InDesign FX: Shearing to create 3D effects, part one

Published by | Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Of all the transformations you can apply to objects in InDesign, shearing is probably the most difficult to understand and use. Trying to use the Shearing tool without a little training beforehand can be an exercise in confusion and frustration. But don’t despair—you can use shearing effectively in InDesign. In this week’s free video, I will show you how.

You may be wondering, if shearing is so fiddly and so fickle, why one would even want to bother with it. One great reason is the Shearing tool’s ability to take a simple photo and make it into a 3D book.

Basic book cover. Example of shearing tool before.

Book cover created using InDesign shearing.

While, Inner shadow and beveling both contribute to the overall effect in the example above, shearing is the key ingredient, and if you can master it, you can do all kinds of interesting things that you can’t do with any other tool in InDesign.

The book cover in this week’s free InDesign FX video is made up of two main elements, both sheared around the vertical axis. The front cover is sheared 10° and the spine is sheared –60°.

InDesign Shear tool window example.

The back cover and the pages are made from copies of the front cover.

Creating a book cover out of a basic image using InDesign shearing.

In the video, I show how to apply shearing by selecting an item and then double clicking on the Shear tool. That is the only way to have precise, numerical control over both the angle and the axis around which you’re shearing, and the best way to add shearing to an item, in my opinion.

Example of book cover with InDesign shearing applied.

Once you try shearing this way, you may never go back to dragging with the Shear tool or using the Control panel. For members, I also have another new video this week in the online training library devoted to shearing effects. Not surprisingly, it’s called Shearing to Create 3D Effects, Part 2. If your particularly partial to dragging with the Shear tool, or looking for a reason why you may choose one shearing technique over another, in the video, I show how you it is indeed possible to successfully drag with the Shear tool to make different variations on a magazine effect.

Magazine effect created with InDesign shearing.

Open magazine effect created with InDesign shearing.

See you here again in two weeks with another InDesign effect!

Interested in more?
• The complete InDesign FX course
• All InDesign courses on
• All courses by Mike Rankin on

 Suggested courses to watch next:
• InDesign CS5 Essential Training
• Creating Long Documents with InDesign
InDesign Secrets

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2 Responses to “InDesign FX: Shearing to create 3D effects, part one”

  1. Gina says:

    This was amazing. I’m a true inDesign newbie and I created a pretty decent 3D book cover in 30 minutes. However, now I’ve spent about 4 hours trying to figure out how to save the graphic without a white background.

    From forums I’ve read, not sure it’s even possible with Photoshop, which I don’t have.


    • Tony Danza says:

      Export it as a PNG? or an EPS? seems like too simple a solution to your problem. so maybe i’m not understanding it fully.

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