Using Shadows to Create Depth - Shadow Layers

Discussion in 'Learning Pad' started by ArmyGrl, Sep 4, 2020.

  1. ArmyGrl

    ArmyGrl Merlot, Cab, Chard, Reisling - all 4 food groups!

    Sep 1, 2012
    Hello all and welcome to my first round of shadow tutorials - Using Shadows to Create Depth - Shadow Layers

    For these tutorials, I use butterflies from Rachel’s Step by Step bundle. Before I create a layout with lots of shadows, I often study paper crafts to observe shadow and light in organic (non-digital) settings. Here is an inspiration board I use to “QC” my eyes and brain. Additional inspiration and photo credits are found in this Pinterest Board.

    Using Shadows to Create Depth: Shadow Layers


    In the Step by Step bundle, Rachel created watercolor butterflies, digitized the images, then extracted the butterflies for our use as digital elements. Without shadows, these watercolor butterflies blend very well into papers giving us the look of watercolor paints, pencils or crayons. In #1 above, I used the “multiply” blending mode, then set the “opacity” to 87%.

    Because the butterflies are unique elements, we can make them appear to sit on top of the background paper, rather than blended into the paper. This is demonstrated in #2 and #3 by using the layer style “Drop Shadow.”

    There are several things to consider when using “Drop Shadow.” These include distance, angle, blend mode and color.
    • Distance: The distance between elements (or element and paper) is controlled by Distance, Spread, and Size. I typically keep spread at “0” unless I am working with a paper on top of another paper, and my “view” is strait down (as in I’m hovering over the image). If an element is close to the background (#2), “distance” and “size” are smaller numbers. If an element is further away (#3), “distance” and “size” are larger numbers.
    • Angle: Where is your source of light coming from? Is there more than one source of light? Often, there is one, strong source of light such as an overhead ceiling light, lamp, or natural light coming from a window or the sun. Take a look at your current environment. Where is the light coming from? Due to that source of light, in what direction are the shadows? Look at the pictures below of wall art. In both, there is strong natural sunlight coming from the left. Therefore, shadows fall to the right. You should also notice how the wall is darker on the right-hand side of the photos.
    Look closer at the picture on the bottom with the blue-green wall. There is a second source of natural light coming from the right. Therefore, there is a second, more faint and “fuzzy” shadow falling to the left. So, in addition to the angle of light, think about the “source” and if the source produces hard distinct shadows, or softer, more diffuse shadows.


    Angle Continued: When making a layout, I often keep my angle at 90 degrees as if the light is coming from above. However, many put an angle on their shadow. In the pictures below one angle is at 90 while the other is at 109.


    Take note of the “Use Global Light” check box. In the majority of my layouts, I use this feature to keep consistency throughout the layout. However, there are times I make a layout using two (or more) sources of light. In that scenario, I unclick the “Use Global Light” feature which allows me to make drop shadows at different angles.

    Continue on to the next post to read about "Blend Mode," color and an Advanced Technique.​
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2020
    michelepixels likes this.
  2. ArmyGrl

    ArmyGrl Merlot, Cab, Chard, Reisling - all 4 food groups!

    Sep 1, 2012
    • Blend mode: I am a fan of Linear Burn blend modes and use that blend mode more than others for shadows. However, if a background paper is exceptionally dark, e.g. black, I may use the Multiply bend mode to produce a softer shadow. In the picture below, the butterfly on the left has a Linear Burn shadow while the butterfly on the right has a Multiply shadow. That’s the only difference between the two! Also, take note of “opacity” located directly below the Blend Mode drop down. Low (or decreased) opacity creates softer shadows, as if the light is diffused or the element is further away from the background or source of light. High (or increased) opacity creates darker shadows, as if the light is very bright or harsh or the object is very close to the background.

    • Color: You can change the color of your shadows. I typically use a dark, charcoal grey. However, there are times when I want a “warmer” shadow and go for a dark, rich brown or “cooler” shadow and go for a blue—black. I seldom use pure black as the color of the shadow is too dark and looks unnatural (unless the light is super strong or I’m going for a gritty, super contrasty look). Also, if I’m working with a dark or black background, I may opt for light grey to give myself greater wiggle-room with opacity.
    Advance technique: Make the shadow its own layer!

    1. With your arrow directly over the shadow effect, right click, then choose “create layer.” This will create a new layer that is the drop shadow.

    Notice in the picture below, there is a new layer that is the drop shadow.
    2. With this new “drop shadow” layer, you can now manipulate it however your heart desires. A technique I use often is “transform,” which is command T on my platform. With the transform tool enacted, I often use “warp” to alter the shape of the shadow.

    Before (with warp tool enacted):
    After: Look at the subtle differences between the three butterflies’ shadows. In the third (or far right) butterfly, I used two different drop shows using the techniques described in the tutorial above.

    One shadow is set at—
    Distance: 67
    Spread: 0
    Size: 57

    The second shadow is set at—
    Distance: 16
    Spread: 0
    Size: 21

    On the first shadow, I used the warp tool as describe above. On the second shadow I created a mask, then “erased” away portions that created discord. Discord—when you create shadows on separate layers, then run filters or blending modes on those layers, there may be additive affects that produce VERY dark, unnatural shadows. To correct this, I use a layer mask to erase away portions of the undesired shadow. You can see that mask in the picture above.

    It is a lot more work to create shadow layers then mask them. However, these added steps and attention to detail bring our digital scrapbooking layouts to life! We go from flat, and two-dimensional, to 3D! Next month I will have a new tutorial on adding a gradient mask to an element to create the illusion of added depth.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to post them below, or PM me at The Lily Pad. I’m Lisa, aka Armygrl.
    ajm, Ferdy, cfile and 2 others like this.
  3. cfile

    cfile My bags are packed for Platform 9 3/4

    Sep 2, 2011
    Love this Lisa @ArmyGrl, and I will relook at this tomorrow or during the week when I have more time.. I LOVE shadows and love adding new ways to my arsenal of PS techniques. Thanks for taking the time to do this!
  4. HeatherB

    HeatherB Ain't nothin wrong with a few dust bunnies!

    Jun 2, 2010
    Great tutorial, Lisa! I really like the impact of having each butterfly with its custom shadowing all lined up to see the differences at a glance. I'll have to come back to this to see in more detail! :)
  5. Ferdy

    Ferdy Heavy Metal Head Banger

    Oct 21, 2009
    amazing tutorial, thank you so much for explaining every step here!!
  6. Rachel Jefferies

    Rachel Jefferies Designer

    Jun 12, 2011
    Such fabulous tutorials Lisa, you are amazing!! :beat:heartlub
  7. IntenseMagic

    IntenseMagic Some grannies cuss a lot. I'm some grannies.

    Feb 28, 2012
    Such a fabulous tutorial!! Thanks so much for sharing!!
  8. ajm

    ajm Well-Known Member

    Dec 19, 2010
    Such an awesome detailed tutorial! Thanks for taking the time and effort for creating this!:heartlub @ArmyGrl
  9. wvsandy

    wvsandy Grinning Granny

    Apr 15, 2011
    Wonderful teaching tutorial so full of examples! Thank you for this!
  10. cinderella

    cinderella I was alone

    Oct 31, 2012
    Awesome tutorial, Lisa! Thank you so much for sharing.
  11. mywisecrafts

    mywisecrafts Well-Known Member

    Jun 2, 2020
    Wonderful seeing the techniques others use to incorporate in my repertoire!
  12. keepscrappin

    keepscrappin ScrapWithTheWind

    Apr 2, 2010
  13. dotcomkari

    dotcomkari The Deaf Superstar

    May 24, 2012

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