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Lesson 22 from: Adobe InDesign CC Intermediate: Beyond the Basics

Erica Gamet

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Lesson Info

22. Transparency

Next Lesson: Live Preflight

Lesson Info


A couple different options and items that we need to take care of before we start exporting or printing out our final document. Things that we need to check on. Things that we might have put inside our document that we need to make sure are actually going to work for our final output device, or output stream that we're putting this into. And the first one that we need to really keep an eye on is transparency. And basically transparency is what's giving me this effect here, for instance, on these bricks. I've got this photo of this brick, you can see it down below the red and also interacting with the red frame that's on top here. In fact, I'm gonna select this item and just move it off to the side. So we can kinda see how that's built. We've got this image here. It's at the top and then below it, I've also got this colored frame. And it's interacting with each other through transparency. And while we look at it on the screen that's not a big deal. So because we're looking at an item th...

at is being created using light, so we're used to transparency, like light shining through other items that have light and mixing together and it creates this nice, pleasant screened back look. However, when we go to print, or even if we're going to a PDF, that might pose a problem. So we need to keep an eye on that. Other transparency that we might have inside a document are things like drop shadows. I'm gonna zoom in on this guy here. I've got a drop shadow applied to this particular image. I can see the drop shadow back here. Now that's not how it's gonna look when it prints. That's just how it's looking on screen. I can actually turn that on so that it's a higher resolution so that I can see that in a lot more softer edge and I can go ahead and do that for the entire document or for this particular image only. And in this case, I'm gonna use just this particular image and I just want to right-click or control-click on the image and go down to display performance and choose high quality display. And that way, it's going to add a little bit of softness to it. It's still not exactly as soft as it's going to actually print and that's just how it appears on screen here. But this is actually a transparent effect. I can see the drop shadow but I can also see the text and the lines that are in that table back behind. And that again is a transparent effect. So I can see that text shining through, through that transparency, but where that might cause problems is when I go to export, whether it's exporting to a PDF, what's called a flattened PDF, or if I go to print. Because at the printing, somewhere along the way, this has to be flattened. So basically I can see this nice transparency because I'm looking at it on a screen. And I can see that, because like I said, it's light interacting with light, but when I go to export it to print or a flattened PDF, it can't handle that transparency. And a flattened PDF is just that one that set for such an old standard that it didn't handle transparency back then. But as we'll see, we might need that for print. Anyway, the reason I need to flatten it is because I can't print with this much transparent ink, where I put this much here and then a little bit more transparent ink, and a little bit more transparent ink here. I obviously have to create that with solid ink and I have to be able to approximate what that would look like to give it the illusion of being transparent. I know that was a roundabout way of saying you have to flatten it and sometimes it doesn't look so good. We have to make sure that it is going to look good as well. So just keep in mind when we put these transparent items inside our documents, we may have issues with them. But what we can do is we can test it out ahead of time for wherever it's going to make sure that it's going to work and the and transparency's gonna work for us, and then we know what we can and can't put in our document. So in this case let's go back to this particular image that's here. And like I said, I know that the photo is on top because when I click here it automatically selects this item, and if the colored image was on top I would have hit that first. But I can drill down through that particular item til I select that frame by holding down the command key, or the control key on a PC. And as I do that, I can see that the background changed so now I know I have that rectangle selected. So again, I've got the image selected and then I can drill down and grab that rectangle back behind. But what I want to do is see where is the transparency happening. Do I have a transparent red frame on top of a solid image? Or vice versa? Or are they both transparent? In this case I've selected that image frame. I can tell it's an image because I have this little circle in the middle here. Also, if I go to my links panel, I can see that I have this brick JPEG selected. So what I want to do is see where that transparency is. So I'm gonna come up to this little item up here, this is the opacity. You'll hear me say opacity or transparency. They use that term interchangeably, or in different places. It might be opacity here and transparency elsewhere. It's basically, I like to say, two sides of the same coin because we go from a sliding scale. From being completely transparent to being completely opaque. So just know that the different terms are here. So anyway, it's 30%. So 30% of that image is showing. So this is just a little slider and I can change that. So I can bring that up to and now I can see that I still sort of see that mixing of the color. It's not a solid red frame on top of that. So it's sort of still mixing so I know that I have some other transparency elsewhere. I'm gonna go ahead and bring that back down. But what I'm