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Speed Freak: troubleshooting tips > PRINTING SHADOWS OVER SOLID COLORS IN PAGE ...


This is such a cool tip (I'm not sure it's a troubleshooting tip, but the concept causes so many problems that we thought we'd stick it here). The problem is this: How do you put an object (such as a chair, a clock, or some sort of silhouetted image) with a soft drop shadow over a colored background in your page layout application (such as QuarkXPress, InDesign, or PageMaker)? Think about it. It's harder than it sounds. You can't use a clipping path, or it will clip off the soft edges, leaving an unsightly white edge. The ideal solution is to create the entire background in Photoshop and put your object and shadow over that background, and then export the whole shebang as one giant file into your page layout program. Unfortunately, oftentimes, because of the particular project you're working on, you simply can't do that. So how do you pull off this mini miracle? Create what's called a dithered shadow. It's not hard, but it's kind of scary for most people. Here's how:

First, go under the Image menu and make a duplicate of your object image by choosing Duplicate.

Change your Foreground color to 40% gray, and then go to your object layer and press Shift-Option-Delete (PC: Shift-Alt-Backspace) to fill your object with gray. Apply a Gaussian Blur to make your 40% gray layer have soft edges (this will become your shadow).

Convert your RGB image into Grayscale mode by going under the Image menu, under Mode, and choosing Grayscale. When the dialog appears asking if you want to discard the color, click OK.

Now convert your Grayscale image to Bitmapped mode. When the Bitmap dialog appears, under Output enter 600 using pixels/inch and set the method to Diffusion Dither. Rename the file and save it in TIFF format.

Import your shadow into your page layout application, and then import your original Photoshop object (with a clipping path applied so you get just the object, not the white background surrounding it) and position it over your shadow where you'd like it (of course, be sure to position the shadow so that it extends outside your object and is clearly visible).

This is the critical (read scary) part of this process. In your page layout application, you must set this TIFF shadow to overprint the background (rather than knock out, like it normally would). This way, when you image the film at high resolution, the shadow will appear smooth and will overprint the background, looking like a soft shadow without the white halo. One reason this technique freaks people out is that onscreen, you still see the white pixels over your background in your page layout application, so it takes a leap of faith to print something that onscreen looks wrong. It's a gutsy technique, but people pull it off everyday. Tough people. Gutsy people. Mostly Marines.



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