How to Create a Realistic Drop Shadow?

You cannot make a photo appear realistic without shadows in it. Shadows help make the images more natural and professional. But what can you do if the photo, for some reason, does not show the shadow? In that case, you can use the Photoshop application to create a shadow effect.

Photoshop drop shadow effect is one of the best and most effective ways to create a realistic shadow in an image. You can create and edit the shadow the way you want, or as it requires to ensure the best result.

But how do you create a Photoshop shadow effect in an image or add a drop shadow? Well, you will find the answers right here as I have prepared this article with a drop shadow tutorial. You will also find more relatable information to help you understand why this effect is essential and how it helps.

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What Is A Photoshop Drop Shadow Effect? And How Does It Work?

Photos are no longer used for commercial or business purposes only. From regular Instagram posts to modeling poses, all photos are now used for various purposes. And with the rising number of social media sensations, these photos play a vital role in people’s lives.

So no matter your purpose, you would want them to be perfect, natural, and realistic. One of the best ways to achieve that is using the shadow effect. And that brings us to the Photoshop drop shadow effect.

The drop shadow is one of the most effective ways to convince the audience about the photo’s authenticity. It is a faint shadow cast behind or underneath the object using Photoshop tools. You can also say that it is an artificial visual to create a shadow to make an image subject realistic.

The drop shadow is done by creating a shadow just behind the photo object. It makes the object look like it is placed against a 3D-looking background.

This shadow effect is highly popular for e-commerce product images. Other than that, drop shadow offers a realistic vibe in an image, helping your audience grow and trust your service. That is why it is essential to know how to create a realistic drop shadow for any product.

There are two types of drop shadows:

  • Cast shadow
  • Form shadow

While both types of shadows are determined by their light sources, distance, and direction, they are different from one another. The cast shadow is the shadow we see appearing a little further than the object, on the wall, or other objects. On the other hand, form shadows appear within that particular object.

The specialty of a cast shadow is that the further it goes from the object, the blurrier it gets. It is also one of the most common shadow effects people use to make the photo natural. So if you want to work on Photoshop shadow effects, it is essential to know this part.

How to Create a Realistic Drop Shadow?

Creating a realistic shadow effect requires the use of the right tools and precision. And if you know how Photoshop tools work, it won’t be a tough job for you.

Nevertheless, I have prepared a step-by-step tutorial to help you learn how to create a realistic drop shadow using Photoshop tools. Let’s take a glance at the steps we will follow for Photoshop drop shadow creation.

  1. Open The Image In Photoshop
  2. Create A Clipping Path
  3. Remove The Background
  4. Create A Duplicate Layer
  5. Create A New Background Behind The Isolated Object
  6. Determine The Cast Shadow/Foreground Color
  7. Create A Drop Shadow
  8. Create A Layer From The Drop Shadow
  9. Distort The Drop Shadow
  10. Create An Alpha Channel
  11. Create A Gradient Within The Alpha Channel
  12. Blur The Selection
  13. Create A Layer Mask
  14. Consider The Light Source And Clean Up Shadows

Now, get ready with the Photoshop application on your computer to edit an image. Follow the details one by one until you get the final result.

Step 1: Open The Image In Photoshop

Start with launching the Photoshop application on your device. If you already have it opened, there is no need to launch it again. But if you haven’t, spot the Photoshop application on your computer first and double-click on it. It will launch the application on your device to start your work.

Then open the image on your Photoshop application for editing. Go to the menu bar and click on the File option. Once the drop-down menu opens, click on Open, which will take you to your device’s storage.

You can also press CTRL+O for shortcuts to open the menu. Then select the photo you want to create a drop shadow of. Double-clicking on the image will automatically upload it on your Photoshop app.

Step 2: Create A Clipping Path

It is not always mandatory to create a clipping path to remove the original background for the image. If the original background is perfect, you can create a drop shadow effect without modifying it.

However, since drop shadow images deal with product or object photos, there is no harm in learning how you can use these options when necessary. So here, we will start creating a clipping path around the object.

On the Toolbar on your left-hand side screen, you will find the Pen Tool. You will need it to create a clipping path with precision. If you do not want to use the Pen Tool, you can opt for the Lasso Tool, which also helps create a clipping path.

Select the tool and draw around the edges of the photo subject. Stay as close as you can to the edges to get a better result. You can Zoom into the image and enlargen it to see the edges more clearly.

Read More:- Image Masking Using Photoshop

Step 3: Remove The Background

Once you are done with your selections, right-click on the image, and a drop-down menu will appear. Click on Make Selection to finalize your clipping path work.

