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Tip of the Week: Making Torn Paper Effects

This InDesign tip on making torn paper effects was sent to Tip of the Week email subscribers on March 16, 2017.

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Knock a hole right through your document with this “breakthrough” technique: With the Pencil tool, draw a rough shape with lots of twists and turns. Take your time and go slowly. Be sure to hold the Option/ALT key as you release the mouse button so the shape is a closed path.

Use the Effects panel to add an inner shadow. Place an image in the shape. By varying your drawing speed and angles, you can make your shape look like a cracked eggshell, peeling paint, torn paper, and so on. If you want the subject of your image to look like it burst through your page, place the image twice. One copy goes inside the jagged frame with the inner shadow. The other copy has a clipping path and a drop shadow. To complete the effect, draw folded edges with the pencil too, fill them with white, and apply a gradient and a drop shadow.

InDesign torn paper effects

A related “torn paper” technique is to start with a rectangular frame. Then use the Pencil tool to draw a rough shape that overlaps the rectangle. Select both items and choose Object > Pathfinder > Subtract.

InDesign torn paper effect

Give the object a Directional Feather on the “torn” edge to add some texture.

InDesign torn paper effect

To simulate a thick piece of torn paper, use the Pencil tool to draw two similar rough shapes. Give them the same fill, but use a lighter tint on the bottom copy.

InDesign torn paper effect

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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