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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.
Liquids and computers are usually a very bad combination, but adding things that look like liquids to your InDesign layouts can be a real eye-catching effect. We can simulate anything from pure water to black oil with the Bevel and Emboss effect and the Hard Light blending mode. So here I have just an empty document and I'd like to create a watery puddle effect on it. First thing I need to do is to create a background object, because I'm going to be using blending modes and it always takes at least two objects for blending modes to work, foreground object and a background object. So I'll select my Frame tool, click-and- drag in the layout, and in my Swatches panel I'll set the fill to Paper, and I'll lock it by pressing Command or Ctrl+L just to get it out of my way.
Now I'll go to the Pencil tool and I want to draw sort of a puddle shape, just a random rounded shape, nothing too specific, and when I get close to the end I'll hold Option or Alt to close the path. In my Swatches panel I'll set the fill to black and a stroke of None, and for a watery effect I'm going to reduce the Tint from 100% down to just above 50%, something like 52%. In the Effects panel I'll switch from the Normal blending mode to Hard Light. Now I'm ready to apply Bevel and Emboss.
I'll slide this over so I can see what I'm doing, double-click to open the Effects dialog box, and I'll click on Bevel and Emboss. Now I get a nice highlight and a dark shadow. I want to reduce that shadow. So I'm going to go to the Altitude setting and increase it from 30 degrees to 70 degrees, and that also moves the highlight a little bit away from the edge. I can increase the Size of the Bevel, to go from a flat puddle to a big fat droplet, or decrease it back again. I want a puddle so I'm going to leave it like that.
I'll click OK and then to go from plain water to black oil, all I have to do is go to my Swatches panel and increase that Tint of the fill back to a 100%. Now if that super bright highlight isn't working for you, just go back to the Effects panel, open up the dialog box and decrease the Highlight Opacity. That looks more like oil. I'll click OK. Then to change to a different liquid I can just go to the Swatches panel and change the fill color. So vampires are all the rage nowadays, so I could have a puddle of blood if I wanted to, or I could have paint, or melted wax, or a melted chocolate, just by changing the fill color.
There are two key steps to simulating liquids in InDesign. The first is to apply the Bevel and Emboss effect with a high altitude setting. This gives the liquid a shine by concentrating the highlight and reducing the shadow. The second is to apply the Hard Light blending mode, which is indispensable for simulating water and others translucent liquids, because it allows us to have full strength highlights and shadows on a nearly clear fill color.
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