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Layer styles are a great way to add effects to your images in Photoshop. In this article, you will learn about the Drop Shadow. A typical example of the drop shadow effect in Photoshop is to add a 3D look to your text. Another example is when working with multiple images in the same document, the cutout elements should appear seamless in the background. A drop shadow effect can also be used in a creative way to make your image stand out.
You get into the layer styles in Photoshop, by clicking on the fx icon at the bottom of the layers palette. Then, click on Drop Shadow, this brings up the Drop Shadow Dialog Box.
Let’s take a minute to look at some of the default settings:
All of these settings can be modified within this Dialog Box. For example, you may want to change the angle to 90 degrees so that the drop shadow is directly underneath. If you are new to adding effects in Photoshop.
Getting to grips with layer styles is a good start. These effects are applied non-destructively. I prefer to work with layers so that I have more control over any adjustments that need to be made. I use Gaussian Blur quite a lot which can be found under Filter on the Menu bar. Next, I’m going to show you how to put the drop shadow layer style on its own separate layer.
Beginning with the Drop Shadow Dialog Box already open, click Ok, then go back up to the Menu Bar>Layer>Layer Style>Create Layer. A dialog box appears with ‘Some aspects of the Effects cannot be reproduced with Layers!’ Just click Ok again.
What this does is put the drop shadow on its own separate layer. You can now make modifications non-destructively to the drop shadow using adjustments layers. By moving this layer around, you are creating the distance and the angle of the drop shadow in one movement. Changing this layer to a Smart Object will mean you can add Gaussian Blur or any other filter and this effect will also be applied non-destructively. In the layers Panel, go up to Opacity to reduce the intensity of the drop shadow.
You can also create a drop shadow without using the layer styles. When I am working with two or more images, (i.e. compositing) I import an image that has a clipping path or layer mask so that the subject or object has been already isolated or cutout from the background. For example, this image:
The concept behind this image was a play on the men at work theme. Follow along the following steps:
This is a creative drop shadow rather than a realistic one. See the resulting image below.
Shadows will play an important role when working on multiple images, especially if you want the cutout element to look as seamless as possible against the background. Let’s look at creating a more realistic shadow.
In this image of a deserted road, I imported a cutout of the Lego figure. I used a combination of the method used above then created another drop shadow under his feet using layer styles. Follow along to create something similar using your images:
In summing up, the drop shadow is a very useful effect and can greatly enhance your imagery. For realistic shadows take note of the direction and the type of light. Is the sun shining overhead or is it over to the right? Morning and evening light will have longer shadows than in the middle of the day. Gaussian Blur and Opacity will be your allies here.
Do you have any other drop shadow tips or creative uses of them?