Next, you need to add the Layer Mask to separate the subject from its background.

Go to the Layer Panel and click on Layers to open the layer boxes. Click on the square box, which will add a Layer Mask over your selection.

After that, you will notice that the original background is removed. And the photo subject now has a transparent background.

Step 4: Create A Duplicate Layer

The thing about editing images using multiple steps is that you never know when you might need to get back to the original layer and make necessary corrections. So it is safe to duplicate the layer and keep the image intact while you carry on editing it.

This part is comparatively simpler, and you can do it in a blink. Just select the original image layer and press CTRL+J (Command+J on MAC). You can also do it by right-clicking on the original photo layer and selecting Duplicate Layer from the drop-down menu.

Step 5: Making A Background Behind The Isolated Object

You need to select a new background and use the Fill Color option for it.

It is more like a hidden background in the image. Go to the Layers Panel and click on New from the drop-down menu.

You can also create a new layer by pressing CTRL+Shift+N on Windows or Command+Shift+N on MAC. Thus, you have created a new background layer for your image. But you still need to fill it with a color and we will choose white here.

Go to the Menu bar and click on the Edit menu. And then choose to Fill from the drop-down menu.

You can go for either Solid or Gradient colors. Select Color for the Contents option and choose any color from the color palette. You can drag the slider up or down to change color options.

Step 6: Determine The Cast Shadow/Foreground Color

Of course, you need to change the foreground color to ensure the drop shadow stays visible and does not look odd against it. And whether you notice it or not, shadows also have color variations. Some are light, while others are deep, depending on the light source and object type. So we need to find the object’s form shadow to determine the foreground color.

Go to the Toolbar and select the tool that looks like an eyedropper. It is called the Eyedropper Tool, and we will need it here. Selecting the tools will show you the Foreground Color option at the bottom.

Then select the Foreground Color tool to get the Color Picker (Foreground Color) palette box. You can select the color from the palette by clicking on it. You can also slide the bar up or down to adjust the shades.

I suggest picking a lighter shade from the left area for the best result. When satisfied with the foreground color, click OK to make the changes.

Step 7: Create A Drop Shadow

Now, go back to the layer where you copied the image after removing the background from the object. Select that layer and look at the bottom part of the dialog box.

There you will see an option that says fx. Click on it to open the drop-down menu, and you will find the Drop Shadow option at the bottom.

When you click on the option, it will open a Drop Shadow box that says Layer Style. There, you will find everything from Blend Mode, Opacity, Angle, Distance, Contour, etc.

But don’t worry too much about these options now as you do not have to do much here. However, these options will require an adjustment layer. For now, keep an eye on the drop shadow around the object and click OK if you are satisfied for now.

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Step 8: Create A Layer From The Drop Shadow

You have added a shadow already, and now you only have to create a layer to separate the shadow. Doing this will help you modify the shadow and give it an independent form.

To do it, click on Layers from the menubar and select Layer Style from the drop-down menu. It will open another drop-down menu, and you need to click on Create Layer from the given options.

If clicking this opens a pop-up box, everything has gone well. So click OK and close this option.

Step 9: Distort The Drop Shadow

To distort the drop shadow you created earlier, make sure to select the photo layer first. You will find the image in the Layers option on the right side of the screen.

Then go to the menu bar and select Edit to open the drop-down menu. Once the drop-down menu is opened, click on Transform and then Distort from the next drop-down menu. Selecting this option will allow you to pull on the shadow effect you created.

However, here you also need to open up your artistic side and see how it would work for a real shadow. Think about a light source and imagine how the shadow would fall against the light source.

You should also determine the vanishing point from where the shadow begins to fade. It is also part of the task to determine how far the shadow naturally falls to fix the vanishing point.

Another thing you can do is select some sections of the shadow effect you created and give them an independent transformation. This way, you will be able to ensure all parts of the photo object fall on the floor and wall based on the light source.

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You can use the Blending Mode for this, which you will find on the right-side Layer panel. Change the mode to Normal and the Fill to 100%.

If you need to modify the shadow effect, simply draw around the area using the Rectangular Marquee Tool. Then again, select Edit from the menu bar and then select Transform and Distort from the drop-down menu one by one. Then you can edit the shadow’s position to make it natural.

After that, you must apply the Transformation. You can use the Paintbrush and Eraser tools to modify and correct the shadow edges. Then go back to the Layers panel’s Blend Mode and change the mode to Multiply. And finally, reduce the Fill from 100% to 75%.

