May 21, 2008

Rotating Effects (Drop Shadows, etc)

Illustrator (and just about all Adobe apps for that matter) has the ability to apply the most over-used design effect of all time -- Drop Shadows (look out Drop Shadows, reflections aren't far behind). Drop Shadows are applied as live effects, meaning that if you update your artwork or move it, the drop shadow updates and moves as well.

But have you ever applied a drop shadow to an object, and then ROTATED that object so that it's upside down? Have you then taken a closer look at the drop shadow and realized that the drop shadow DIDN'T rotate? Even worse, did you ever see that problem AFTER your job was printed? What I describe happens not only in Illustrator, but in InDesign as well.

Let's take a closer look at what is happening here. A drop shadow is an effect, and is therefore applied to the overall object. The shadow isn't "baked in" to the art, and so if the art changes, the drop shadow simply updates itself to match any edits applied to the object. If you flip your artwork upside down, Illustrator (and InDesign) rotates the art and then reapplies the drop shadow to the art. The result is a drop shadow that may be set to offset down and to the right, but when the art is flipped, the drop shadow is still applied with an offset down and to the right (as seen below).



For those people who regularly do imposition, or those in packaging, this presents a huge problem, and often, these problems aren't detected until it's too late. A workaround I've seen from folks is to use the Expand Appearance command (from the Object menu), but that means the effect is no longer "live" and hence, the art can't be easily updated.

Here's a solution -- create your artwork and add the Drop Shadow effect. Then, convert your artwork to a Symbol (if you use this artwork in multiple places, this is a good idea anyway). If you aren't familiar with how to create a Symbol in Illustrator, just select your art and press F8. When you rotate the Symbol, the drop shadow will now appear rotated correctly (in the example, I've been using, rotating the symbol will mean the drop shadow will be offset up and to the left).



If you ever need to modify the art or the shadow, simply double-click on the Symbol to edit it. Illustrator CS3 makes this almost too easy.

If you're in InDesign, you don't have symbols, so this solution won't work. However, there is a solution there as well, as long as you're using InDesign CS3. Create your artwork element in a new InDesign document, add the drop shadow, and then save your InDesign file. Then, PLACE your InDesign document INTO another InDesign file where you're doing your layout. You can now rotate the artwork at will, and if you need to edit the art, do an Edit Original on the placed ID file.

Oh, and BTW, how do you like them interlocking Olympic rings? If you think I used Pathfinder to create those, think again. It's all about Live Paint baby. Maybe in my next post, I'll talk about how I created those...

14 comments:

David Blatner said...

Great, Mordy! This also came up a few weeks ago on indesignsecrets.com. Definitely an interesting problem.

Anonymous said...

I noticed this in print samples two weeks ago.
Went right by me in the proofs.
Fortunately, went right by the client, too!

Thanks for the solution.

JG said...

This is one of those solutions that is incredibly powerful, and yet so simple you think "D'oh! Why didn't I think of this?" Thanks!

Mtwelovett said...

Another quick solution if you know to do it, is once rotated, you could go back to the effects- drop shadow box and make negative the X and y offsets..

so if it were x offset 1 and y offset 2 make your object active and go back to the effects and make the x offset -1 and the y offset -2 and that should work..we've only had to do this for simple things.. I'm not sure if it works with more complex ones..

Is there any reason this wouldn't work that anyone can think of??

Mordy Golding said...

mtwelovett, the method you describe would work perfectly. Although, it's a manual process. Also, if you rotate your object on an arbitrary angle (anything other than 90 degree increments), it would be quite hard to figure out the correct values. The method I describe also allows you to modify the drop shadow on all instances at once.

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Gary Spedding, Ph.D. said...

Mordy, Good to see you back at last. Been far too long.

Neat discussion going on over at Illustrator World on the use of the Pen and Ink Hatch Filter (abandoned after Illu 10) but still functioning if placed into Windows CS3 (but not in MAC for some reason). I know you posted on this topic long time back.

As for now - yes please those Olympic rings - as soon as you can please.

Michelle Montianto said...

nice one

Beverley said...

Thank you for this wonderful technique! My packaging proof has been through 2 rounds of revisions with an "upside down" drop shadow effect on the 2 logos that were rotated and no one has noticed! Now, thanks to you, I'll be able to fix it before final printing. What a great technique!

By the way, when I first noticed this problem in my file, I tried changing the offsets in the drop shadow dialogue box, and it wouldn't let me put in a negative value - not sure why.

Termal Otel said...

Thanks for this greaaat quick solutionnn!..

Anonymous said...

wow,such a great tip! thanks so much for making my life easier :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks a million

sunshinebus said...

You've just saved me HOURS of puzzling through the AI manual! Many thanks.

sunshinebus said...

many thanks - your tip is still out there being useful!