Creating realistic shadows in Photoshop

Posted by in Design on November 1, 2010

We’ve had a couple of people ask us how to create some realistic shadows in photoshop, so I decided to write a quick little tutorial. For this example, we’re just going to be creating a shadow on a basic rectangle that gives the impression that a corner is being lifted up from the background. Quick note : I’m not going to be giving exact settings, as the best way to learn how to do this stuff is to experiment.

1. Start off by creating a rectangle

2. Now, draw another rectangle roughly the same width as the box created in the previous step, and fill it with black.

3. Move the new black box below the blue one in the layer palette.

4. Apply the gaussian blur filter (filter -> blur -> gaussian blur)

5. Select the warp tool (edit -> transform -> warp) and move around the points to give you something similar to below

6. Now you should have something looking like this :

7. The shadow looks a little bit too spread out, so we’re going to open the warp tool again and tuck in some of the edges.

8. The shadow looks a little bit too spread out, so we’re going to open the warp tool again and tuck in some of the edges. At this point I’ve also taken a small black brush with about 75% hardness, and painted in a thin black line under the blue rectangle to give it more of a base.

9. The final step is to warp the shape one last time to give it the curve on the bottom right. Once that’s done, take a soft brush at a really low opacity, fire up a layer mask, and brush out some of the shadow to give it a more realistic look. Voila!

This is just one of many ways to create shadows in photoshop, but I usually fall back on this when I want to create something a little more organic.

  • Daniel

    I’ve been searching for a way to do realistic shadow for Years, thank You!

    Although, since a few years have passed…there must be a way to do this via vector smart objects somehow…

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  • Greg Babula

    Great tutorial, thanks!

  • SeeL

    Thanks you. It’s a great great tutorial and it’s very rare. I have search for this kind of tutorial for a long time. Thanks again.

  • Matthew Harpin

    Really good outcome, great work Bryan.

  • Roy Kung

    Great Tutorial, I really appreciate it. thanks.

  • Hardik

    oh ! Man its Great So simple Yet Powerful Thanks.

  • vikas kumar nischal

    Thankyou. Thankyou. Thankyou. :)