How to Add Shadows in Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop allows you to add a shadow to any object. You can create a simple shadow with Blending Options and a realistic shadow with layers. This guide will show you both methods.

Creating a Simple Shadow

This method is ideal if you want to add a 3D effect to text or if you want to add a simple shadow behind an object.

  1. Right-click on the layer you wish to add the shadow on, then click on Blending Options.

    Blending options
    Right-click on the layer and select Blending Options.
  2. Check the box next to Drop Shadow, then click on Drop Shadow.

    Drop shadow
    Check the box next to Drop Shadow, then click on it.

There will be different options within the Drop Shadow window to help you adjust the appearance of the shadow.

  1. First, select the color of your shadow. You can do that by clicking on the square beside the Blend Mode.

    Shadow color
    Change the shadow color.
  2. Opacity controls the opacity of the shadow. You can adjust it by moving the white arrow or typing in the % number.
  3. You can adjust the Angle at which the shadow drops by dragging the line in the circle. You can also manually change the angle by typing in a different number.

    Adjust the angle
    Adjust the angle.
  4. Distance controls the distance of the shadow, Spread controls the spread of the shadow, and Size controls the overall size of the shadow. You can adjust these by moving the small white arrow or changing their value by typing in a % number.

    Adjust the distance, spread, and size
    Adjust the Distance, Spread, and Size.
  5. Noise controls the noise aspect of the shadow. You can see its effects in the screenshot below.

    Noise options
    Adjust the noise.

Disable or Delete Shadows

  1. To disable any shadows you added, uncheck the box beside Drop Shadow and click on OK.

    Disable the shadow
    Disable Drop Shadow.
  2. To add a shadow to another object within the project, click on the + sign next to Drop Shadow. You can add as many shadows to one object as you want. They will stack on top of each other.

    Add another shadow
    Add another shadow by clicking +.
  3. To delete the extra shadow you added, click on Drop Shadow, then click on the trashcan icon.

    Delete shadow
    Delete the shadow.

Creating a Realistic Shadow

To create a realistic shadow, you first need to transfer that object to a separate layer. The easiest way to do this is using the Quick Selection tool.

Separating the object from the background

This method shows you how to separate the object from the background using the Quick Selection tool.

  1. First, click on the Quick Selection tool.

    Quick Selection tool
    Click on the Quick Selection tool.
  2. In the top toolbar, you can choose the + tool to make a selection and the tool to delete a selection. Click on the + and then on the object you wish to select.

    Make a selection
    Click on the + brush icon.
  3. The selection will automatically be created, but it will not be perfect. Use the + and selection options to add/remove from the selection until it looks realistic.

    A good selection
    Use the +/- options to make a better selection.
  4. Once you are happy with your selection, press Ctrl + C (Cmd + C on Mac) and click on the three lines in the “Layers tab.”

    Adding a layer
    Copy your selection, then select the three lines.
  5. Click on New Layer, then press Ctrl + V (Cmd + V on Mac).

    New layer
    Click on New Layer, and paste the object.

Adding Color

There are different ways to add color to the newly pasted layer. This is the simplest option:

  1. Hold Ctrl (Cmd on Mac) and left-click on the small picture next to your layer.

    Hold Ctrl and click on new layer
    While holding Ctrl (Cmd on Mac), click on the small picture next to the new layer you just created.
  2. Click on the Color Picker in the toolbar on the left. Select the color black. Then click OK.

    Select the color black
    Click on the Color Picker and select black.
  3. Click on the small arrows above the Color Picker to make the black color go behind.

    Make the black color go behind
    Click on the arrows above the Color Picker.
  4. Hold Ctrl and press Backspace (Cmd + Delete on Mac). This will color the selection black.
  5. Right-click on Layer 1, and duplicate it.

    Duplicate layer
    Right-click on Layer 1 and select Duplicate Layer.
  6. Left-click on the eye icon beside the duplicated layer to make it invisible.

    Make the layer invisible
    Click on the eye icon beside the duplicated layer.

Positioning the Shadow

It’s time to position your shadow so that it looks realistic.

  1. Hold Ctrl (Cmd on Mac) and left-click on the picture beside Layer 1. Then select Layer 1 by left-clicking on its name.

    Reselect layer 1
    Hold Ctrl (Cmd on Mac) and click on the picture. Then select the layer by clicking on its name.
  2. Press Ctrl + T (Cmd + T on Mac) to activate the Free Transform tool. While holding Ctrl, click on the top middle white square and move it to a position you feel is appropriate. If you are happy with the position, click on the checkmark on top to apply the changes.

    Exit Free Transformation
    Reposition the black silhouette into a shadow position.
  3. Go to Select > Deselect or press Ctrl + D (Cmd + D on Mac) to deselect your selection.

    Deselect the selection
    Go to Select > Deselect.

Adding Blur to the Shadow

  1. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

    Adding blur
    Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.
  2. With Preview turned on, adjust the Radius by moving the white arrow or typing the value in pixels. When you are happy with the blur effect, click on OK.

    Adjust the blur
    Adjust the settings of the blur.
  3. Click on the arrow next to Opacity, and adjust the opacity of your shadow.

    Opacity
    Adjust the opacity of the shadow.
  4. Left-click on the layer we have hidden (in this case, ‘Layer 1 copy’), and toggle the eye icon by clicking on that empty square.

    Toggle the eye icon
    Click on the empty square beside the layer to make it visible.
  5. Hold Ctrl (Cmd on Mac) and left-click on the small image next to that layer to make a selection. Then, press Delete.

    Delete the selection
    While holding Ctrl (Cmd on Mac), left-click on the small picture beside the new layer to make a selection. Then press Delete.
  6. Click on Layer 1 and press Delete again. This will delete the shadow on top of the object and leave only the shadow behind her.

    Deleting the shadow
    Delete Layer 1.
  7. Go to Select > Deselect, and you are done!

    End result
    Go to Select > Deselect to clear your selection.

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