Quick Realistic Shadows on Layouts

Last year I took a course, Guide to Shadowing and Dimensional Effects, from Scrapaneers that changed my digital scrapbooking life.  I had always wanted to learn more about drop shadows (the shadow of an object that gives the impression of it being raised above the objects behind it) and how to make them look more realistic on digital layouts.  I was blown away by how much I didn’t know about drop shadows and by how much I learned in this class!

Guide to Shadows class - Scrapaneers

After finishing all the modules, I found myself examining drop shadows everywhere – in the kitchen, in cartoons on TV, and, of course, in my craft room.  I was fascinated by a detail of life that I had never noticed before.  I started incorporating more realistic drop shadows into my layouts and discovered something else…  it is a really time consuming process!

Now, over a year later, I am still trying to improve on the quality of those realistic drop shadows using a quicker method that only requires two things:  a good drop shadow style and basic knowledge of the Warp Tool.

In order for the drop shadows to be as realistic as possible, I investigated what true paper drop shadows looked like.  I placed some card stock on white paper and photographed it by the window with the light coming in at 45º to match the drop shadow style I like use.

Quick Realistic Drop Shadows - Birdwing Paper Designs

Then, by using this drop shadow style…

Drop Shadow Styles - Birdwing Paper Designs

…and the warp tool, I created these exact shadows in Photoshop:

Quick Realistic Drop Shadows - Birdwing Paper Designs

Don’t they look pretty darn close the real thing?!!

If you are unfamiliar with the warp tool, here is a quick look at how I “warped” the shadows.

1. Add the drop shadow style to the paper/photo.  Create a layer just for the shadow by right clicking on Effects and choosing Create Layer.

2.  With the drop shadow layer selected, go to Edit>Transform>Warp.

3.  Pull the edges of the shadow to match the effect you want for the paper/photo and hit Enter when done.

Quick Realistic Drop Shadows - Birdwing Paper Designs

This photo now has the appearance of the bottom corners being slightly curved up.

Quick Realistic Drop Shadows - Birdwing Paper Designs

As I said before, this is a quick way to give your photos and paper a realistic drop shadow.  It isn’t perfect, but it is close and, most importantly, fast!  If you want to learn more about drop shadows and creating dimensional effects, I would highly recommend taking the course from Scrapaneers.

I couldn’t let this awesome photo go to waste, so here is a finished layout with more quick drop shadows:

Real Life - Birdwing Paper Designs


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