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By Mike Rankin | Thursday, September 29, 2011

InDesign FX: Building better bevels

As I wrote in my last post, I think Bevel and Emboss is the most versatile and useful of InDesign FX. But it does have one weakness. When Bevel and Emboss is applied to a path that intersects itself, the shadows and highlights make the path segments seem fused together. So if you try to make something like this garden hose, the 3D effect of Bevel and Emboss is quite unconvincing.

While this isn’t especially useful behavior, it’s not fair to call it a bug. When InDesign has only has one path to work with, this is what would be expected. A single path has no stacking order. It’s a perfectly flat object existing in two dimensions. So there’s no way InDesign could possibly figure out which segment should be on top of (or behind) which other segments.

In this week’s video, I show how to get around this limitation. The trick is to create your own stacking order with new, independent paths that look like they’re all one object. The key is to use the Paste Into command to mask out the ends of the new paths.

When you do this for each overlapping segment, you create a totally seamless 3D effect.

Also, it’s worth noting that sometimes when you do this trick, it can look like the new paths are misaligned with the original path, giving away their presence and ruining the effect. Don’t worry. If you follow all the steps shown in the video, the new paths will be perfectly aligned. The apparent misalignment is just a screen redraw problem that’s more likely to occur if you work at odd zoom percentages. If this happens, just press Shift+F5 to force InDesign to redraw the screen and display the effect correctly.

For lynda.com members, I have another new video this week exclusively in the Online Training Library® on how to punch holes in InDesign objects.

And I’ll see you here again in two weeks with another InDesign effect.

•  InDesign FX complete course•  Courses on InDesign in the Online Training Library®•  Courses by Mike Rankin in the Online Training Library®

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