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Author David Blatner provides in-depth training on InDesign CS5, the print and interactive page layout application from Adobe, in InDesign CS5 Essential Training. The course shows how to create new documents with strong and flexible master pages, precisely position text and graphics, prepare documents for print, and export designs as interactive PDF or Flash SWF files. Exercise files are included with the course.
If you look carefully, in your InDesign User License it says somewhere around paragraph 28(c) that every InDesign, no matter how large or small, must contain at least one Drop Shadow. No, I am just kidding of course. But sometimes the way people use Drop Shadows, it does seem like it's in the contract. Everyone loves Drop Shadows because they give a sense of depth to a page. They make things pop. So let's see how you can add a Drop Shadow in InDesign. I am going to apply a Drop Shadow to this text right here. There are several ways you can do that, but the easiest way is to simply click on the Drop Shadow button in the Control panel.
The problem with doing that is the Drop Shadow almost always looks terrible. It's too strong. It's too far away. I don't like that at all. So I am going to unclick that and instead you can Option+Click on it, or let me show you the other trick. Go to the Effects panel, choose what you want to apply the Drop Shadow to, either the whole object or some aspect of the object, and then click on the Effects icon here, which gives you a number of different options for which you can change your Transparency. In this case I am going to choose a Drop Shadow. That opens the Effects panel.
This Effects panel lets me control the Drop Shadow. I am going to turn the Preview checkbox on so I can see what I am doing while I am working. I have a Drop Shadow applied to the object and I can set all kinds of options for this Drop Shadow. Its color, its opacity. I have got to make this a little not quite as strong, and change it down to 60%. That sort of brings it back a little bit, more realistic. I can change its Position. For example, its distance from the thing that's supposed to be casting the shadow. That's going to be a little bit too big, maybe I will change this down to like 3 points, something like that.
And I can also change the Angle. Watch what happens as I drag or click on this little Angle icon here. I could type a number in here or just click over here and now it looks that the light is coming from the lower left corner and casting the shadow up into the right. This lets me change the Size of that Drop Shadow. In other words, how blurry it's going to be. If I make a very small number, like 2 points, then it becomes a very strong shadow. If I make it really large, like a 9 point size, it makes it very blurry.
That's how you control sort of the focus of it. I am going to make this smaller, again, maybe 3 points. Spread lets me control how strong the Drop Shadow is in a different way. Technically, Spread controls how far from the object out should the maximum opacity be and then it's going to fade off gently to nothing, right? Well, Spread lets me control how far out it should be at that maximum 60% opacity. So if I change this to something like 100% and I hit Tab, then it's at the maximum opacity, 60%, all the way out to the very edge.
The entire size of the Drop Shadow. If I change it to 50% opacity, then it's going to be at 60%, all the way out to about halfway, and then it's going to drop off to 0. So that's how you can control the strength of your Drop Shadow in another way. And I almost always set it to 0, unless I am creating some kind of special effect. The last option I am going to choose here is Noise. Noise is a very, very important feature in Drop Shadows. Highly underrated. Almost everyone leaves it set to 0, and that's a mistake.
Because 0% Noise means a very artificial looking Drop Shadow. You want to add a little bit of Noise, also called dithering, to your Drop Shadows. Just maybe 3 or 4%. That's all you need to break it up a little bit and make it more natural looking. If you are going to have a lot of different objects on your page that have the same Drop Shadow, it's a good idea to turn on the Use Global Light feature. That way you can synchronize all your Drop Shadows, so that if the Angle changes in one, it will change in all the other ones as well.
I am going to drag this back down to where I had it, more or less. And it tells me that changing this value will reset it throughout the entire document. Be sure you want to have it set that way, and in this case we do, I will click OK, and click OK, and you can see that I have got the Drop Shadow here. Let's go ahead and apply Drop Shadows to some other objects on my page. Perhaps this object up here and this there and this there. Let's go ahead and apply the Drop Shadow to some other objects on the page, these three frames up here. Now, do I need to go through that same dialog box over and over again? No, if I want to copy an effect, like a Drop Shadow, from this object onto one of these, I simply select the object.
In this case the text frame that I just made the Drop Shadow, go over to the Effects panel and see that little fx icon there. It's not just an icon that says hey, there's an effect applied here. It also lets me drag that icon around. For example, I can drag that icon on top of another object here and you can see that it applies a Drop Shadow. I will go ahead and apply it to this one as well, and this one over here, and this one over here. There we go. So I have applied that same Drop Shadow to multiple frames very quickly, just by dragging the Effects icon around.
Now I want to change the Drop Shadow to something else. How do I edit a Drop Shadow? Just double click on the Effects icon, up comes the Effects panel and I can change it to -- in this case why don't I change the Global Angle for this. It's warning me that, yes, it's going to effect the entire document. That's fine. So I click OK, click OK, and you can see that the Drop Shadows change, not just here, but throughout the whole document. All these images change as well. The last thing I want to point out about Drop Shadows is that you have to be careful what you are applying them to.
I will select this text frame here and apply a Drop Shadow. I will just go ahead and leave this set to the default values, and you can see that the Drop Shadow was applied to all the text inside. That's not what I wanted. That looks really ugly. So instead I wanted to apply it to the frame, not the text. The reason it's applying it to the text and not the frame is that I have no fill here. I look up in the Control panel and I can see the fill is set to None. But as soon as I choose any sort of opaque fill, like a Paper color, now it's going to apply the Drop Shadow to the whole object, to the fill and the stroke, not the text.
The problem here is that I actually have some Transparency on the fill, so I can see the Drop Shadow through it. Well, I am going to have to fix that. I will go select the fill in the Effects panel and change the opacity back up to 100%. There we go. That's looking much better now. We have a fully opaque white frame and the Drop Shadow behind it. So Drop Shadows are cool, but there is no doubt that they can be overused and end up making your document look, well, a little hackneyed, so proceed with caution.
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