I've previously posted this as a screencast or provided the pre-built VSD file, but thought it would be worth documenting on the blog, because it's useful to know and also because I wanted to try out my new shapesheet template.
Prefer to watch? A screencast is available: http://vimeo.com/23272788
First picture our desired outcome… a shape with a thin soft shadow. Notice that the shadow has a gradient transparency and that the shadow corners are round.
First draw a series of 9 shapes as shown below.
The blue shapes will become the soft shadow. The size of the corner squares will clearly dictate the radius used in the soft shadow. I've made them much larger here than I would normally use so that it would be easier to see.
Then we add gradient fills to one of the border shapes. To do this in the shapesheet, set the FillForegnd, FillBkgnd, FillBkgndTrans, and FillPattern as highlighted below. A FillPattern of 40 will make it a radial fill with the center of the fill in the center of the shape. A FillBkgndTrans of 100% will add the initial transparency we need for the shadow.
The drawing will look like this:
You could use the shapesheet to set the remaining border shapes, or use the Format Painter feature. I used format paint because it required less work for me.
We are halfway to our destination. The task now is to set the fill patterns correctly for each shape. Obviously 40 is the wrong one; now we have the exact number that makes the edges start looking like a shadow. Below are the exact values to use for each border shape.
Simply enter the number shown above into the FillPattern cell for each shape
NOTE: It's very tedious to do this in the ShapeSheet so try right-clicking on each shape and clicking Format > Fill and then setting the pattern.
And you'll end up with this
I'll remove the text to make it clearer…
Now we are very close…let's join the border shapes together …
And then set the LinePattern and LineWeight to zero to remove the lines …
You can use the normal visio Fill UI to set the colors of the borders as you need…
And, of course, you can resize the border shapes to produce a smaller shadow.
If the shadow is too dark, remember you can control the transparency of the FillForegnd color via FillForegndTrans. Let's set it to 50%.
The result will then be a less intense shadow.
And now we have our perfectly nice soft shadow. All that's left is for you to group the border shapes so that it will be more convenient to move around.