Friday, March 30, 2012

Using Document Grid and Visible Guides to Create Imposition Templates

At our recent Raleigh IDUG meeting, we went through the process of making printed business cards. As I was creating the 8-up template, dragging out guide after guide, one of our members asked why I didn't use the document grid feature for that purpose. To be honest, I've never used document grid for anything. So I really had no educated opinion on the matter.

Here is the document that prompted her question.

When I got home, I wondered how I could have bypassed such a simple feature as the Document Grid. For some reason, I has always ignored the Document Grid, probably because I don't generally do grid-based layouts; at least, that's what I thought...

After a little experimenting, I learned that the document grid can actually handle many of my guide-dragging tasks. For example, if I need to create an 8.5 x 11 template with four frames on it (2 wide by 2 high), I can use the document grid for this purpose. (Be sure to: View > Grids and Guides > Show Document Grid.)

Something to keep in mind about the document grid is that the grids starts at the zero point of the document. So let's see what happens if we use document grid for business cards (12 up on 8.5 x 11).

 If we make a letter size page and set up the document grid for 3.5" x 2", it will start off looking wrong. Though technically, there are 12-up on a page, they go right to the edge, and there is no room for crop marks. See how the grid is not centered on the page?

Document Grid as it looks before adjusting the zero point

But once we adjust the zero point of the document to .25 inches on both the horizontal and vertical rulers, it will place the grid in the correct spot.

But, as great as this works for creating n-up templates without bleed, how does it work for documents with bleed? The short answer is that it doesn't. For my n-up templates that require bleed, I like to create placeholder frames and manually drag out ruler guides. Why all the guides, you ask? Well, years ago when I worked in print shops, we would have to "rule up" each of our designs after we printed a proof. Bascially, we would draw in these guides by hand (with a ruler and pencil, not a computer) for every single proof.  I found it to be a waste of time (though not unimportant), and rather inaccurate. For this reason, I like to add guides to all the crop marks. Then, by exporting a PDF with layers and visible guides and grids, we no longer have to rule up the proof by hand.

Because we used included Acrobat Layers (only available in with Acrobat 6 compatibility or higher) and we included Visible Guides and Grids, you'll see the PDF now has layers, once of which is called "Guides and Grids." We didn't have to make a separate layer in our InDesign document just for the guides. By checking the "Visible Guides and Grids" checkbox in the PDF export dialog box, when InDesign created the PDF, it automatically placed all those visible guides and grids on their own PDF layer.

This is how I would print the document as my proof. See how nice it is not to have to rule up the document by hand? And if by chance one of the business cards has gotten shifted inside the frame, you'll be able to easily see it if the visible guides are included in the printed proof.

8up PDF with Guides layers visible
And when I am ready to run the job (for real, not for proofing purposes), I then turn off the Guides and Grids layer.

8up PDF with Guides layers hidden

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Review: InDesign Production Cookbook

Authors: Alistair Dabbs, Anne-Marie Concepcion, Ken McMahon, Keith Martin
Published by: O'Reilly
Published: 2005
Print ISBN: 978-0-596-10048-3
ISBN-10: 0-596-10048-5
# of Pages: 224
Reviewed by: Kelly Vaughn / Document Geek
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I love this book because it is task-based, rather than project based. This is important because oftentimes, InDesign users will know the type of task they want to accomplish, but not necessarily know the correct terminology used by the program. So with this book, readers can simply go to the correct chapter, and quickly find the pictures that correspond to the task they want to accomplish. This type of organization makes it an excellent reference book.

The different types of InDesign tasks are categorized according to the following chapters:

  • Text
  • Pictures
  • Drawing
  • Color
  • Transparency
  • Pages and documents
  • Interactivity
  • Output
  • InDesign for QuarkXPress users
The book is full color, and the many hundreds of screenshots are clearly labeled and explained. The book has a detailed index.

Though this book was published in 2005 (for InDesign CS2), it is still completely valid information. With each new version of InDesign, features are added and improved upon, but never removed. The production techniques discussed in this book are still excellent practices that every good designer should follow. The page design is a little dated, but that's understandable, considering this book was published in 2005. This is a technical book, rather than a coffee table book.

