Have you ever seen digital scrapbooking layouts that make you want to reach out and touch the elements on the page? Well, the secret behind those unbelievably realistic layouts are drop shadows.
The best way to approach this technique is to think about which page elements would have shadows if your layout was created with actual paper. Papers, embellishments such as flowers or buttons, and alphas all cast shadows in the physical world. However, elements such as typed text or paint strokes do not cast a shadow, therefore you wouldn’t add a shadow to them on your digital layout.
Let’s explore how to actually create the drop shadow within Photoshop. Click on the element you wish to shadow in the Layers Palette. Then, click the small fx symbol at the bottom of the palette. This will bring up a menu of various layer styles; choose “Drop Shadow” from the menu.
You should see this dialog box:
Here you can adjust the settings of the drop shadow. I don’t change the default settings for Blend Mode, Opacity, and Angle. However, the Distance, Spread, and Size settings are going to change depending on what type of element you’re working with. An easy way to remember what each slider does is to relate it to how shadows occur in real life.
Here are some general tips for adjusting these settings:
Distance: The further an element is from the base of the page, the further the shadow stretches out. For example, a paper that is only lying on top of another paper will need a smaller distance setting whereas a flower stacked on several pieces of paper will need a larger distance setting.
Spread: Elements that have defined edges, such as paper or buttons, cast compact shadows that do not spread out very far from the element. Elements that have softer edges, like flowers, create softer, less defined shadows that spread out a bit further from the element.
Size: The bulkier an item is, the bigger its shadow will be. Papers are thin, so the size of its shadow will be on the lower end of the spectrum. Items such as buttons are bigger and will cast a larger shadow.
If you don’t want to memorize these tips, you can always find a ScrapSimple Style in the Boutique that will have these preset shadow settings for various types of elements.
To make the process even faster, I add shadows to multiple layers at one time. It’s really simple to do: Ctrl+Click on each layer you wish to select and then access the Layer Style Palette as described above. I like to group similar elements together, so I select all paper layers to add shadows with the appropriate settings for papers. Then I continue with the next group of elements, such as flowers or buttons and add shadows appropriate for those items.
So that’s it! Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be creating realistic layouts like this in no time!