Step 10: Create An Alpha Channel

Are you getting a realistic shadow now? Well, it’s still not complete yet because you need to make some more adjustments to make it realistic enough. Here, you can use the alpha channel to blur the areas that will show the fading shadows.

Go to the Windows panel and select Channels from the drop-down menu. Then select New Channel from the pop-up menu options.

Selecting the New Channel will show you a dialog box with the same name. You can keep the name Alpha 1 as given in the option and select Selected Area under Color Indicates.

Read More:- How to Smooth Edges in Photoshop 2022

Step 11: Create A Gradient Within The Alpha Channel

If you now look at the Layers panel on your right, you will notice Alpha 1 as one of your created channels. Here, you need to ensure the square box next to the layer is marked so that the eye icon is visible.

Then go to the Toolbar and select the Gradient Tool. Before you move further, make sure the bottom menu has black as the foreground and white as the background.

You also need to ensure that the slope at the top menu area is set as black to white. And the slope has to be one-dimensional.

Once you set these up, place your pointer at the shadow’s furthest point or beyond. Then draw it to the closest area of the object where the shadow is. This will create a red overlay over the photo to show the selections.

Step 12: Blur The Selection

The red overlay you see in the image shows how the masking works over the image. But if it seems distracting, you can remove it. Just click on the eye icon on the Alpha 1 layer, and it will be gone.

Next, click on the top channel on the Channel layer to separate the Alpha channel.

Then go to the Layers panel from the menu bar and click on it. And then, select Blur from the drop-down menu, and once it shows another drop-down menu, select Lens Blur.

A dialog box will show up, allowing you to customize your choices. Keep the Preview option checked to keep an eye on the changes and progress. Under the Depth Map option, select Alpha 1 as the Source.

As for the Blur Focal Distance slider, you should keep it at 0. And make sure to check the box next to Invert.

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Slide the Radius bar to a higher number, such as 67 or 70, based on your requirement. You don’t have to make any other changes and leave other options as default before clicking Ok.

Step 13: Create A Layer Mask

Go to the menu bar and click on the Select panel. And then select Load Selection from the drop-down menu.

For Channel, select Alpha 1 and New Selection for Operation option and click OK.

Now, there will be a dark shadow over the Alpha channel’s gradient. Go to the menu bar’s Select panel and click on Inverse from the drop-down menu. For shortcuts, you can press CTRL+Shift+I (COMMAND+Shift+I on MAC).

Then go to the right side Layers panel and select the Layer Mask icon from the bottom. Once the mask is applied to the image, you will see that the furthest parts of the shadow seem a bit faded.

Step 14: Consider The Light Source And Clean Up Shadows

Now it is time for the final checkups and adjustments. Observe the image for some time and see if any part of the shadow appears to be on the wrong side or seems unnatural. Since we are creating a realistic shadow here, it is important to ensure there is no flaw in the image.

Find Eraser Tool Photoshop

If the shadow seems to be at any part of the image where it does not seem realistic, you can use the Eraser Tool to remove the parts. If any part of the shadow does not appear solid or too light, you can adjust the Opacity level to correct it.

Read More:- How to change sky color in Photoshop

Drop Shadow Service For E-Commerce: When Should You Use It? 100

Realistic shadow is highly useful for e-commerce product photos, as it helps make the images more natural and reliable to the eyes of the audience. And making the images authentic is the most effective way to make your business stand out.

So the best way to achieve a realistic and authentic shadow look for every product image is to hire a professional drop shadow service. Only a professional team will know the challenges the images come with and offer the best result using their experience and in-depth knowledge.

Here in Clipping Arts India, we have a professional team that works on various photo editing tasks. And services from CAI include everything from Background Removal, Clipping Path, or Photoshop Drop Shadow And Shadow Reflection Service. As you can see in the sample images, our team edits photos of clothes, jewelry, accessories, sportswear, and pretty much everything to make the products eye-catching.

Frequently Asked Question

Photoshop has many tools to create a realistic shadow for any image subject. You can use the drop shadow effect to create a realistic shadow for any product.

Drop shadow helps improve the image quality and makes the photograph look more realistic to the audience. It is highly beneficial for growing the audience and boosting product sales.

Using Photoshop drop shadow effect helps improve the image quality. It also helps remove unnecessary background and enhance the image.


The Photoshop drop shadow effect does the unthinkable. It helps create a shadow effect from scratch, only based on an image object and your imagination.

So, if you know how to create a drop shadow in Photoshop, you can create a realistic shadow effect for any image with some practice. And if you need further help or a partner to take your burdens off your shoulder, you can always reach out to us.

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