I would highly recommend this book to any InDesign user who wants to have a better understanding of InDesign production. This would also be a great addition to the reference library of any print shop. Much of the book is available for previewing on the O'Reilly site, via Google Preview.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How to Make an InDesign Text Frame with a Background Image

This has been on my InDesign wish-list for quite a while. And at first glance, you might assume that it is possible to make a text frame with a patterned background or background image. Because:
  • You can make patterns in InDesign.
  • You can make text frames with a colored background.
  • You can make a text frame with a gradient background.
But as much as I try, there is no way to apply a background image to an InDesign text frame. I got to thinking about the components that make up this idea:
  1. The background image
  2. The text frame
So how could I construct an object where these two items stick together and act as one unit? I want them to not only move together, but be easy to edit and resize dynamically. For example, if the text frame resizes, the background graphic frame will resize accordingly. To accomplish this, I tried a few different options.

The first attempt consisted of a background image anchored in a text frame.
Pros: In the anchored object settings for the background pattern, if you check "Prevent Manual Positioning" you can easily move the text and the background together you would expect to be able to.

Cons: Anchored objects always appear in front of the text frame in which they are anchored. This means that the background image sits on top of the text, obscuring it. Plus, once "Prevent Manual Positioning" is set, the background pattern frame (which is an anchored object) is next to impossible to select and edit.

My second attempt consisted of a text frame anchored into the path text of the background image.

Pros: This achieves the visual effect that I want.
Cons: The two objects don't really move together well as a single unit. The only way to get the two objects to "stick together" is by setting the anchored objects settings of the text frame to Above Line. Plus, since the text frame is anchored inside the path text of the graphic frame, InDesign makes it really difficult for you to move the text frame and patterned background by dragging. You can try all day long to move the two objects by clicking and dragging on the text frame, but all you can do is move the text frame up. Even though the text frame and the patterned background are stuck together, in order to move them, you must click and drag on the background graphic frame, not on the text frame.

My Solution:
After a couple of years of thinking, I finally figured out a workable solution: MagnetoGuides by Rorohiko. According to the Rorohiko website, "MagnetoGuides allows you to ‘magnetize’ one or more guides. Magnetized guides are special: they push or pull any ‘snapped’ items along when they are moved. If a page item is ‘snapped to’ a magnetic guide at only one side, then the page item simply moves along when the guide is moved.  If a page item is ‘snapped to’ more than one magnetic guide, then the page item will stretch or shrink as needed so it can stay ‘snapped’ to all magnetic guides.  This allows you to reposition and resize multiple page items concurrently without having to group them."

So here's how we can use this to create a background image for a text frame:

1. Create a background image.
2. Create a text frame.
3. Align both objects horizontally and vertically.
4. API > MagnetoGuides > Add Guides to Object (this adds eight guides: 4 horizontal and 4 vertical)

5. Now select the top two horizontal guides.
6. API > MagnetoGuides > Link Guides
7. Next, select the bottom two horizontal guides and link them.
8. Repeat the guide-linking process for the both vertical sets of guides.
9. Now, move any one of those guides and see what happens.

Pros: Because the text frame and the background image are each touching the special Magento Guides, both frames resize dynamically when the guides are moved. And because this solution does not involve anchored objects, You can have either object on top, however you want stack them. Another great thing about not using anchored objects is that you can easily select and move the frames.
Cons: None.

Now, the background pattern that I used for this example was created using TeaCup PatternMaker. Once I moved one of the MagnetoGuides, the background frame resized dynamically and squished the pattern.

Before Pattern Reset (See how the pattern is squished?)

But fortunately, PatternMaker has a nifty little button called "Reset Pattern." Basically, it puts the pattern back to the way it was before you changed the frame size.

After Pattern Reset

This article demonstrates just a tiny bit of the capability of the Magento Guides plugin. For more ideas on how to use this plugin, visit the MagnetoGuides page, scroll all the way to the bottom and watch the demo video. There's also a 27 page user guide that comes with the plugin.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is Your 10-Key Numeric Keyboard Not Working in InDesign? Here's Why.

