Want to add some depth?


Custom shadows can make such a difference in the way an element looks in your layout! I recently posted another layout where I used a custom shadow and have had several people ask me how that was done … so … I will add another tutorial on the subject now. I’m doing this tutorial in Photoshop Elements.

(If you have Photoshop CS you have Transform>Warp which makes this EASY work!)

I have posted two other tutorials on custom shadow work:

  • TUTORIAL #1:  Custom shadows for warped photo frames … HERE.
  • TUTORIAL #2: Quick keys for creating custom shadows (which you should be familiar with before you try the tutorial below!). Find this tutorial HERE.

For this example, I will be using a paper-style tree and a paper-style birdie. In my layout I want them to look like they are standing in front of the layout and the light source in up and to my left . . . making a shadow that appears to be “on the floor”.

  1. Insert a tree element and a birdie element into the layout.
  2. Make a copy of the tree layer, convert it to all black, add a slight blur to the edges and move it so it is below your tree layer. (you will find a great tutorial that makes it a very quick and easy process HERE … it’s Tutorial #2, … mentioned above!!!)
  3. Make a copy of the birdie layer and move it so it is below your birdie layer (again, follow steps in THIS tutorial … CTRL+j     …     CTRL+[    ….    CTRL+U     …    CTRL+F  … assuming you read and understand Tutorial #2 above…right?).
    My screen looks like this:My screen at this point
  4. My Layers Palette looks like this:
  5. Now, before we worry about customizing the shadows, let’s reset the opacity for both shadow layers.
    I’m going to change mine to 40%, since the further a shadow is from it’s object the lighter (or more transparent) it is. Anything between 10 and 40 will do nicely.NOTE: For the purposes of this tutorial I “actually” left my opacity at 100% until the final screen shot so you would still be able to see my shadow on the screen!  I do think you’ll prefer to drop your opacity now though.
    BEFORE WE GO ON – let’s review an important bit of terminology so the thought bubbles in my mind AND the thought bubbles in your mind are the SAME thought bubbles!WHEN you are in Transform mode (of any sort) you have the option of “showing the bounding box” … see the second item on your options bar at the top left side of your screen when you have the MOVE tool selected.
    I NEEd YOU to know that every bounding box has eight CONTROL HANDLES. One in each corner and one on every midpoint of the box. I will be referring to these control boxes throughout the tutorial.

    Ready? Let’s begin the process of customizing our shadow shapes!
  6. Press CTRL/CMD + T (for Free Transform mode).
  7. Now, press CTRL/CMD + ALT/OPTION + SHIFT and then click and drag the top right control handle slightly to the right. Notice how the left corner moves outward an equal amount?
    DON’T GET AHEAD OF ME HERE . . . there is more work to do, this is just the first step!
  8. Next, I’m going to bring the top center control handle down about 50% of the way.
    web-cs_004You might be tempted to think you’re done now, but let’s tweak things just a bit more!
  9. Press and hold your CTRL/CMD key and then move the top right control handle to the right and a little bit “downward.’  Notice that this time only the right corner is moving?web-cs_005
  10. You can play with the left upper corner if you like. Try moving it to the right just a bit … play … until the shadow is looking the way YOU think it would if a light was shining down on this little vignette.
  11. When you are done, COMMIT the changes.
  12. Repeat these steps for the TREE SHADOW layer.
  13. Now, let’s add a bit of BLUR to both layers. I used Gaussian Blur and set mine to 20px. The size of your elements may require a different setting . . . just find a setting that adds some blur but not so much that you lose the edge definition.
    My shadows at the end of this tutorial:
  14. web-cs_006I moved my birdie to the left side of the tree so you could see the way I chose to do the tree’s shadow. Isn’t it amazing how much information we infer about a scene based solely on shadows?! WOW! Now, let’s just say that you’d like to take it ONE step further … is that possible? What if the shadow were to be gradually fading near the furthest edge? Which tool do you think would help us do that?No hints!Here’s what I was able to do with just a few short steps . . . what do you think of the results?
    Surely you don’t think I’m telling you NOW, do you? Stop by again and we can discuss it then!

CREDITS: The tree and the birdie are from a collab kit

Monday’s Child – S4H- by Teri Mayo & Stacey Crossley


About Linda Jacobson

Wife, Mom, Grama, and Dreamer! I love all things crafty - sewing, pattern making/designing, quilting, knitting, crocheting, embroidery, digital photography, digital scrapbooking, ... see? I really DO love all things crafty! If I listed ALL the crafty things I've done this list would require an entire page!

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  1. Pingback: Creating Banners « The MaskMasters

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