Due to popular demand, another shadowing tutorial!! I used to have Photoshop Elements and was so excited when I upgraded to Photoshop CS4 earlier this year. The added benefits were well worth the upgrade (and I got a ridiculous student discount so I didn’t spend a fortune)! I absolutely LOVE the advanced shadowing options that CS4 offers over PSE.

So, first I’d love to give you all a set of SHADOW STYLES I just saved!!

Please feel free to use them on your scrapbook pages/projects and you may use them for commercial use in the following ways: to create pre-shadowed elements for your kits, on quick pages, and on your shop previews!! You absolutely may not sell them as styles or distribute them. K? Cool. I have no idea what versions of PS these will work in… I’m betting AT LEAST CS3 and CS4… not sure about the others but feel free to try them if you have a different version and let me know how they work!

So, the set has 6 different shadow options: (1) Low shadow for non-bulky items like paper layers, (2) higher, larger shadow for bulky/large elements, (3) shadow for smaller elements, (4) shadow for string or other such thin elements, (5) shadow for transparent/acrylic items, and (6) very low shadow for slight definition on the opposite edges (I’ll explain later…lol).

I set the lighting angle around -44 degrees because I like when the shadows are cast toward the upper left. Most of the time, I set my shadow’s blending mode to LINEAR BURN. I like this setting because the shadow will pick up the color of the layer(s) beneath it. Shadows in real life are not all black. Linear burn does not always work well though. You’ll notice that on very dark shades (like black or navy blue), the shadow will be really strong. You can change the blend mode to find something that works better or take the opacity of the shadow way down. Other colors can be a little tricky too (like pastel yellow). So, just use these styles as a starting point and tweak them as needed for each page you do.  There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to shadows!

So, here are some elements that I applied these styles to. I used the bulky style for the flower and the shell, the paper/low style for the paper waves, the string shadow on the string, and the “smaller elements” shadow on the sea star. (some of the screenshots are clickable to give you a better view!)


Lookin’ pretty good… but let’s take this further. String is really popular right now, so I’ll show you how I do string shadows. So, I have the drop shadow style applied to the string element. Next I’m going to put  the shadow on its own layer. Simply right click on the fx icon next to the layer in the layers palette and select “Create layer.”  The shadow will now be on the layer below the element.


Now I want to warp the shadow so the string looks like it’s lifting off the page in some areas, but keep some of the string close to the page. Select the element’s shadow and hit CTRL+T to put it in Transform mode. Then click the Warp Tool icon along the toolbar at the top (see screenshot below) or go to EDIT>TRANSFORM>WARP.


You will notice that the shadow now has a different bounding box that is split into 9 sections. You can pull at the lines and points to warp the shadow the way you like it. Play with it to see how it affects your shadow.. in particular, play with the ends of the string’s shadow where you want the string ends to look like they’re lifting off the page.


I also wanted parts of the bow to look like they were lifting off the page so I played there too. Notice in this screenshot below how LINEAR BURN affects the shadow’s color. When it overlaps the orange, the shadow is orange… when it overlaps the blue, the shadow is blue! This is why I like to play with the blend mode of my shadows.


Once you’re done warping, hit enter to commit. I’ve also noticed that with real shadows, as an item gets farther away, the shadow gets softer. So, on the ends of the string where the shadow creates the illusion that the string is lifting up, I took an eraser set as a very soft, fuzzy brush with a low opacity (around 25%) and lightened up the shadow on those areas by brushing over those parts of the shadow layer. This step is completely optional.


Here’s the warping I did on the flower…. remember to put the shadow on its own layer first!


For this last step, I have to credit my CT member, Suzann, for giving me the idea. She noticed that in real life, the edges opposite the shadowed sides still have a little bit of definition to them. Look at the shell below. Notice that the bottom right edge just blends into the page and has no shading definition….


So, to add some definition to that other edge, I put the shadow on its own layer and then applied my “slight definition” shadow style to the shell element. Unlike the other styles in this set (which are at -44 degrees) this one is around 120 degrees so a small, light shadow is cast in the other direction. I like the little teeny bit of oomph it adds to my elements…


I especially love to do this on paper mats…


I hope this was helpful! I love playing with shadows… they make such a big difference on your pages! I hope you find the shadow styles helpful too.

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