FUDWatch: ID CS3 Transparency Effects

I’ve recently become aware of some interesting comments and assertions circulated by dark, competetive forces about InDesign CS3.

For example, in regard to the new transparency effects in InDesign CS3 (the bevels, glows, etc.), the dark forces say that all they’re really good for is making “quick and dirty comps,” and that “professionals” won’t actually use them for the actual production of the final product because the results look “canned.” Designers will continue to “hand craft” these effects in Photoshop, they claim.

The message: real designers do all their effects in Photoshop. Ignore the cool new creative features in InDesign CS3. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

There are a number of problems with these assertions:

  1. The majority of magazine titles produced world-wide are now using InDesign and its transparency effects every day for their finished product, including covers—covers that, in some cases, required high-end proprietary systems to produce prior to InDesign 2.0. Apparently no one told them that they should only be making “quick and dirty” comps with all their copies of InDesign. No, quite the contrary, they found they could save a lot of time and money and produce covers and editorial pages with high quality transparency effects created in InDesign. Whether it’s titles like Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Vogue, GQ, Oprah and too many others to mention, these publishers appear to believe that InDesign’s effects are just as good as Photoshop’s…with good reason, because they are Photoshop’s…which leads me to problem #2.
  2. InDesign and Photoshop use the same code to produce these effects, therefore the quality of the output is the same. The UI is a little different, and Photoshop has more effects options in some cases (InDesign has more in others; for example InDesign enables you to
    use spot colors for shadow/bevel/highlight colors). InDesign’s effects features are implemented to address the types of effects that users use most in their day-to-day design work, and will do that job with an output quality identical to that of Photoshop.
  3. All the non-destructive image controls in other products (and much, much more) can be found in Photoshop, so–using their own logic–why use those “canned” features in any other product when you can “hand craft” them in Photoshop? I think the answer is obvious: if the layout application can give you identical results (as in InDesign), then the time saved and the creative freedom allowed by applying them in the layout application make that the most desireable place to apply them.

Another interesting assertion concerns drop shadows and productivity. The claim here is that that fact that InDesign doesn’t automatically apply text wrap around an object’s drop shadow is a “major” omission when used in documents like product catalogs. The reality is that InDesign has all that you need to handle that kind of long document.

If you’re creating a catalog, the drop shadows you apply will be standardized on all the “like” product photos. In InDesign you would manually edit the text wrap path to accommodate your drop shadow settings in the most desireable way (in reality there isn’t a one-size fits all sort of solution for determining the runaround for an object with a shadow). After you edit your wrap offset settings, you would then create an object style based on that original element, and apply the style to both the original element and any other similar image elements in your catalog. Your text wrap settings are stored in the object style as an object property, and are applied automatically to any page object to which the style is applied. InDesign’s object styles feature can automate the formatting of not only image frames, but also text frames and their styled content. Object styles combined with InDesign’s nested styles, anchored frames, text variables and other features make it a superior environment in which to layout a long catalog document.



Text Wrap can be customized in InDesign, and then applied and updated automatically across a long document via an object style.

4 Responses to FUDWatch: ID CS3 Transparency Effects

  1. Mike Ornellas says:

    What really kills me about Photoshop and transparent evvects is the in abilty to overprint things like drop shadows in no native applications such as In Design.

    WHEN OH WHEN will Adobe be able to address this cluster F.

    TC: Sorry to hear about your suffering, Mike, but the reason we don’t use overprinting in that way for that particular feature cluster (I’m going to assume that this is what you meant but experienced a brief fit of dyslexia…and that you weren’t trying to be rude) is because of the unpredictable results that can occur when you overprint an ink on objects that contain a percentage of that same ink…usually process black.

    If your shadow is black (which would be normal), overprint says replace anything on the black plate with this black image. Multiply says combine the shadow ink percentage with the background ink percentage–which is the apearance you’d normally expect the effect to create.

  2. SFDesigner says:

    I was at a focus a group Quark held last year about graphics. There was no secrecy agreement or anything, so I’m cool talking about it. Anyway, there was a lot of talk about Photoshop layer effects etc. and also the In-effects plug-in that does the same kind of thing. And I have to say, the view from the people in the room was that glows are cool but otherwise, even in Photoshop and Illustrator, people stay away from using those effects because they just look a bit cheesy. The designers in the room were like ‘I’ll maybe use them as a starting point, but then I’ll use other photoshop effects to make them look less generic’

    So I see where these “dark competitive forces” are coming from… that’s what the designers were saying. But I mean, everyone is different… for some projects maybe they would work.

