to the curve here on all the four sides.
Again, it gives me a twisted effect, but now the corners are sharp instead of rounded. I'll select another square and circle and run AntiTwirl. AntiTwirl does the same thing as Twirl does but in the opposite direction, so the anchor points are twisted and you get this loop-de-loop effect around all the anchor points. Let's see how you would use one of the PathEffects scripts for a real project. Here I have some text set with a Chrome Gradient fill to make it look like it's made out of metal.
I made a copy of it, flipped it, and then used a gradient feather to make it seem like it was reflected off of a shiny surface. A really cool effect. But I like to take it all the way to the edge, and for that I want a little light burst effect to pop off of one of the edges of the letter, say up here. This is the perfect use for the Punk effect. What I'll do is I'll start out with a polygon. I'll click my Polygon tool, click in the document, and I'll accept these settings. Width and Height of 100 pixels, 6 Sides, and a 70% Star Inset, and click OK.
There's my polygon star. I'll give it a fill of Paper and a stroke of None, and this is going to be the basis for my light burst. Next I'm going to run Scripts > PathEffects. I'm going to choose the Punk option, and for the Offset, I'm going to set it to 0. I want those direction handles pulled all the way to the center and have a really dramatic effect on my polygon. Okay, and zoom in and I'll deselect, and there we can see what the Punk effect did.
It pulled all the edges all the way towards the center and made for this really cool looking light burst effect out of my original six-sided polygon. I'll zoom out, take my Selection tool, and move it in place at the top of the L. Now one more thing I'd like to do is to just give it a little bit of an outer glow effect, just to add to the light coming off of this. So with the Polygon selected, I'll choose Effects, double-click on it, and choose Outer Glow. I'll set the Opacity to 100%, I'll leave the technique at Softer, but I want a big glow, so I'm going to change the Size from 7 pixels to 60.
I'll add just a little bit of Noise, 1%, I'll add a little bit of Spread, say 7%, and deselect. And there I have my cool light burst effect, courtesy of Punk in the PathEffects script. Being able to draw and edit paths manually with the Pen tool is a great skill to have, but sometimes you'll get better results faster by just letting the computer do the work for you. In this case, we let a script called PathEffects reshape objects by moving direction handles towards the center of the object and we changed the polygon into a cool looking light burst effect.
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