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PHOTOSHOP FEATURES

How to add a drop shadow in Adobe Photoshop.

Explore how to enhance the look and readability of a graphic design with a drop shadow effect.

What is a drop shadow?

Drop shadows give the impression that a layer in your Photoshop project is hovering and casting a shadow onto the background layer beneath it. You can apply a drop shadow to any type of Photoshop layer to help give the impression that your image exists in 3D space.

Why use a drop shadow?

When used correctly, a drop shadow layer can enhance any type of Photoshop project, from photo editing to graphic design.

An example of a drop shadow being used on an image of pink clouds.

Create a convincing photo composite.

If you’re adding a new element to an existing photo, you can use a drop shadow to make it look natural. 

An example of a drop shadow being used on the words "Packing Guide" over an image of a suitcase.

Make your layout more legible.

Adding drop shadows to text can help it stand out from the background for easy readability.

An example of drop shadow settings being adjusted with options for Blend Mode and Opacity. An image of citrus fruit cut in half with drop shadows.

Add realistic lighting.

When fine-tuning the lighting in a photo, try adjusting the Drop Shadow settings so the shadows all match. 

An example image showing canned beverages with drop shadows.

Punch up your product photography.

Creating an image of a product for sale? Add a drop shadow to make it look more real.  

How to add a drop shadow to your image.

Learn how easy it is to use drop shadows in Photoshop.


1. Select it:

Open Photoshop and select the layer where you want to add a drop shadow.


2. Click it:

Click the FX icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and select Drop Shadow. 


3. Customize it:

In the Drop Shadow Layer Style dialog box that opens, select the Structure and Quality effects you want for your shadow.


4. Apply it:

Click OK to apply your changes.


An example image showing colorful arts-and-crafts supplies with drop shadows. Also shown are drop shadow settings.

What are the different styles of drop shadow?

The Drop Shadow Layer Style panel in Photoshop offers a wide selection of different types of drop shadow effects that you can control.

Adjust the transparency of your drop shadow from 0 (invisible) to 100 (opaque). 

Use the Angle spinner to change the angle of the imagined light source and affect the appearance of your shadow. If you check the Use Global Light box, any changes you make will apply to every other shadow in the project.

The Distance slider adjusts the distance of the shadow from the subject.

With the Spread slider you can adjust how much the shadow fades around the edges. The more you increase the Spread, the harsher and darker the edges of your shadows get.

You can use the Size slider to adjust the size of your drop shadow one pixel at a time.

From the Blending Mode drop-down menu you can adjust the darkness of your drop shadow by using the Multiply or Linear Burn options. You can also change the color of your shadow by clicking the color box next to the menu and using the Color Picker.

If you’re trying to create an abstract effect with an unrealistically sized or shaped shadow, use Contour to control how the shadow fades.

Increase the Noise slider to add texture to your shadow or decrease it to create a completely smooth effect. 

How to create a drop shadow using a duplicate layer.

For advanced users looking for a more manual drop shadow process, try this method to create a unique shadow for any element in your image. 


1. Duplicate it:

Use the Quick Selection tool to trace the outline of the object you want to create a shadow for, and then press Ctrl+J to duplicate that selection to a new layer. 


2. Foreground it:

In the Layers panel, click on the newly created layer and drag it to the top to make it the new foreground for the image.


3. Color it:

From the toolbar, click Set Foreground Color and select black from the lower right of the Color Picker window.


4. Shadow it:

Press Ctrl+T to open the Free Transform tool and use it to position the black duplicate layer underneath the original object.


5. Blur it:

Go to Filter › Blur and select Motion Blur from the drop-down menu to soften the duplicate layer’s edges and make them more shadowy.


6. Smooth it:

Return to Filter › Blur menu, select Gaussian Blur, and then adjust the radius to smooth out the appearance of your shadow.


7. Mask it:

Click the Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers panel and select the Add Layer Mask option.


8. Brush it:

Select the Brush tool, change the background color to black, and run the brush over the drop shadow to tweak it until it suits your needs. 


Adobe Photoshop

Do more with Adobe Photoshop.

Discover more of what Photoshop has to offer.

Follow these tutorials to help you use more Photoshop features to their fullest.

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