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Drop Shadows in Digital Scrapbooking
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Show Me The Light: Making Your Layouts Look Realistic
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digital scrapbooking layout using drop shadows

Because the goal of digital scrapbooking is to create a layout that looks like it has been made from traditional scrapbooking supplies, important decisions about the source of light that is shining on the layout must be made. These decisions can be made by considering the following questions:

  • Imagine the light as a flashlight. Where is the flashlight located and what direction is the light shining over the surface of your layout?
  • Will more than one flashlight shine on the layout? Which one is producing the most light and which one is producing less light?
  • Is there any reflected light (light bouncing off of one object onto another object)?

When you use realistic digital embellishments as part of your layout, these decisions about lighting have often been made for you by the artist who created them. If you are using these types of embellishments, your task is to identify the light source and follow the lighting patterns that have been provided to you. If you follow the light decisions the artist made, you will have satisfactory results on your layout. If you ignore the lighting clues the artist has provided, you will often feel that “something is wrong” with your own creation.

example of drop shadows on the wrong side

This shows details from a layout in which drop shadows have been added to the page elements on the bottom-right side because the light that shines on the alphas that spell KING shines down from the top-left corner.

example of drop shadows on the wrong side

This shows the drop-shadows on the wrong side of page elements. They are incorrect because shadows are never found on the same side as the light.

This is an example of some effects you can create on your layout by simply changing the height of the drop-shadows. Notice how the letter “I” pops off of the background, creating a similar effect that a paper scrapper would achieve through the use of pop-dots. Also notice that the letter “G” (without a shadow) almost appears as if it is sinking into the background because your eye is knows that if light is shining on something that has depth, there should be a shadow.

Find the Light

These samples illustrate a variety of light source decisions, as pre-determined by an artist.

  • Cheryl Barber chooses to place her primary light source so that it is shining down from the top-left corner of her elements. Notice the light and shadows of a button that she has created. If you were to use this button on a layout you have created, make sure that any drop-shadowing is placed on the bottom-right hand side.

  • design butcher (Ann Hetzel Gunkel) chooses to use a light source that is shining down from the top right side. If you were to use this tag on a layout, your drop-shadowing should be found on the bottom-left of the element.

  • Diane Miller has chosen to provide this tag without any pre-determined light source. This would allow you make your own light source decisions.

Tutorial by Ro




Easily learn
digital scrapbooking with
these tutorial movies:

Scrapbook Software Secrets Revealed for Paint Shop Pro (PSP) X

create a digital scrapbook layout with MS Word

You can even use MS Word to make simple digital layouts. This layout was made using the principles taught in Scrapbook Software Secrets Revealed: MS Word


This great eBook will take digital scrapbookers photos to a new layer. Diane Miller's photographs are amazing and her eBook shows you how you can get fabulous shots, too!


If you're at all curious about using filters and plug-ins in digital scrapbooking , then The Beginners Guide to Filters and Plug-ins for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements (Windows) is what you need!

Paint Shop Pro version available here.


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