Hi everyone. It’s Polly Rae here, aka bcgal00, and today I’m going to share with you some of the ways I like to warp and shadow leaves using Photoshop. Many of my pages include clusters and often that includes leaves. In my opinion, they are the perfect accent to a page, whether they are used singly or in a cluster.
Here’s a page I am creating with a kit by Amy Wolff Designs Cinnamon Toasted and Bella Gypsy Awesome Autumn. Five leaf/branch layers create the cluster and have been placed onto the right side of my photo mask. The colors and bulk of the cluster draw your eye to that area and down to the word art and bit of journaling (which I will place underneath later). To easily identify the cluster layers, I color coded them in the layers palette (highlight the layers, right click while hovering over the layers and choose a color from the drop-down menu box). I could finish my page now and be happy with it but I know if I add in some warping and shadowing, I can add more depth and visual interest to the cluster. Let me show you how I am going to achieve that.
Starting with the layer of the bottom base of my cluster, I will apply a drop shadow. A fabulous set of shadow styles I use often and highly recommend is Mommyish Realistic Shadow Styles. To apply the shadow to all your cluster layers, hover over the drop shadow style in the layer, and then press and hold the ALT key while dragging and dropping the shadow style onto the other layers. The drop shadow style may be applied individually on each layer but since I’m a big fan of fast and easy, I like to work with the same shadow, duplicating and tweaking as needed. You can determine which works best for you, as there is no right or wrong way, just a personal preference.
So, now the fun starts with warping! If you double click the drop shadow in the layers palette it will open the layer style box. I can change the color of the shadow (double click inside the color box to open the color picker so you may choose another color), often choosing a dark brown or orange color which creates a warmer, softer shadow; then I change the opacity, pulling the slider as I watch to see how it changes the intensity of the drop shadow color. I tend to work from top to bottom, so adjust the angle of the shadow next, my go-to is about 45 degree, then next is the distance which I decrease to pull the shadow closer to the leaf, the spread I often don’t tweak much, but size I adjust depending on how softly I want to blur the shadow. Believe me, when you start adjusting the layer style, it will soon become second nature to tweak it to your preference. I’m showing you my preference but you are going to determine what suits you. That’s the fun in shadowing, there is no right or wrong, no perfect way of creating them; preference varies from person to person and becomes unique to you!
I open and tweak the layer style box for each leaf, creating a darker, wider shadow as I move up the layers to the top layer. I grab and move the layer style box away from my page if it is covering the area I am making changes to, so make sure the preview box (on the right) is ticked. The last step I do is to warp some of the shadows to create more lift to some of the leaves. Hover over the drop shadow FX and right click, choosing OK when the dialog box pops up. Now a style layer has been inserted below your leaf layer. Click onto that layer, then select (from up top) edit> transform>warp. Now there will be warping mesh placed over the leaf shadow and you can grab and pull the shadow control points or anywhere in the mesh, to move the shadow. To create a lifted corner edge, pull the mesh away from the leaf just a bit, then push in a bit of shadow further down on the edge, thus creating the illusion that part of the leaf has lifted. Because the shadow has been pulled further away from the leaf edge and is more visible, it sometimes is a bit too vivid and stands out too much, so open up the layer style box again if needed, to reduce the opacity a bit.
This may sound like a lot of steps but once you’ve become comfortable with shadowing, it only takes a few minutes to tweak the shadows and it’s worth it because added depth to your page is a good thing! It gives a more realistic look to it; keep in mind that less is more so don’t overdo the shadows. As you can see in my finished page,the shadowing is subtle but adds to the depth and realism of the cluster.
Have fun with shadows, find what suits your style and I look forward to seeing your pages in the gallery! Look for an upcoming blog article about ways to further manipulate shadowing.