How to Create a Drop Shadow from Scratch


Retouching Product Photography


Lesson Info

How to Create a Drop Shadow from Scratch

From drop shadow we're going to show you guys how to create it from scratch so let's go ahead and open this up this is from tony roslyn who's a also a product talking a wonderful guard based out of his cocaine spoke a near spokane spokane washington here we go these are some headphones here so basically what we want to do is I want to create some drop shadows for these that air that are going to be somewhat realistic and I was actually working with tony the other day on this and he was like then you know drop shadows air they look so cool but they are they're hard to do correctly they're hard to do so they actually look really and I thought to be a wonderful thing to teach you guys in this past because they are so difficult to do really um one thing you want to remember whenever you're creating a drop shot of a product or whatever it is the real key to making them look realistic is using many many layers a lot of people try to get this done with just one layer they try to just paint a ...

black surface right under something and make it look good it's almost impossible you're going to be creating a ton of layers to make something look realistic so we'll show you how to do it first thing I want to do let's create a new layer here and I want to make a selection right underneath our bose headphones you know what? In fact I'm going to make a selection around the headphones there we go just to get a good idea and then we're going to shrink it down and I'm gonna bring that right down there so I want basically a reflection of whatever I have a reflection of that product, okay, so on this layer let's go ahead and group this with itself I'm going to just call this shadow all right? On this later, what we're gonna do is I'm gonna hit shift delete I want to fill this with black and hit ok? All right, so this is basically the start we're gonna be doing this a bunch of times. So now that we feel that with black what I'm going to do is lower their capacity down someone had the on my keyboard and the number two that'll bring me down to twenty percent, so if you were just, you know, kind of lazy or maybe you didn't know what you do we're doing or, you know, just kind of new to this you might just add a blur to this and then and then call that done like that's that's job shadow and I see this a lot I see it in magazines you really do you see it all the time that's that's what a lot of people you know would call a drop shot up but it doesn't look really it doesn't look like it's you know actually a real shadow it looks like a fuller shop shadow so our goal is to take what we have now and turn it into something that actually looks really so the key here again is used a lot of different layers and we want to focus shadows, shadows and light are very complicated they get darker and more intense the closer you get to a product and they get softer and lighter the farther you get from the product so we want to build that into our layers so I'm just going to be a few duplicates of this we're going to control our command, jay, to duplicate that and I'm gonna bring this guy in all right and let's just move it up a little bit comptroller command j we'll do that again I'm going to bring this in and move this up a little bit so you can see already we're starting to get something that's going to be the makings of a more realistic shadow. All right? We're going to control the klan j again and I'm going to stretch this out because we have this area that needs to be taken care of as well, right there we go all right and we'll do it one more time here all right and noticing notice. I'm kind of focusing on the top part of the image where this is not completely symmetrical. I'm making it look as though the product has depth in the z axis by focusing the shadow towards the top. All right, so this looks great. This is actually it's a really good start of a shadow. And you can see, I mean, if you were to blue blur your eyes or whatever you could see, this is already starting to look more real than my original shadow. So now, with this I have a lot of different options. I want to start blurring each of these different layers, but I want to blur them a different amounts. The layers that are closer to the edge is need to be blurred. Mohr the layers that are closer to the middle need to be blurred less so I could just go about creating housing blurs if I want or I can convert these into smart objects, and then I can adjust my blurs afterwards, which is very helpful. So is everyone worked with smart objects before. Ok, cool. So smart objects allow you to use smart filters, which in this case is perfect, so going to right, click on each of those and go down to convert to smart object on each one of them there we go and now after their old smart objects I can apply a blur so I'm going to go to a galaxy blur that we're going to choose a large blur we're going to do a radius of one hundred six and I'm going to continue making the radius smaller and smaller but you can see I can chart I can turn off my housing blurred ending point in time or I can just double click right here and I can change it at any point in time as well all right we'll also be able to change my capacity and the location of each one of these points so each one of these is kind of building up there we go there all building up to create the shadow that has a lot more depth than