Inset style text is a simple but effective technique for adding interest to what would otherwise be plain text and it can be applied in many different applications. It has been especially popular in web design, but the style translates very well to print, particularly with headings that are placed on a colored background.
The easiest way to produce such an effect would be to use an image editor, such as Adobe Photoshop or the free image editor Gimp.
The one downside with producing such graphics with an image editor is that the end result is a raster file and these are not suitable for resizing, particularly increasing to larger sizes. This may not be a problem in many cases, but if the style were to be applied to a logo which might be used at many different sizes and in a wide range of applications, a vector line solution would be favorable.
This article looks at replicating the effect using the free vector line drawing application Inkscape, which is a credible free and open source alternative to Adobe Illustrator. The end result isn’t exactly the same as that produced with an image editor, but it should suffice for most uses.
Set Up the Document
The first step after opening a new document in Inkscape is to draw a rectangle shape for a background and fill it with a solid color or a blended gradient. Next the Graphic Designer uses the text tool to write some text on the document and the color of the text should be set to white.
This text needs to be duplicated twice and to make managing the file easier, the two duplicates will be placed on different layers.
The layers palette is opened by clicking on the Layers menu and selecting Layers… at the bottom of the menu. In the layers palette, two new layers are added by clicking on the green cross. The layers can be given names but it isn’t essential, though can be helpful when working with a great number of layers.
The Designer now clicks on the white text and goes to Edit > Copy, before clicking on the second layer in the layers palette and going to Edit > Paste In Place. This is repeated with the third layer also so that there are now three layers with the same text in them, all in alignment.
Add Inset Shadows
The third layer can now be hidden by clicking the eye graphic in the layers palette and the white text on the second layer can now be selected by clicking on it. Now going to Object > Fill and Stroke opens a new palette and the fill of the text can be set to none by clicking the Fill tab and then the cross graphic.
The outline of the text should be set to a mid gray color in the Stroke tab and clicking on the Stroke style tab allows the width of the outline to be increased (4px was the setting used in the example) and blurred using the Blur slider at the bottom of the palette (1.5% was the setting used in the example).
The final step is to make the third layer visible by clicking on the eye graphic in the layers palette. All three text layers need to be selected and this is done by ensuring the Select tool is selected and then clicking and dragging a marquee around the text. The marquee must fully encompass the text to select it and if the background has also been selected, hold the shift key down and click on the background to deselect it.
The Graphic Designer now goes to the Object menu and selects Clip and then the Set sub option. This has the effect of ensuring that the shadow areas only overlay the white text and not any area of the background.
This is a simple, but effective, technique for replicating inset text effects more normally produced in an image editor and is ideal for situations where the end graphic may need to be used at many different sizes.