Posted by Zvika Leybovich, Manager, 1:1 Media technologies, XMPie:
In part 3 of our XMPie Designer Series: VDP Best Practices and Optimization Techniques, we’re going to explore transparency methods. If you’re looking to change and improve the way you use transparency in your design files, this post is for you!
The “See Through” Effect
The “see through” effect is a common design element that many designers want to achieve in their design work. To do this there are a variety of methods, some of which can be achieved with transparency effects and some without.
When you use a file type like a PNG or PSD where the background is defined as transparent, InDesign has to flatten the transparent image with the elements behind it in order to render the resulting image and calculate the color of each pixel in the orange and the green background. All this adds time to the production process. If either the image or the background are dynamic, this also means that the both need to be rendered multiple times – increasing the output size and increasing the time it takes to RIP that file.
Without Using Transparency:
There are better ways that designers can achieve “cut-off” or “scissor” effects without using transparency. With the clipping path feature in Photoshop or ‘detect edges’ in InDesign the images are not rasterized because they do not include any transparency effect – meaning no performance hit. In fact to minimize RIP time and optimize output size, it is better to use a clipping path or detect edges to get the desired transparency look! You don’t actually need to use true transparency effects!
Using Dynamic Text Elements With Transparent Features
Below we’re going to take a look at a design file with a high resolution background image and explore the best way to include dynamic text elements when using transparent features. The end goal is to have a frame with text that is personal to each recipient without completely covering the desired background image.
What’s the best way to achieve this desired effect? Let’s examine each box within the example below.
The white box on the left has 80% opacity so that the background image is still visible but the text itself is 80% opaque, meaning the text is semi-transparent and you can see the background image through the letters. As mentioned above, the desired output has a dynamic, personal field for each recipient. Since the text is of the same opacity as the white frame it has to be rasterized with the background for every recipient – adding length to the RIP time and increasing the output size. There is no algorithm that can save the re-rendering of the text with the image behind it since every recipient requires a unique combination between the letters and the background image.
Now, take a look at the example on the right. What’s different about this one? It has two separate boxes – a white frame that is 80% opaque and a text box that is 100% opaque. You can see through the background, but you can’t see through the ink of the letters. This changes the visible effect of the design, making the text opaque. This way, rasterization between the background image and the semi-transparent frame only occurs once. The dynamic text will then be placed on top of the static rasterized white frame and image.
Overall, the second method is the best way to achieve this desired transparency effect because it maximizes the visible effect and makes your document more efficient. One of the key steps in this process is to use the flattener preview in InDesign to identify the areas that will be rendered (this also applies for the “see through” effect example). Ensure that the dynamic text elements you have in your design are not in the areas that will be rendered. In the end your file will have a smaller output, faster composition time and faster RIP time.
Do you work with transparency frequently when you’re designing? Share your favorite tips with us below!