the original all right, there we go let's go ahead and give that one a blur to all right very nice now I can see you know starting to look through this guy the edges a little bit too well defined can use you can see the edge not a problem I'm just going to double click back in my ghazi blur and I'm gonna increase that edge a little bit more there we go and we're starting to see that a little bit better this one looks pretty good but I'm goingto I'm going to give this a little bit more of a blur as well all right somewhere right in between the kind of focus is where we are and now I'm going to go through and start let's just duplicate this now that we have this layer we're going to duplicate this I'm gonna transform it make it a little bit smaller all right and we're going to move this up just a little bit here we go now since I'm putting such a relatively dark center into this blur sorry into the shadow I want to be moving it up a little bit so after I'm done with this we're going to move it up just a little bit all right and here you can see I can change my capacity with each of these layers to fit just about what they need for the image okay now I've got my shadow I'm gonna start moving it around a little bit I can move it up until it starts to join with my actual object and if it's not perfect here let's say we wanted it down there if it's not perfect because in this case I think it needs to be shrink to weaken do the entire shrinking process there we go with the group we can bring us all up when you hit enter there it's going to go ahead and apply that and then it's going to reapply all of my smart filters there we go when people say something and then there's just this ripple of oh cool okay so there's our drop shot and it does it looks great but it's not quite there yet and the reason is we wanted were comparing the darkness of this blue here sorry the darkness of the actual headphones with the darkness of the shadow and if they're close they need to be similar the darkness of the headphones needs to be similar with the shadow so instead of creating like ten different layers and doing this all again what I'm gonna do is duplicate this entire shadow group okay now I'm just going to merge it with itself and it's going to turn all those different layers into one layer all right let's get control of command e and that's going to merge this with itself so what I mean by creating a lot of layers is we're gonna we're really creating a lot of layers so I created one, two, three, four, five, six, seven layers in here then I duplicated that so this is basically the culmination of seven more layers we're going to transform this and bring this back in now so it's really starting to bring on a lot a lot of depth all right? We do have a very thin white line just under a headphone so I'm gonna bring my later mask up just a little bit can you get to see how that helped out that does not that's not looking real that's looking a little bit better all right, so we've got a shadow copy looking good. I'm just gonna duplicated again command tea to make this a little bit smaller. And my goal here is to make it look as though these headphones are just resting on the ground or the air surface rather that I have underneath all right? And I can use as many layers as I'd like to get there. I'm not restricted in any way. All right, let's, just move this up a little bit more. There we go. All right. And this is gonna go up a swell just a little bit because I want I want this area to look like it's just touching the ground. You can see if I'm too far down it starts, it starts to look off, but the farther up I go, the more it starts to look real there we go and that's looking pretty good. It was really funny because I'm you know, in the chat room and communicate and all that and so I was looking away for a little bit and I looked back up and I'm like, ok, so that's really where that it was so close oh, that's, right, we just made that like, it looks really, really, really, really it looks totally rial and the key again is using many different layers so at any point in time I can duplicate these I could make a larger one like if I if I really needed you know even more space to say like you know what? Maybe it should be covering up even more space or less face or a little bit behind it any of this stuff can be done because I'm just duplicating these layers I put in my ground work and I'm just duplicating these layers and I'm placing around and that's what's making everything look real there we go and now thank god I can just group all of those and I can duplicate that entire group and I can just stick that on the other headphone that's I don't I don't want to do it all again for the other headphone so I've duplicated my group it's taking a minute because we did have a lot of smart objects in there so it's reapplying these filters were to hit control or command t right click and go to flip horizontal because our other headphones air there flipped the other way and now when that's done I'm just going to click and move them right up there and they're going to fit in right at home perfect if you don't want that bounding box there it can kind of get in the way of seeing the whole picture that controller command h and that's going to help you and you can always use the up down left and right arrows on your keyboard here we go let's go ahead and change our background to a custom color we're going to go all the way up here to white all right? And there we have