InDesign FX: Creating spotlight effects

Published by | Thursday, May 31st, 2012

In this week’s InDesign FX video, I demonstrate how to create an effect that looks like a spotlight (or a flashlight) shining on the page.

Spotlight effect created with InDesign.

Example of a green spotlight (or a flashlight) effect.

You can use this effect to establish a dramatic mood, to draw attention to a particular element of your design, or to make something look sneaky and suspicious, like it’s lurking in the shadows.

For example, take our currently not-so-sneaky-looking cat burglar here.

Catburglar against brick wall.

He can’t really burgle properly out in the open. He needs to do his work in the shadows.

To accomplish this effect, start by creating a radial gradient that goes from white to black.

Creating a radial gradient that goes from white to black in InDesign.

Then apply that gradient to fill a rectangle covering the burglar photo.

Gradient applied to fill a rectangle in InDesign.

Next, change the blending mode from Normal to Multiply, and you instantly get a spotlight effect.

Spotlight effect created in InDesign.

For variations on the effect, you can adjust the colors and locations in the gradient stops, or try experimenting with different blending modes. Applying Hard Light from the Effects panel will lighten the background image where the gradient is lighter than 50% black.

Color Burn can also create interesting effects by saturating and darkening colors.

Adding Color Burn in InDesign to create spot light effects.

For members, I also have another new member-exclusive video this week in the library called Backlighting an Object. In that video, I show you how to make text and objects look like they’re completely lit from behind. It’s basically the opposite of the spotlight effect, but no less dramatic.

Backlight effect created in InDesign.

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 Secrets
• InDesign CS6 Essential Training
• InDesign CS6 New Features
 Deke’s Techniques


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