Drop Shadows

Drop shadows are something that changed the look of my (Steph’s) layouts when I started using them. Since discovering them, I have spent probably more time than I care to admit studying the look of drop shadows on paper layouts in magazines. I get a huge sense of accomplishment by creating a realistic shadow on a layout. I also love to admire shadows in the galleries as much as I do the layouts themselves. I have gathered some fun examples of drop shadows, some tutorials on how to create your own great shadows, and finally some tips and tools (and a goodie or two ;))to make your shadows LOOK great without spending very much time on them at all!

First, some drop shadow eye candy:


I love this layout, “Pug Love”, by Scarletheels! The drop shadows are perfect! Notice how she used a larger shadow for larger items, keeping everything in proportion. Mi says she usually uses a brown shade and puts the shadow on its’ own layer, then uses the warp tool (see tutorials below).


KayM’s “Giggles” is a great example of shadowing layered items. I especially like how the bottom orange/brown flower has a smaller shadow than the gold flower that is layered on several other items. Notice how the frame around the photo has a much larger shadow on the left side, where there would be a larger gap than there is on the bottom because of the items layered under the frame (see the tutorials below for using the warp and liquefy tools).


I thought the drop shadows on “Your Smile” by JennV were fab! I love how she shadowed the string to make it look like it was lifting away from the paper! Notice though, that as the string goes under the element cluster on the right, the shadow is very close to the string because logically, the string would be closer to the paper there (see tutorials below on using the warp and liquefy tools).

Top Tips — for great shadows:

1) Keep the direction of light the same.

2) Keep the size proportional for the size of the object

3) The bigger the space between the object and its’ shadow, the lighter the shadow will be (the shadow for a piece of paper placed directly on top of another paper will be darker and less opaque than a button or flowers).

4) Play with the blend mode. Using the color burn mode when applying a shadow to acrylic works best.

Some great tutorials for creating perfect drop shadows:

PSCS – This tutorial changed the way I do drop shadows, love it!


PSCS – using the warp tool

PSCS – using the warp tool (video)

PSCS and PSE – some different settings by Liz


PSE – using liquefy

PSE – using liquefy (video)



Shadowing Acrylic

Shadowing Acrylic and opaque items (video) PSE

Shadowing Acrylic

Shadowing in PSCS (video)

Tips for Great Shadows (any software) and free styles

Tools for Making it FAST

It is always a good idea to know how to do these things in your program, but if you would like some tools to make it easier, they are out there!

Tool 1) Copy/Paste the layer style. Once you have created the perfect drop shadow, you can right click on that layer> copy layer style and then select all other layers and right click>paste layer style. I will often create my paper shadow first and then just increse the distance and size for the larger items after pasting the layer style.

Tool 2) Kristen Rice has some great shadow layer styles.

Tool 3) Flergs has some FREE layer styles to get the look she creates with her drop shadows.

Tool 4) Megan has some FREE layer styles on her blog.