A Designer’s Guide To Drop Shadows



A Look at Drop Shadows

One of the most common design challenges across many mediums is creating depth when three dimensions are not available. Flat designs can be boring and monotonous. To combat this, it is our job to create designs that jump off the page. For years, designers have been creating the illusion of depth by using a common technique called drop shadows. Drop shadows place a pseudo-shadow behind a design element such as an object or type. This false shadow is controlled via certain parameters to create varying degrees of intensity and softness to simulate realistic shadows. Using this technique makes design elements appear to hover over the page, jumping out and garnering extra attention.

Guide to drop shadows

This adds a lot of depth and dimension to your work instead of having flat, 2-dimensional imagery. Adding depth creates more visual intrigue. It also calls more attention to any element where you’ve applied a drop shadow. Some designers may use a slight drop shadow to darken an area around type in order to make it easier to read. Drop shadows can be created in applications such as Photoshop, and they’re also rendered on the web using CSS styles. We will take a look at both, and how you can use the different parameters and techniques to create many different kinds of drop shadows.

Drop Shadows in Photoshop

Drop shadows can be created in Photoshop using layer styles. Open Photoshop and create a new document. I will use a bold sans serif font, “Franchise,” created with a medium grey. Type a word or a message for this tutorial. In the “Layers” panel, double-click the text layer. The layer styles menu will pop up. Select “Drop Shadow,” and we will experiment with different settings to create different looks. Changing or rearranging any combination of the settings that make up your drop shadow can result in vast differences in how they look.

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