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Create Extractions and Custom Cast Shadows

By Thursday, April 23, 2015 (MDT) 5 Comments

Creative Team Member, Miki, takes you beyond a simple drop shadow, demonstrating how to create custom cast shadows using an extracted image in Adobe Photoshop.


1. Extract the Image. Open your photo and duplicate the photo (Ctrl + J). For best results, zoom the image to 300% and select the Pen Tool, located in the Tools Palette. Using the Pen Tool (versus the Magic Wand, Quick Selection Tool or Magnetic Lasso) gives you more control, although it does take a little more time.

Trace the edges of the image by connecting anchor points. You may have to zoom out once in a while during the process to see the full image, depending on the complexity of the background and colors in your photo. Once all anchor points are connected (a closed path, it has no beginning or ending), select the Path option from the Options Bar and ‘Make a Selection’. Your image will now have marching ants around it. Select Command + X or Ctr + X to delete the unwanted background.


The image looks like it’s floating in mid-air and needs to be grounded. A shadow will give the image definition and a grounded effect.

2. Create the Shadow Image. Create a new 300 DPI 12×12 Layout. Open and drag an ArtsyPaper from ArtPlay Palette Spring Showers onto your layout. Using the Move Tool, drag the extracted image onto the paper. Notice that the image looks flat. You can apply a simple Drop Shadow Layer Style, but this yields limited results.

Duplicate your image (Command + J or Ctrl + J). From the Options Bar at the top of your screen, select Adjustments > Curves (Command + M or Ctrl + M). From the Curves Graph Window, grab the top right portion of the line and pull the graph line to the bottom. The image will become black. Click OK. In the Layers Menu, drag the black (shadow) image below the extracted image. You will now work with this shadow image.


3. Create a Custom Shadow. Duplicate the shadow image. You will be creating 2 different shadows, a drop shadow behind the image and a cast shadow.

Hide the bottom shadow layer for now by clicking on the eye icon in the Layers panel. With the top layer shadow image selected, in the Options Bar, select Filter > Distort > Wave. Adjust the settings to: Generators: 5; Wavelength: Min. 1, Max. 999; Amplitude: Min. 1 and Max. 6; Type: Sine; Randomize: Repeat Edge Pixels. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and adjust the blur. Experiment with the Radius to give the image some dimension.


4. Create a Cast Shadow. To create a Cast Shadow, turn on and highlight the bottom shadow layer in the layers menu. Select the Transform Tool. Go to Edit > Transform > Distort or (Command T or Ctr T), right click and select Distort. With the Move Tool, select a corner anchor and begin moving the shadow so that it looks like it’s laying on the ground. You may need to use the Rotate Arrow to get the desired angle. Use the Warp Tool to position the shadow under the bottom of the image. Keep in mind the source of light so that the image and shadow are congruent.


5. Apply a Gradient. Lock the shadow. The Lock Tool is found at the top of the Layers Menu. Set the Foreground to a medium gray and the Background to white. From the Toolbox, select the Gradient Tool (Linear Gradient, Mode Normal, Opacity 100%, Dither and Transparency checked) and drag your mouse across the shadow from the top to bottom.

The part of the shadow that is closest to the image should be darker and the part further away should be lighter. Apply a Gaussian Blur and reduce the opacity of the shadow as desired.


6. Create a Grounded Effect. To create a grounded effect, add Textures, ArtStrokes, LightLeaks and/or Brushes.


Click HERE to see further details and products used.

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Author Anna

Freelance digital design professional creates art and education for the digital scrapbooker and photo enthusiast while seeking the artsy in everyday life.

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