Yesterday, my 10-key stopped working in InDesign. After a day of thinking about it, I figured out how to fix the problem. Now, keep in mind that I'm on a mac. It's been several years since I even touched a PC. But I remember something on PCs called "NumLock." It's a key you press to disable the 10-key on the side of your keyboard.

Now, I can't for the life of me figure out why anyone would want to disable 10-key. But apparently, the same type of function exists on a mac. It's the "clear" key. It's at the top left hand corner of the numeric keypad. Somehow, while working in InDesign, this key got pressed.

If you're in InDesign and you press "clear," your 10-key numeric keypad will be disabled and act instead as cursor keys. So you will think that you're typing in data, but in reality, you'll just be cursoring through your text. Interestingly, the other applications aren't affected like this by pressing the "clear" key.

Here's what you should keep in mind about pressing the "clear" key:
  1. In order for your 10-key to stop working, you must press it while working in InDesign.
  2. And in order to get your 10-key to start working again, you must press "clear" again while in InDesign.
After a bit of thought, I finally figured out how the "clear" key got pressed. I didn't press it. One of my dogs did. You see, my dogs have their own dedicated sunning spot on my desk. Yesterday, I went downstairs to answer the doorbell, and he got agitated and walked across my keyboard, trying to find a way to get off the desk. In the process, he stepped on the "clear" key. Thanks a lot, buddy!

Clarence the wiener dog, Keyboard Walker Extraordinaire

Monday, March 12, 2012

How to Make Pattern-Filled Text in InDesign

While at church recently, I received an invitation to an Easter celebration. I was inspired to see if I could replicate the text effect they used for the Easter  celebration. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of combining busy-ness and typography, but that gets thrown out the window when designing for children's events.

Here was my inspiration:

I wanted to combine patterns, gradients, and text. I created these patterns using TeaCup PatternMaker.

1. Create some type. I chose Impact because it's heavy enough that there will be plenty of room for the patterns to show through.

2. Change the color of the type to something other than black. (This is because the default color for Patterns is black, and if your text also has a black fill, you won't be able to see your patterns.)

3. Outline the type (Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + O)

4. Ungroup the type (Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + O). This breaks the type block into separate lines of type.

5. In order to access the individual letters, you'll need to release the compound path holding each line of letters together. (Object > Path > Release Compound Path)

6. If you have letters with open spaces such as A, P, R, etc), you'll need to go back and fix those individually. Select the main portion of the letter body, and then the hole that should be knocked out. Then, using the pathfinder panel, put the hole back in. (Object > Pathfinder > Exclude Overlap). Be sure to just do this one letter at a time. Otherwise, your letters that you think are separate (and visually look separate) will begin to act as a single unit.

7. Now you're ready to add patterns. Select a letter, and then give it a pattern using the PatternMaker Panel.

8. Continue filling each of your letters with patterns. For the top line, I gave each letter a separate pattern. For the bottom line, I selected EASTER and made it into a compound path. Then I gave filled it with a pattern. By converting EASTER into a compound path first, the pattern will fill the entire word. 

8. Then I changed the angle of the gradient and added a black stroke on the type to make it pop off the background a little more. And maybe add a drop shadow if you're so inclined.

9. Once you've got all your type patterned, add some Effects to the graphic (not the frame). Open the Effects panel. I used Bevel and Emboss for my effects.

    10. Something interesting to note is that you can modify the pattern at will, and if you keep the same pattern type (in this case, "Dots"), the graphic effects stay intact. I changed the color of the dots to Blue, added a white stroke, and adjusted the dots size. And yet, the dots are still beveled. Cool!

    11. But if you change the pattern type, the pattern loses it's effects and you'll need to put them back on again. See how I changed the pattern to "Lines" and now it is no longer beveled?

    12. If you prefer a more refined look, you can also create interesting patterned text using a monochromatic approach.

    Now, add some starbursts and go egg hunting. Happy Easter!

    If you enjoyed this article on patterns, be sure to check out some of my other articles using PatternMaker.

    I also have a related YouTube video: Making Patterns in InDesign.