When Quark acquired ALAP at the end of 2005, many happy users of their ShadowCaster XTension wondered about its future. Quark has now answered that question with the free release of ShadowCaster 3.3 for QuarkXPress 7 for Mac.
ShadowCaster lets you add bevels, embosses, glows and inner shadows to page items, including placed graphics. It even works on groups of items.
The result is a graphic file that you can save in several different formats (TIFF, Scitex, JPEG), or even as a Layered TIFF, which you can then open in Photoshop.
Amazingly, in Photoshop, ShadowCaster’s effects show up as standard editable effects. (!)
Once you find a combination of effects you like, you can save them as a preset for use on future items, or share them with other users. I could see this being particularly handy on, say, a catalog where an effect is used over and over. And I’ve seen some impressive examples from users who have mastered this tool
I find using ShadowCaster to be a little bit clunky, because although it imports the new graphic into a picture box in the same location as the original item(s), it places it behind the original. You then must manually either delete the original or move it to a new layer for future use. Also, on my Mac, the preview built into the ShadowCaster palette insisted on making the rightmost 40% of the preview a strange color — clearly a bug.
Downloading ShadowCaster requires free registration with Quark’s new Quark Labs website. It’s available only for Mac OS X, and oddly, the documentation is for version 3.2, the last commercial version.
Jay Nelson is the editorial director of PlanetQuark.com, and the editor and publisher of Design Tools Monthly. He’s also the author of the QuarkXPress 8 and QuarkXPress 7 training titles at Lynda.com, as well as the training videos Quark includes in the box with QuarkXPress 7 . In addition, Jay writes regularly for Macworld and Photoshop User magazines and speaks at industry events.