InDesign FX: Creating a Theater Marquee

Published by | Thursday, March 28th, 2013

In this week’s InDesign FX video, we’re headed to the movies as I show how to create lettering that resembles a theater marquee.


This effect highlights one of the ideas I keep coming back to in the InDesign FX series: in order to make a realistic-looking effect, you have to start with a real-life reference. So before I did anything in Adobe InDesign, I searched the web for photos of theater signs. I found many examples with thick translucent red plastic letters, hung from two rails stretching across the signs horizontally.


So this effect begins in InDesign with the sign background and the two rails. A small drop shadow is all that’s needed to give the rails some depth.



Next, I add the lettering in a sans serif font and appropriate red color.



To make the letters translucent, I just reduce the transparency until the rails show through.



Adding Bevel and Emboss gives the letters a 3D look.



An Inner Shadow darkens all the edges of the bevel and further contributes to the feeling of depth.



The Satin effect adds variation to the red tones for a little bit more realism.



And finally, a red drop shadow completes the picture of the light shining through translucent red plastic.


One of the best aspects of this effect is that you still have live text at this point. So you can easily edit the text in your sign or tweak the spacing between letters to make it a little less perfect (and a little more like a real sign) with kerning and baseline shift.

I also have a member-exclusive video in the library this week called Putting curved shadows on paper, which shows you how to create curved shadows that can instantly transform a plain old flat square into an attention-grabbing sticky note that appears to be curling up at the edges.


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

Interested in more?
• The entire InDesign FX biweekly series
• Courses by Mike Rankin on
• All InDesign courses on
• Start a free trial membership at

Suggested courses to watch next:
• InDesign Secrets
• InDesign CS6 Essential Training
• InDesign CS6 New Features

Share this:Share on Facebook5Tweet about this on Twitter2Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest2Share on LinkedIn2 - start learning today

Tags: , ,

2 Responses to “InDesign FX: Creating a Theater Marquee”

  1. Jeremy says:

    That’s lovely! — And it makes me feel nostalgic for US movie theaters. But above all, it’s a great way of seeing what each of those effects add to the mix, especially when it’s subtle (like “Satin”). Thanks!

  2. Mike Rankin says:

    Thanks Jeremy! You’re right; a little Satin goes a long way, and helps you create looks you can’t get any other way using InDesign alone.

Leave a Reply