doing is I'm mixing the colors so in this image I can see what sort of transparency I have. It's not just the fact that it's 30% transparency but it's how it's interacting with what's below it. So let's select this item. Again, I want to select the frame itself here. And go back into the effects and go under transparency. And I can look and I can see that it's set to multiply and what that blending mode does, is it takes the color and the values of each and blends them together, as opposed to something like normal, if I turn on my preview. Now it's sort of like a frosted window that's on top so that screen back image of those bricks are just sort of sitting on top of that color but the color below isn't really mixing with the color. It's just sort of showing through in the lighter pixels. But multiply actually adds those two values together. So you can play with the different blending modes that are here. Some of them have no effect at all. Some of them are not what we're looking for. And it all depends on the colors that are in the image and the color frame that's back behind. So we can play with those and it used to be, and it's getting less and less this way, but the further down you go in this list, the more trouble you may or may not have when this goes to flatten. So I'm gonna leave that at multiply actually and I'm going to now take these two images. I'm gonna grab this shape which is the orange square back here and I'm gonna copy that. Create a new document. We're gonna paste it inside that document and I'm gonna grab this one as well. Make sure I have the green one selected and jump over here. And I'm gonna go ahead and lay these on top of each other and now I can see that they each already had transparency. Because where I overlapped them, those colors molded together. So let's look at each one. If I look at the fill on this one, I can see that the transparency is 100% and this one is also 100%. Let's select the fill here and I want to look at the transparency on each individual item that's here. If I look at the fill, I notice that I have a normal fill. I'm trying to figure out where that transparency's coming in. I may have to create a whole new one because that transparency is also set at 100%. All right, well I'm trying to figure that out because we are getting some kind of interaction here between these two. So somewhere along the way, I have really tweaked the opacity on those squares. So we're gonna start from scratch with a different color. So I apologize for that. Let's come in here and, just gonna go ahead, and let's choose some new colors. Let's actually go to the color panel and we'll go back to the colors that we learned when we were kids, right? We learned yellow and green make blue. No, wait, what? Yellow and blue make green. I'm gonna come here and I'm gonna overlap those two and we're gonna make this blue and depending on the color of blue, we may not end up with the color green that we're looking for. But we'll see. And on each of these, I'm gonna make no stroke on there, I wanna make the one that's on top transparent so I can see the one below it come through. So I'm gonna go to transparency and again, you can set it for the entire object or you can do the stroke and fill separately. I'm gonna do the entire object. I don't even have a stroke on here. And so I'm gonna tell it that I want to make my opacity on this 50%. And again now I get that frosted window look to it. But I want to do multiply so it actually multiplies with that item down below. And let's make this a little bit darker. And then we'll take this item, and I wanna make it just a little bit brighter I think. Let's just move that in there and say okay and then we'll go ahead and add some transparency to that as well. And we'll make this fairly dark. And we'll multiply that as well. While that's not a green that I was looking for, it is actually a separate color based on those two colors multiplied together. So what happens when we go to export this, whether it's to print. If we took this and we printed this say to an inkjet printer in our office, it might choke and die because it's trying to figure out how to approximate this color in the middle. It knows how to make this one, it knows how to make this one. But now it needs to create a third object basically that's here and has this color applied to it so that it looks transparent. The problem is, with sending it to an inkjet printer, or something like that where it can't handle that sort of operation, is it has to mathematically figure out how to create this color to make it look like that. Because we haven't defined that color. We've defined this color and this color and now we need an engine somewhere to come up with that color here. And that's the flattening part of it. So I do need to keep an eye on that and I also am gonna put another object here and we'll just go ahead and fill it with whatever color. Let's fill it with, not black, let's choose a different color here. We'll go ahead and fill that with the orange. And I'm gonna go ahead and apply a drop shadow to that and that drop shadow is set up to multiply and that's great. We'll just go ahead and leave that as that. Oh, it's kind of dark. Let's make that a little bit lighter. I'm gonna come in here and it's 75%, we're gonna make it 60%. That's the opacity of that drop shadow. And I want to also put a little bit of text on this page. And we'll just call this colors and we'll go ahead and make that all in caps. And I want to drop this back behind this drop shadow. So I'm actually gonna bring this here and I'm going to send that to the back. So I'm gonna arrange, send that to the back. So that it's behind that drop shadow and I'm gonna make this a lighter color so we can see that. So we can kinda see where that drop shadow overlaps. Let's do that. And hopefully we can see where that drop shadow comes on top of that. There we go. So if I see that, I can see that the drop shadow is on top of those colors there. And what I wanted to do was