InDesign FX: Simulating stickers and tape

Published by | Thursday, June 14th, 2012

In this week’s InDesign FX tutorial, stickers and tape both rely on one key ingredient: a teeny tiny drop shadow.

Clear tape effect created in InDesign.

Why is that the key ingredient? Let’s think it through.

For both stickers and tape, we’re simulating a very thin sheet of material stuck directly on a surface. Since stickers and tape have almost no thickness, the shadow has to be very small, dark, and cast evenly in all directions. In the Effects dialog box, this means you should apply a high opacity value, an offset of zero, and in some cases, a size of one pixel. Yup, one lousy pixel. That can be the difference between “yeah!” and “meh.” In the video, I use a slightly larger value (5 pixels), but I doubt you’d want to go higher than that for any sticker or tape effect.

You can make a sticker out of almost anything including a photo or illustration, a piece of text, or even a single glyph. Take for example this little silly superhero.

Tiny orange superhero from dingbat font DF Keebats.

He’s just a glyph from the dingbat font DF Keebats, but he seems rather confident that he’d make a fun sticker.

The first step in the process is to place him on top of a background image and apply a thick stroke in a very light tint of black. So light, in fact, that it’s nearly white. Why not just use white? Because we’re trying to simulate paper with some degree of realism, and even the whitest paper isn’t pure white. So avoid using InDesign’s Paper color swatch if you want to simulate real paper. Shocking, I know. Just remember, you heard it here first.

Orange superhero sticker created in InDesign.

This example also illustrates your options for dealing with stroke joins (the points where two segments of a stroke meet). Being a naturally pointy character, our hero has some extreme spikes jutting out from his ears, elbow, cape, and feet. To chop off those sharp points, you can decrease the miter limit in the Stroke panel, or, even better, simply use a bevel join or a rounded join as shown here.

using a rounded join in the InDesign Strokes panel.

And finally, add the teeny tiny drop shadow.

Sticker effect with drop shadow applied in InDesign.

See what a difference a pixel can make?

In this week’s free InDesign FX video (seen above and for free on I also show a variation on this technique where I use a plain rectangle with a teeny tiny drop shadow and reduced opacity so you can see through it. Volia, instant clear tape!

Clear tape effect created in InDesign.

For members, I also have another new member-exclusive video this week in the library called Creating Burnt Edges. In that video, I show you how to make objects that look like they’ve been singed by flames. It’s hot stuff. (Yes, I went there.)

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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