InDesign 2.0: Painting Pictures with Picket Fences


18th September 2008: Gary Spedding has an update for later versions of InDesign:

I arrived home today and my cable modem connection to the internet was down. Thanks Bigpond! Bummer. Hmm, may this is a good time to noodle around with compound paths in Illustrator 10 and InDesign 2.

Making/releasing compound paths is a feature that has been in InDesign since the first version, but its something that I use and see rarely used. Its under Objects>Compound Path>Make or Release.

In my noodling, I found an interesting trait of InDesign 2.0 that might make for a cool design effect. I call it “painting picket fence pictures”

Step 1: Create the Picket fence Illustrator. This is a simple rectangle in the background, and 5 equal-sized rectangles placed over the top. The underlying rectangle has been coloured Cyan for easier viewing.

[1274] pf_1.jpg

Step 2: Group top 5 rectangles. By grouping the top objects, this ensures that the top object is treated as one shape, and when we use the Pathfinder palette, they will “cookie cutter” through the rectangle underneath.

[1275] pf_2.jpg

Step 3: Pathfinder, Exclude Overlapping. Using the Window>Pathfinder palette, create a compound path with see through panels. The grouped object above cuts through the rectangle shape underneath.

[1276] pf_3.jpg

Step 4: Object>Expand Appearance. To enable a successful copy and paste from Illustrator to InDesign, we need to expand the appearance into a complex vector shape.

[1277] pf_4.jpg

Step 5: Ensure AICB Clipboard format. The most appropriate format to copy this element from Illustrator to InDesign is Adobe Illustrator Clipboard. Also ensure the paths are preserved. Select the element (best place is the Windows>Layers palette using the meatball on the right) and Edit>Copy

[1278] pf_5.gif

Step 6: Paste into InDesign. Here we see the result of the paste into InDesign. Now for some fun!

[1279] pf_6.jpg

Step 7: Place image Into. File>Place, select your image (or PDF, EPS) and ensure it goes into the new shape. The “loaded cursor” will change have brackets around the place gun, indicating it is placing into the frame. Below you see the result of “patient user mode” – this occurs when moving the image inside the picket-fence shape. The second image below illustrates how the image is “cut out” by the compound shape.

[1280] pf_7.jpg

[1281] pf_7a.jpg

Step 8: Object>Compound Path>Release. This is where the fun starts. When you release a compound path in InDesign where there is an image place, it creates multiple shapes with the same image placed into each shape, each with its own relative positioning. It still looks like one compound image, but appearances can be deceiving!

[1282] pf_8.jpg

Step 9: Move top objects for a surprise! In the example below, the rectangle at the bottom I have applied 50% Normal blend mode. The position of the top frames have been adjusted, and a drop shadow applied to lift them from the background. Obviously, you would adjust this to taste and stricter design constraints – but I think the process is illustrated here. Good luck and happy painting!

[1283] pf_9.jpg

Thanks to: Cari Jansen for the inspiration to revisit compound paths, and Bigpond for 6+ hours of productivity sans-Internet. Not.

5 thoughts on “InDesign 2.0: Painting Pictures with Picket Fences”

  1. Since vinyl fencing is U.V. protected it never needs to be painted. The color goes all the way through the material so scratches or gouges are almost invisible. The posts are made of 100% virgin vinyl and will never rot, shrink, decompose or rust like a wood or iron fence post. Although wood fence or iron fencing may initially cost less than vinyl fence, that advantage is soon lost because of painting, repair, maintenance and replacement.
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  2. But none of us here in the US could ever get this to work. Maybe it relied on the earlier versions of the Apps. As we have seen sometimes a way to do something is lost in a newer version.

    Though we have solved doing this effect directly in InDesign alone and have presented it here in the US.


  3. Nick, I got an E-mail on your no longer being with Adobe but I only just noticed your update oin this post. Thanks for that and I wish you well in your new endeavors.

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