just have plenty of transparency on this page so that we can actually check that when we go to output that. So I also want to come over to my pages panel and I'm going to turn on my panel options. I want to know when I have transparency on a page because this is a place where when we go to export, we might have problems with it. When we're exporting out to a PDF or something it might choke on that. Or if I'm printing it out, if I know which pages have transparency on them, I can keep an eye on that. So I'm gonna go ahead and it says it can't be displayed for small or extra small sizes. So let's make sure our pages are at least at medium. Great. And I get this little checker board that tells me that I have transparency on that page. So I am again just keeping an eye on that. So with transparency, one of the things that I want to do is I want to make sure that I know where I might be having issues without having to manually go and check everything. So under my output preview window, I'm sorry, that's not where it is. It's under output, under your window menu, come here to the flattener preview, this is where it's going to tell me what things might or might not be an issue when I go to flatten this. Again, if I'm just printing this to a PDF, a more modern PDF that people are going to view on a screen, then I don't really need to worry about the transparency. If it looks good here, it should look perfectly fine when I export it. It shouldn't have a problem. This is when we go to print or when we're going to export to a PDF that needs to be flattened, which is one of the older standards. But we do that when we go to printing for sure. So what I want to do is, under this flattener preview, is I just want to highlight where I might have issues. It doesn't mean that they're necessarily will be issues. It's just how I can keep an eye on that. So I come in here and look at any affected objects that I might have. So when I look at that, everything that turns red has transparency on it. So it does just kind of show me where that transparent item is. I can also just come in here and see where I might have some raster filled text. So when I zoom in here I can see that just the tops of those letters are suddenly going to be raster filled. So it rasterizes when we, if we have a Photoshop file that's rasterized. It's comprised of dots. What this says is it's going to split where that word is. At the bottom it seems to be fine and handle it but what it might do is take the tops of those letters and turn those into rasterized images. Images made of dots. Well, it's gonna look mighty funny because it's gonna rasterize the top but not the bottom. So the bottom might be crisp and clear and the top might be kind of jagged because it's made of dots. If you've ever gotten a PDF that somebody exported out of anything and said rasterize the entire thing and all your text looks dotted or jagged, because it's actually comprised of dots, it's the same sort of thing. They rasterized it. But in this case, it's only gonna rasterize part of it. So it is just telling me that might be an issue. Again, depending on where it's going, it may or not actually be an issue. So I can go ahead and just turn on different things and see where strokes might get outlined or where text might get outlined. Again, it might also get outlined. And you can outline text. If you outline all your text then it's fine but it's when part of the letter gets outlined or rasterized and not the rest of it. That's where we're gonna have problems. So again, just keep an eye on that. So I generally just turn this on if I have a lot of transparency and to just sort of see where that transparent items, where those are. If I had this drop shadow but no word underneath it, I'd probably be fine. Although depending on where you're printing to, you may end up with just a big chunky black drop shadow and no actual nice feathering applied to it. Again, this is just sort of keeping an eye on things that may or may not be causing us a problem. And the only way to really tell on a lot of them is to just do a test, give yourself plenty of time ahead of time to do a test for wherever you're printing or you're outputting and make sure that it actually works the way you intend it to. So it's just more of a cautionary tale that all these things are well and good and they look beautiful and the way they interact on screen is great. But if you're going to printing you need to make sure that it's actually going to look as you intended on the output.

Ratings and Reviews

Marianne Stewart

I've been using InDesign for a decade, and decided to take this class to see what else I could learn. Wow! Erica taught me ways to do repetitive tasks easier, faster, and cleaner. She showed me many, many ways that I wasn't using InDesign to it's fullest potential (and now I am!). Her teaching style is very thorough and in-depth, but also easy to follow and understand. I highly recommend this class!


Great class, but as a former professional typesetter (before InDesign, PageMaker and QuarkXpress), Erica uses the term "Justified Left" incorrectly! (sorry!) There is no such thing. Justified refers only to text that spans the width of it's column from edge to edge. The spacing in-between words will vary. Used primarily in newsprint where the columns widths are narrow. The other proper terms for text alignment are: Flush Left Ragged Right (or) Left-Aligned Flush Right Ragged Left (or) Right-Aligned Centered Justified The oddball is "Justified". It's the only option where word spacing is variable. This is the least desirable because it creates "Rivers and Valleys" of white space that distract the eye. Letter and word spacing can be tightened or tweaked to improve the overall look, but at cost in time.


Great class and very informative. Erica’s a good instructor. Given the volume of information presented I’d like to see class materials included. It makes the course much easier to follow.

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