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InDesign Eye Candy, part 1: In Gravity’s Shadow

This is the first in a series of tips for making some fun visual effects using only InDesign.

Note: This tip doesn’t work in CS3 because it relies on the Gravity option for Type on a Path, which, as David previously pointed out, was broken in CS3. This tip does work in CS2, with one adjustment (noted below).

In Gravity’s Shadow

Long shadows are useful when you want to convey the idea of Really Big Things, and also to add a 3D feel to your 2D media, be it a screen or TMFKAT (the media formerly known as a tree).

Start with a frame wide enough for your text to sit on the top.

Using the Type on a Path Tool, click and drag from the top left corner to the top right. I like to snap the endpoints to the top corners horizontally. Sounds weird, but they seem to snap easier that way.

If you didn’t get them right the first time, take the Direct Selection tool and drag them in place.

Type your text and center align it. Use caps; descenders and serifs ruin the effect. You really don’t want much of anything below the baseline, so choose a font accordingly.

Select the frame and make sure the reference point is one of the top three.

Option/ALT-click the Flip Vertical button in the Control panel to duplicate the frame and flip it.

Now you have two frames, with the new, flipped frame on top.

With the new frame selected, choose Type > Type on a Path > Options… and choose the Gravity effect.

You get something like this.

Next, adjust the length of the shadow to taste. Select the shadow text, and change the Vertical Scale value in the Control panel.

Then adjust the skew of the shadow by clicking and dragging the top of the flipped frame with the Selection tool. Think of that control point as the light source: the lower it is, the more skewed the shadow. Pause before you start dragging to see the effect live.

Fade the shadow with a Directional Feather applied to the flipped frame. Apply it to the top of the frame, and select First Edge Only, from the Shape menu.

Note: If you’re using CS2, you don’t have Effects, so fill the shadow text with a gradient to feather it.

Last, stand back and enjoy (click the image below for the full size version).

Mike Rankin

Mike Rankin

Editor in Chief of, InDesign Magazine, and Author of courses on InDesign and Illustrator. Husband. Dad. Dog walker.
Mike Rankin

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9 Comments on “InDesign Eye Candy, part 1: In Gravity’s Shadow

  1. Very nice trick!
    And if you make the mirrored text a cross reference of the normal text, you even can update both at the same time!

  2. Really cool. Nevertheless I somehow could not manage to get the mirrored text cross-referenced, as Martin mentions in his post. Can somebody help? I´ve never used the cross-reference feature before.

  3. I seem to only get gravity effect on the left hand side of my sentance – it leaves the right hand side upright – what am I doing wrong?!!

  4. Debbie-

    Sounds like you’re using CS3. This tip works in CS2 and CS4. There’s no way to make it work in CS3 that I know of.


    I thought Martin was kidding about the cross-reference, but if you wanted to try it, you’d go to the Hyperlinks panel and select the original text and make it a Hyperlink destination (text anchor). Then delete the shadow text and replace it with a cross-reference to the text anchor. When you changed the original text, you’d need to update the hyperlink to make the shadow change. Perhaps a similar, simpler idea would be to just do a Find/Change. That would change the text and its shadow.

  5. I just tried it with cross references and it works great.

    Mike, I loved the trick. I can’t wait to see what other shiny eye candy you are going to deliver to us next. After all of this candy I hope that my eyeball doesn’t get a cavity.

  6. Fritz-

    You guessed the next topic: shiny!

    In the meantime, cleanse your palette by working only in the Story Editor.

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