Saturday, July 10, 2010

Scrap Saturday - Realistic Drop Shadows

The fact that Photoshop automatically does drop shadowing is great, but their basic drop shadow can look pretty fake. This week I'll show you the things to tweak to make your shadow look more realistic.

Since papers usually have a small dense shadow because they sit really close to the paper, but strings, ribbons or tags sit off the paper and have a light and wide shadow. Here, I'm adding a drop shadow to a string in my layout:
(First, if you're not even sure how to add a drop shadow, click the FX at the bottom of the layer's palette and choose drop shadow.)

Basically, there are four different things to tweak:
1. Color. Black is the default in Photoshop, which is fine for small, dense shadows but a brownish color is more realistic. It's better to choose a brown hue for drop shadows that are larger like we are doing here.

2. Opacity. Like I said, the closer your element is to the paper, the more dense it will be (higher numbers). If it is an element that pops off the page, you will want to move the slider to a lower number.

3. Angle. Wherever the line points - that is where the light is coming from. I usually try to keep this uniform throughout my page, because it seems logical that the light is all coming from the same place. But sometimes there is an element that doesn't look like it's popping up because the shadow is hidden under another element, so I'll change the angle for that one element.

4. Distance. The higher the number, the farther away the shadow will reach. If you have a taller element, or it's "popped up" you'll want to increase the number a little. Make sure you keep this number and the opacity in check: usually, the higher the distance, the lower the opacity.

5. Size. This makes the lines of the shadow softer or harder. It all depends on your taste, but typically a realistic shadow will be harder for items closer to the page, and softer for items further away.

For my string, I used these numbers:
Or if you can't read the image...
Opacity: 67
Angle: 131
Distance: 26
Size: 35

Once you find settings you love - create a style so you can use them over and over with just a click of a button!

Here's my finished layout:


  1. I always love your posts and layouts!!!

  2. Thanks for the tutorial girl! It helped make my string look much better on my Father's Day page!


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