How to draw a shadow in Photoshop?

Once upon a time, photomontage was considered a difficult task, the lot of professionals. Everything has changed today. The advent of computers, their widespread availability and the availability of powerful programs such as Adobe Photoshop have greatly simplified many of the processes for creating high-quality digital graphics. Of course, we are talking primarily about fairly simple options, for example, to place yourself next to a famous pop star, almost in an embrace. Today, such an installation can be done by every beginner, even a little familiar with this graphic editor. However, very often novice fans of photo tricks do not know how to draw a shadow in Photoshop, but a realistic shadow from an inserted object is one of the most important elements of any photomontage. Without it, the naturalness of the final picture is lost, no matter how well other objects of the future scene are mounted. Let's describe several ways to create high-quality shadows using Photoshop.

Volumetric shadow

Very often the shadow is used to create the effect of volume. In Photoshop, this process has been automated for a long time and is completed in a couple of minutes. For the demonstration, we have created a simple tutorial file where the letter M is selected as the object casting a shadow.

  1. Start Photoshop and open our blank.

  2. Double-click on the M layer, bringing up the "Styles" window. We go to the very bottom line "Shadow" and click on it with the left mouse button. As a result, we find ourselves in the shadow settings menu. We experiment with the meanings to our liking, and eventually our letter takes on volume. In principle, everything can be left by default - in many cases this is quite enough.

Such shadows are mainly used in the design of inscriptions in 2D-graphics - to give pseudo-volume. Now let's move on to the shadows that we encounter everywhere in everyday life and without which any image looks unnatural.

Classical, or falling, shadow

First of all, for the correct solution of the problem "how to draw a shadow in Photoshop", our actions should be divided into several stages.

Stage one: creating the base

Open our tutorial example. We have modernized it a bit, giving the picture a more naturalistic look.

Duplicate layer "M" by pressing Ctrl J.

Select layer "M copy" and lock transparent pixels by turning on the corresponding button on the layers palette (see screenshot). The lock symbol should appear on the layer. Now we need to set the foreground color to black. Press the D key and the default colors will be black and white. Now we use the Alt Delete key combination, and the copy of the letter M turns black.

Let's return the “M copy” layer to its functionality, that is, unlock it. To do this, just click on the "Preserve Pixel Transparency" icon again. So, we are all set for the next step.

Now you need to flip the second letter M and place it in the place of the future shadow. Let's get started:

  1. Press the key combination Ctrl T (free transformation). A transform frame will appear around the letter. Don't forget - we must be on the "M copy" layer.
  2. Look at the properties panel (second toolbar from the top). On the left side of this panel is a schematic representation of the nodes of the transformation path. We click on the middle square of the lower part of the frame. Now this node turns into a center around which everything revolves. The same action can be performed on the object itself: grab the central marker with the mouse and drag it to the lower one.

  3. Next, go to the main menu “EditBefore our eyes, the top of the shadow begins to disperse, leaving the beginning at the base of the object intact. Here, again, it all depends on your sense of beauty. The main thing is not to overtighten. Having achieved an acceptable result, click on the "Confirm transformation" checkbox or press the Enter key.

    Let's focus on the saturation of our shadow. Drawing a shadow from an object in Photoshop without specifying at least a minimum transparency is a waste of time. It will look artificial and alien. There are many different ways in Photoshop to achieve this goal. We prefer to use Layer Mask as a fairly simple yet flexible method that leaves a lot of room for creativity.

    Click on the "Layer mask" icon at the bottom of the layers panel. As a result, a mask label appears on the "M copy" layer, which will be automatically selected, that is, we can immediately start working with the mask.

    Some theory

    The principle of working with a mask is simple. If you fill it with black (Alt Delete), then the object located on the same layer will be hidden or "masked". If you fill the mask with white (Ctrl Delete), then the object will reappear in full.

    Decreasing the black intensity will cause the object to appear (a bit like printing photographs with chemicals). And vice versa - a decrease in the proportion of white will lead to its gradual disappearance. Moreover, this operation can be carried out using several tools: fill, gradient, ordinary brush or pencil. This wide range of options gives the user maximum flexibility when working in any part of the layer mask.

    Conclusion. Thus, by increasing and decreasing the density of one of the colors (black or white), using a brush or gradient, we can adjust the transparency of our shadow to any extent and in any place.

    We pass to practice

    So, we figured out the theory a little, let's get down to specifics. First we'll use the gradient (G). We turn our attention to the tool properties panel. Click on the "Linear Gradient" icon, and then open the gradient editing window and select the standard pattern "From main to background" in it.

    Click OK and drag the mouse over the shadow layer from bottom to top. The mask, of course, should be highlighted. We do not need special accuracy at this stage. We will now manually correct everything.

    It turned out already something close to the truth. Equip yourself with a soft brush (B) and try to bring the opacity of the shadow to maximum realism. Paint on a mask, creatively applying the brush size, color and opacity. If there is an overkill somewhere, then this can always be corrected - changed the color to the opposite and immediately restored the previous state using a brush. The main thing is to achieve realism. We varied the opacity of the brush from 10 to 50%. You can change the depth of transparency by simply pressing the desired number on the numeric keypad. Replacing one color with another (in our case - black to white and white to black) is done with the X key.

    Now we need to achieve blurring of the shadow. This can be done in different ways - we will choose the most common one. However, you must first perform a few preparatory steps.

    Finalize the work of the layer mask. To do this, select the mask symbol on the "M copy" layer and right-click on it. In the menu that appears, execute the "Apply Layer Mask" command.

    Next, move the layer with the shadow ("M copy") one position back (Ctrl {), bringing the layer with the letter to the very top. Now everything is ready for further work.


    Our next task is to feather, smooth the edges of the shadow. This goal is achieved in a simple way, but there are certain nuances. Activate the layer "M copy" and go to "FilterEverything in it remains the same, except for one thing - we have added a simple texture from the standard set of the program.

    Where we applied the mask (end of shadow), everything is fine. The texture shines through the shadow. But there is solid black at the base of the letter. And even in our primitive example, it looks somehow wrong. We will fix this now.

    Double click on the shadow layer. The layer style window appears. Remain in the "Default Blending Options" window. It is completely sharpened for the job of mixing two adjacent layers. We turn our attention to the two lowest strips, which are equipped with combined sliders. We will work with the lowest one. We are interested in the right slider, and not all of it, but its left half.

    In order to separate this at first glance indivisible object, hold down Alt, grab its left part with the mouse and calmly drag it to the side. It is easily separated from the right one, and before our eyes, the texture of the lower layer begins to appear in our shadow. Stop the half of the slider in the position that gives, in our opinion, the optimal effect of the texture translucent, and the work can be considered finished.

    Thus, we have clearly studied how to create an artificial shadow with the help of Photoshop, practically no different from the natural one. At the same time, if you feel like an artist and want to draw a shadow by hand, the program will provide you with a lot of ways. However, in most cases it will be a waste of time, because everything can be done almost automatically - you just need to know how. We hope this article has told you about it. Good luck!