InDesign FX: Making Translucent Objects

Published by | Thursday, November 29th, 2012

In this week’s InDesign FX video, I show how to use the Bevel and Emboss feature in combination with the Hard Light blending mode to simulate translucent objects like soap bubbles.

Creating translucent objects in InDesign

As its name suggests, the Hard Light blending mode is meant to create an effect of a strong light being shined on an object. When Hard Light is applied to colors lighter than 50% gray, the effect will lighten an underlying object. When Hard Light is applied to colors darker than 50% gray, the effect will darken an underlying object. And when Hard Light is applied to exactly 50% gray, it becomes transparent. You can observe this by filling an object with a white to black gradient, then applying Hard Light, and placing the object over something else in your document.

Filling an object with a white to black gradient

Placing an object over your gradient.

So, if we want to create something like a translucent bubble, we can start with a circle filled with 50% gray and use the Bevel and Emboss effect to create a highlight and shadow.

Use the Bevel and Emboss effect to create a highlight and shadow

Then apply Hard Light to make the 50% gray fill disappear, while retaining the shadow and highlight created by Bevel and Emboss.

Apply Hard Light to the object.

It’s also worth noting that this use of Hard Light works best with documents that use RGB Transparency Blend Space. This does not mean that you can’t create translucent objects in documents destined for print output. But in order to retain the look of those translucent objects, you must not flatten transparency or convert to CMYK when you export a PDF from InDesign. You can perform flattening and color conversion tasks in the PDF in Acrobat, or you can rely on your print service provider to do these jobs. For more information on how to get InDesign FX to print correctly, read my blog post Getting Effects into Print.

I also have a member-exclusive movie in the library this week called Mocking Up a Film Strip. In it, I show how to add details around a series of photos to make them look like a strip of film.

Mocking up a film strip.

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

Interested in more?
• The complete InDesign FX bi-weekly series
• All InDesign courses on
• All courses by Mike Rankin on

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