6 Steps to a Better Shadow in Photoshop

Updated: Jun 24

Here's a quick Photoshop tip. If you want a better shadow than Photoshop’s built in Drop Shadow effect this shadow technique will do the trick. For most times the drop shadow effect is enough but this alternative technique gives you a more real shadow. In 6 steps your designs can have a realistic shadow that is easy to work with and will cause your creations to pop out and demand attention ( I’ll be working with a Mac and Photoshop CC version 22.4.2 ). If you don't use shortcut keys yet, start using them, they save tons of time. Here's a link to a list of popular default shortcut keys from Adobe. #Photoshoptips

Check out the Marching Ants link to find out more about selecting in Photoshop

Step 1. I’ll use this text to work with, ( Arial Black, 77pt, green) but you can use this technique on any kind of text, object, brush stroke, or wherever you would use a drop shadow.

Select the text by holding down the command key and clicking on the text Layer thumbnail, you'll know it's selected when you see the Marching Ants around around the text. Create a new Layer below the Text Layer and fill it with black by hitting the option and delete keys, hold down the command key and hit the D key to deselect the text (before you fill the layer make sure your foreground and background colors are at default by hitting the D key).

Step 2 creates a sharp shadow

Step 2. Name the new layer you just filled Lighter Shadow and select that Layer. I want the light to come from the upper left so the shadow will be going down and to the right. I also want the text to really pop out. I achieve this by increasing the distance between the text and the 'shadow'. With the Lighter Shadow Layer selected, hit the down arrow key a few times to move the black 'shadow' down. Since this will be the lighter and bigger part of the shadow I’ll hit the down arrow key about 10 times down and hit the right arrow key about 10 times. If you hold down the shift key and hit the arrow key it will move in increments of ten.

Click on the Gaussian Blur link for some cool info

Step 3. We’ll blur this layer, but first up go to Filter and click on Convert to Smart Filters. This way you can preserve the Layer's editability. Go back to Filter and down to Blur then to Gaussian Blur. Since this will be the lighter part of the shadow I'll increase the Gaussian Blur to 20 px. Of course, you might use a different number according to what effect you want. For more of a pop out effect from the shadow you want to have more blur and distance. It might take some tweaking to get it just right , which can easily be done because of Converting the layer to a Smart Filter.