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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.
What's the number one, coolest, most amazing feature in InDesign? It's transparency. We've already looked at how InDesign can import images with transparency. Now, let's take a step further and look at how you can apply transparency effects to any object in InDesign. This layout is looking pretty nice, but I think it would look even nicer if I could make this green frame show the image behind it a little bit. To do that, I'm going to go up to the Control panel and look at the transparency widgets up here. Right now, this transparency widget, which I can tell, because it has a little checkerboard there, and checkerboard always means transparency, I'm going to change that from 100% to let's say 60%.
Press Enter or Return and you can see that now I can see through the green. That's a little bit too much, so why don't I bump that up? I'll click on that little slider there. Bring it up to maybe 80% or something like that. There we go! That's looking a little bit better now. Now I can read the text and see through it all the way to the image behind it. I'm going to do the same thing to this white frame down at the bottom of the document page here. That's too white. I'd like to see through it a little bit and I'd change this to let's say maybe 50%. There we go. Now it just gives me a little bit of a ghosted back feeling.
Now, it's nice that these features are here inside the Control panel, but the main control for doing transparency effects is the Effects panel, which you can find under the Window menu by choosing Effects. This frame at the bottom of the page is still selected, so that you can see that the object is at Normal blending Mode at 50%. Now, what do I mean by blending mode? Blending mode shows up in many of Adobe's applications, like Illustrator and Photoshop, and it gives me controls like Multiply, Screen and so on.
Those can fine-tune the transparency effects in all kinds of ways. For example, I'll select this green frame back here and change it to Multiply, and you'll see that the effect is dramatic. It's multiplying the green into the background instead of screening it back. So let's try the Screen effect instead. I encourage you to just try these different blending modes to get the effect that you're looking for. I'm actually pretty happy with just the Normal blending Mode, in this case, so I'm going to leave this set back to Normal. Let me show you another example of what you can do with the Effects panel.
I'm going to move this text frame down on top of this image over here. That looks fine except for one thing. I can't read the text. That's kind of a disaster. So here is an effect I use all the time, ghosting back the background, so that I can read the text, make it pop out a little bit. The first thing I need to do is set the background color to, well, let's say paper, something light. Well, that's a little too light, right? So I want to make it transparent, so I can still see the image through it a little bit. I'll close that pop-up menu just by clicking on the frame again, and I'm going to change the transparency in the Effects panel.
But if I change the Opacity here from 100% down to let's say 60%, it makes the whole object transparent, the background and the text. That's not what I wanted. I want the text to stay full strength, but just the background to be ghosted back. So, undo that with Command+Z or Ctrl+Z on Windows, and instead take one extra step in the Effects panel. Instead of choosing the Object in this list, I'm going to choose the fill, and now any changes I make in the Effects panel will affect just the fill of this frame not the stroke.
So let's go ahead and change the Opacity of this down to 50% and you can see that the fill got ghosted back, but not the text. It's actually too low for opacity, let's set this down to maybe 70%. There we go. That's looking a little bit better. Now, if I had a stroke of that image, I could do the same thing by clicking on stroke. So this would affect transparency effects on the stroke, but not the fill or the text. Another good example of when you need to pay attention to what's selected inside the Effects panel and what's selected on the page is when you want to change the transparency of an image, separate from its frame.
So, for example, let's grab this group of images, and I'm going to select just one of these images in here by double-clicking on it. That selects that frame and then double-clicking again to select the image inside the frame. Now you can see the Effects panel changes so that I'm changing the transparency of this graphic, not the frame itself. If I change this to something like 50% opacity, you see that just that image changes, and if it had a frame or a fill or a stroke, it would not have been affected.
Changing the opacity or blending mode of an object is cool, but it's just the beginning when it comes to InDesign's Transparency features.
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