a couple of headphones resting on white perfect on the whitest thing ever question right? I can what happens if you hit commander control h end your photo shop disappears that's a really good question commander control age the first time you click it in photo shop it's going to come up with a little prompt that will say, do you want to hide extras or hide all of photo shop if you hit the hide photoshopped that very first time you have to go in and reset your photo shop preferences in order to be able to hide just the extras again. So yeah, I wish I was like a little check box on your preferences but it's like once you once you click that the first time here it's going to do that from here on out reset your preferences tomorrow during your ground work I noticed you for this one because we're started out lower, the shape was pretty generic how intricate do you get with your shaping in the groundwork portion be like? Does it depend on what the object is or do you always do something more just cylindrical yeah, it'll definitely depend on the shaping like for instance and I don't know that we have a ton of time for this but let's just say one of these products was was on its side let's go ahead and see if I can do this in a very short period time let's just say one of these products was on its side and we had we have the headphones let's just go ahead and apply that layer mask there all right? We've got about ten minutes I can I can try to do this year let's say it was, you know, resting on its side there then we would have something like this all right it's just duplicate that object does that look like it's on its side? Um I would be doing the same thing you know what I'll start? I'll start from scratch point out I've been doing basically the same thing but I'd want to incorporate the other shapes as well so I would definitely want to incorporate you know, a little bit of stem there we go and kind of go in go in like this is well, this would be a little bit harder the reason being that because we have because we have let's just put a layer mask on there areas multiple areas that are touching the ground, you have to concentrate on those areas where they're actually touching the ground what I mean by that is it's going to be darker in these areas and lighter it's just put a calcium blur it's going to be darker in the areas that are closer to the ground and lighter in the areas that are farther away so I'm going to try because I've used the brush will plenty of times I'm going to try this with the brush pool which is in effect going to be very similar to what would happen if you were to use many different layers with the with the selection tools you had available all right so we're going to use the eraser tool you know what I'll just pay with black and white um there we go so we use a soft edged brush to paint white here and I'm changing my flow down to about twenty percent which is going to allow me to really just kind of blend this in as I need to so if you are comfortable using the brush will you can most definitely use use the brush tool for something like this I will say it's much more difficult to use the brush tool rather than um here we go rather than just I'm making selections but um here we go so you kind of want to fade this in so you can see my shadow becomes a lot more complex here because I have to account for the different areas that are actually being interacting with the ground. There we go, that looks pretty good, actually, ah, a lot of practice, a lot of practice, so same idea here, large areas, you know, painting to keep it a really nice blur. And then I'm gonna come in here with a smaller brush and then try to focus, focus at in right there. So you want to be a little bit darker and a little bit more concentrated right where the object is going to touch the ground, and then outside of that, you want that to be nice and soft with a really large, soft edge. Aa lot of these success is in observing shadows and seeing what they look like under different lighting conditions. Yeah, you are using, or if you're simulating a hard bare bulb right next to it is going to look different. Yeah, then what is clearly a soft, big light source like this? Yeah, my girlfriend makes fun of me all the time. Probably like were you looking at? I was like, oh, that I was looking at the shadow I think it's totally normal things like aaron's looking at the light it's paying attention to it in real life it really does help with your photo shop work and things like that so you might look like a weirdo but you know, surround her so you love you for who you are and you know the little except that you enjoy staring at shadows and lights and you know you can laugh about it so yeah it's uh I'm definitely spend some time staring at walsh intentionally, but yeah, it will help you with something like this, so yeah, this is kind of the same idea I've been using the brush tool painting black and white and trying to recreate that shadow so again a lot of let's just make our product invisible you can see keeping it nice and confined are condensed right where we have our product touching the ground and then gradually getting a little bit softer and if you find that you've painted in, you can see it's not incredibly smooth right here because I was just using the brush tool, so if you do need to add a little bit of a blur to it, you can always use the galaxy and blur and had a little bit of a blur which will help smooth things out a little bit more all