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Photoshop Tip: Use Layers to Create Super Realistic Shadows

by Rachel Gregg
featured, photo & video, Photoshop Basics

create shadow in photoshop

A good drop shadow is hard to come by. There is no shortage of Photoshopped “shadows” on the web that are nothing more than a grayscale circle with a little Gaussian blur. Rare is the computer-generated shadow that captures the complexity and detail you’ll find in real life.

In their simplest form, shadows are obstructions of light produced by the object casting them and the light surrounding it – but their shape, color, and intensity is dependant upon a whole goodybag of variables. The distance between the object and the start of shadow and the direction and intensity of the light all impact how a shadow appears. Which means people wanting to replicate their dynamism in Photoshop have their work cut out for them.

Lucky for us, Aaron Nace of Phlearn fame has a Photoshop tip: “The real key to make them look realistic is many, many layers.”

Aaron demonstrated his process for producing realistic-shadows from scratch during his Retouching Product Photography class. Using a photo of ear buds against a white backdrop, Aaron taught how to mimic shape and convey distance using some very simple techniques.

To make your own shadows less flat and more believable, check out the complete tutorial below:

For more tips on mastering skills like these, join us for  Photoshop Week 2017  free to watch May 15th – 20th. RSVP Now! 


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Rachel Gregg

Rachel is the content marketing lead for the CreativeLive Craft Channel. Her side hustle is floral design and her day job is awesome. @ms_gregarious.