Visual Effects — Soft Fade

If you’re willing to put a little more time into it, you can play around with transparencies and fills to create fades or bevels or soft shadows. Visio rendering is based on GDI+, which provides a rich foundation for visual effects. The easiest “advanced” effect is a soft fade, which adds a gradual transparency to a color shape. The nice thing about a soft fade is that you can create the effect by creating a Visio “soft fade” shape. That means the effect is transportable – by copy and pasting the soft fade shape, you can apply it to any Visio shape of any color. (Obviously, a soft fade has no impact on a white fill shape.)


To build yourself a soft fade shape, drag-and-drop a rectangle shape or draw a rectangle shape using the drawing tool. Change the fill color to white (assuming your document background is white). Change the fill pattern to 30. Change the background color to black. OK – this is the important part: go into the ShapeSheet for your soft fade shape (check the Help file if you don’t know how to get to the ShapeSheet), find the Fill Format section, and change the FillForegroundTrans cell value to 100. Do NOT use the Format | Fill dialog to change the transparency because that sets the transparency on the whole shape rather than on the black. You want the transparency to be on the black color to provide the fade effect. 


You might have to rotate the shape to change the direction of the fade. Or if you have anything other than a white background, you need to change color through the Format | Fill dialog to match your background. You will also need to turn off the line for the shape as the last step since as a transparent shape, it can be hard to find and move without a boundary. To turn off the lines for the soft fade shape, right-click the shape, go to the Format option, select Line and set the Line Pattern to “00:None.”


Copy or drag that shape on top of the shape or shapes that you want to fade. You can resize your soft fade shape to fit the shape(s) that you’re fading. The fade works beautifully on a wide variety of shapes, even ones that might surprise you. It adds a very cool, professional touch to conceptual diagrams, timelines, and lots of other individual and grouped shapes with color.


In my next blog, I’ll talk about how to apply a bevel to add a depth dimension to the shape, a “glossy” effect, and a soft shadow to a colored circle shape. The result is a truly beautiful shape. These advanced techniques are not as transferable as the soft fade shape. For example, the circle bevel only applies to the circle. But the end result is such a cool looking shape that you might find that you re-use it in any diagram where visual impact makes a difference. Stay tuned for more on visual effects…


-- Mai-lan


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