right, let's go I don't want to go too far here there we go I don't want to go too far because the area on the right hand side I actually really I preferred the sharper edge, so we'll put a layer mask on this duplicate and go ahead and mask that away. So now we have this area on the left scott that really nice blur on it which helps to keep it smooth in the area on the right has got that nice sharp edge that we painted in there so all right, one more question in relation to the angle of light that the photo was taken at how it's hitting this subject their object can you show how you would transform where that drop actually lands on the surface instead of it being just like right underneath it? Can you would you use the transform till to move it that's a great question yes, ok stretch my canvas all one more time and then, well, we're going to do that which will happen many times when you're not you know, sometimes you're going to have a perfectly round object that's relatively simple on dukan you can paint that in sometimes you're photographing a person and they know they got two legs on the ground and you want to make sure that the shadow looks like basically a stretched out version of that, so we'll show you how to do that as soon as this is done rendering basically, what we're going to do is we're gonna take a duplicate, so that could be a bose that totally we're going to take this guy. I mean, let's, just duplicate this over and we'll do one more version of this here. Lock our mask with itself. All right, now I'm going to go ahead and apply the layer mask here we're going to create a duplicate of this and in the background layer, I just want this to be black, ok? So I'm going to lock my transparency on that, which means I'm only going to be able to affect non transparent pixels, which in this case is the actual bose headphones. So we're lark that two black I'm gonna hit shift command. We're sorry shift really feel that with black. So basically, we just have a black head phone right now. Let's, go ahead and a race race this out there. Okay? So black headphone under there, I'm going to duplicate it any time I'm about to do like a transform or something that is going to be kind of destructive towards my group. I like to duplicate those objects because it allows me to have, like, I can go back to the original very easily now we're going to control the command t on this before I do, I want to make sure it's on ly visible right here if I have any other area on my layer I don't want it to be visible because this is I need I need just this area visible for my transform all right? So let's just go ahead and duplicate this to a new layer because you can see when I was hitting command t earlier it was making a huge bounding mark so apparently there's something down here on this layer so I'm just going to select out just this layer here we control our command j which is going to duplicate that to a new layer all right and then command t now you can see it's really just affecting that area so then we can start to drop the shadows in other directions let's say we were you know, something like that and then we really want to just use the same principles that we were using earlier on this layer, so I'm going to hit the for the move tow drop our opacity don't about fifty percent and now even hit command jake because I want to duplicate this, okay, we're going to duplicate this and then I'm gonna put a layer mask on it to have this only be visible right here next door product so similar similar idea here and then we're going to give this a blur as well all right, so you can take your actual product, take the outline for it. There we go, and then do basically the same process what we had earlier. This is going to take just a little bit more time its creator brush tool to make look realistic because the shadow is a little bit more complex now. So I'm here with the brush tool painting white on some of these areas to kind of hopefully make this a little bit more realistic again. All right, so the more complicated that your shadow is, the harder, relatively it is to make it look realistic. Then you can definitely select out your actual object, especially if you haven't cut out from the background that helps out a lot. You can select that out. And then here we go paint that in all right. Really good questions. All right. So right now I'm painting with a very soft ed white brush to try to make this shadow appeared just a little bit softer. You could also use a later mask in this case. All right, there we go. And I think that looks fairly good. Look, the angle looks a little bit off, but I think the principles are definitely there.

Class Description

As a product photographer your main goal is to make products look as good as possible. In Retouching Product Photography, Aaron Nace will teach you essential retouching techniques so your products look their absolute best.

Even under the best conditions product photos will contain flaws that need to be fixed in post-production. In this class, you will learn how to combine multiple exposures, clean up backgrounds, use the pen tool and color correct. Aaron will show you the best way to eliminate distractions and enhance detail in all your product photos.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2014.2.2


a Creativelive Student

Great as always. Thank you Aaron


I am a big fan of Aaron Nace work, the class is definitely beneficial, but I was expecting a sample similar to the burger displayed.