    By the way Tim, do you really think competition is a “dark force” 🙂

    — SFDesigner

    TC: Our real world experience has been different. The fact is that any effect can look cheesy in the wong hands (take the lowly drop shadow, for instance…it can be over-used). But it’s also the case that these features were added at the request of designers who felt the need to have them at their disposal in InDesign. What I’ve seen some artists do with them is rather amazing. Usually it’s not one effect used in isolation, but rather in concert with other effects, whether they be feathers, blend modes or whatever.

    Whether you’re in Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign, these features are just creative tools that can be mixed and matched in a myriad of ways to create subtle effects, blends, transitions, etc. It’s all a matter of experimentation and learning how these features work together.

    All that said, the fact is that visual cheese is not always something to be avoided. Ask anyone who lays out display ads for newspapers, for example. The people who have big inflatable gorillas in their parking lots to get attention want something similarly garish in their print advertising. Therefore, quick and easy cheese (cheese whiz?) is highly desirable…whether it’s a visual effect or loud and obnoxious typography.

    Another example would be kid’s magazines, where bevels, embosses and glows are used liberally for visual appeal to that audience. Not every publisher out there is producing National Geogrpahic or Architectural Digest.

    Ultimately, we’re providing a toolset, not an aesthetic sensibility…the user has to provide that. The same features that can create visually stunning layouts can be used to sell you tires, groceries, movies, and…well…I’ll leave the personal ads out of it, but you get the idea.

    And no, competition itself isn’t a dark force. It’s certainly a good thing for consumers…without competition, I doubt that the competition would have added any transparency effects, discovered customer service, become more flexible with pricing, etc. When I use the term “dark forces,” it’s a tongue-in-cheek way of describing spin-doctoring on the other side. It’s my blog, after all… ;^)

  3. Matt says:

    Hi, Tim,

    You say some dark (or is it light green 😉 forces criticize the new creative features in ID CS3. You say that most magazines use these already in production.

    That makes me wonder, how can these magazines already use new creative features of CS3? I doubt that many (if any) have switched yet.

    and if you are so much about competition, maybe a small comment why InDesign added more granular transparencies (like Q7), INDDinINDD (like CZ in QZ), highered prices (unlike Q7) etc.


    TC: Hi Matt. My comments weren’t limited to just the new features in CS3, because the significance of InDesign’s earlier transparency features was downplayed using the “real pro’s do it in Photoshop” argument–that is until the “light green” competitive forces added some of those features themselves (because they’re competitive). The reality, however, is that all those features get used regularly in production across InDesign’s user base. Real pro’s use the features, and do so because they can get the same quality results as in Photoshop. If the creative requirements of part of a page exceed the capabilities of what InDesign can do natively, then that work gets done in Photoshop…or Illustrator, for that matter.

    That said, the new CS3 features were both extensively tested by some of publishers that requested them in the first place, and are in use today in locations around the world…because users buy upgrades (or switch from competitive products). CS3 has been shipping since April. The reason these new features are being used is the same reason that InDesign’s earlier transparency features are being used: time and money saved, and creative freedom.

    And yes, we’re all about competition here…when InDesign 1.0 was released, it owned 0% of the market, and it’s through competition that it’s reached its current levels of adoption. The reason most new features get added is because customers ask for them. Some features get added because simply because they’re cool, innovative, and break new ground. Listening to customers isn’t a recent discovery for Adobe. The InDesign team has been listening to customer input since the very beginning of the the product’s development. Ever since the release of InDesign 2.0, for example, customers have asked us for the ability to apply separate effects to fill, stroke, and content. Similarly, requests for being able to import native InDesign content have been around for a while as well. Our first feature to answer that request was InDesign’s XML snippets feature, and the second is the .indd import feature in CS3. Both Adobe and its competition are now listening to customers, both of us watch what the other is doing, and in that environment end users like yourself are the ultimate winners.

  4. TC says:

    TC: On a purely procedural note, please be aware that all comments on this blog are reviewed and approved for public consumption (otherwise you’d see Viagra ads). I get to the comments when time allows. It may take two or three days in some cases given the upredictability of my daily schedule, and/or the nature of your question, comment, accusations, rant, or passionate sonnet.