Create Custom Shadows – Photoshop CS5 Tutorial

Create Custom Shadows – Photoshop CS5 Tutorial

Create Custom Shadows – Photoshop CS5 Tutorial

Creating a great drop shadow has become one of the fundamental skills for any graphic or web designer using Photoshop. In this tutorial we’re going to start at the most basic of basics and break out the good ole’ Drop Shadow which we all know and love so much and then use a couple custom shapes to edit the way that the Drop Shadow displays itself and add some 3-dimensionality to our graphics! A must see tutorial for any web designer!

Grab the starting image here! »

Tutorial Inspiration:

Step 1:

Start by grabbing this PSD file to start with »

Step 2:

We’re going to create three different Drop Shadows. Select the “Box-1” layer and go Layer>Layer Style>Drop Shadow. Okay, okay, this isn’t really “Custom” because it’s built-in with Photoshop, however this will be the basis of our other shadows, so let’s get it out of the way with now. NOTE: We have a couple other Layer Styles applied to this shape already so it may look a little different than your Photoshop defaults, no worries though!

Step 3:

Most of this little dialog is self-explanatory, the blend mode will be most predictable if you set it to “Normal”, you can select the color swatch to change the color of your shadow, and you also have the ability to reduce/increase the opacity of this shadow using the Opacity slider. The “Angle” determines the position of the sun and casts the shadow as if the sun was hitting your shadow from that angle. We want to stick with 90 degree for what we’re working with here.

Step 4:

The really important aspect(s) of the Drop Shadow are the Distance and Size sliders. Distance will determine how far ‘below’ our shape the shadow will drop and the Size is how blurred the shadow is. Set your Drop Shadow settings as I have.

Step 5:

Now we move on to the second shadow! We will want this effect to be a live Layer Style so we’ll first create a shape to apply our drop shadow to and then place that shape under our little floating image. Grab you Rectangle Tool (U) and look to the Tool Options Bar and set it as I have set mine.

Step 6:

Select the “Img2” layer and drag out a shape as I have.

Step 7:

Things get a little tricky here, but hang with me and you’ll have no problem. Grab your Convert Point Tool (located ‘beneath’ the Pen Tool) and click the very bottom right corner of your new shape. You will see some anchor points appear (see screenshot below) and then hold down your Alt/Opt key and click the bottom right anchor point and drag the handle that appears back toward the center of your rectangle.

Step 8:

Go Layer>Layer Style>Drop Shadow and use the settings I have.

Step 9:

Now look over at your Layers panel and drag this Shape layer below the “Box-2” layer. We’ve completed the first shadow! If you want to edit the intensity of the shadow you would edit the Layer Style, but if you want to edit how curved the bottom of the shadow is you would grab your Direct Selection Tool (A) (White arrow) and select that bottom right anchor handle and adjust the handle we pulled out.

Step 10:

To create the last shadow we’ll want to create a new Shape Layer using the Rectangle Tool (U) just like we did a few moments ago. This time, select the “Img3” layer and create shape as I have.

Step 11:

Let’s grab the Convert Point Tool again and go through that same song and dance to adjust the curve of the bottom by selecting the bottom right corner, but this time drag the handle toward the center of the shape but downward too. See my screenshot for clarification. TIP: Don’t forget to hold your Alt/Opt key!

Step 12:

Grab your Move Tool (V) and hit your down arrow key to nudge this shape down until it is just about lined up with the bottom of our little image. Add the Drop Shadow that I have.

Step 13:

Now drag this new Shape Layer beneath the “Box-3” layer to complete the effect!

Step 14:

As a little bonus tip let’s throw a quick shine onto our images. Grab your Rectangle Tool (U) and select your top-most layer (probably “Img3”) and drag out a large rectangle shape.

Step 15:

Go Edit>Free Transform and tilt it onto a slight angle as I’ve done, move it over on top of the first image and hit the little “check” icon in the Tool Options Bar.

Step 16:

Next, look down in your Layers panel and Cmd/Ctrl + Click the thumbnail of the layer named “Box-1”. This will load that shape as a selection. Your Shape Layer should still be the layer that is highlighted in the Layers panel. Go Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal Selection.

Step 17:

Reduce that Layer’s Opacity to 20-30%

Step 18:

Repeat that for both of the other shapes to complete the additional shine effect!


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