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Adobe Digital Imaging How-Tos: Layer Styles: Drop Shadows in Adobe Photoshop CS5


  1. #97 Layer Styles: Drop Shadows

Article Description

Dan Moughamian shows you how to add a drop shadow in Adobe Photoshop CS5.

#97 Layer Styles: Drop Shadows

Sometimes the addition of a drop shadow can help that text to stand out against the details and colors in your picture.

  1. Highlight the text layer that needs a drop shadow applied, and then from the bottom of the Layers panel, click and hold the Layer Effects button, (second from left), and choose Drop Shadow (Figure 97a).
    Figure 97a

    Figure 97a The different layer effects (or Layer Styles) available from the Fx pop-up menu at the bottom of the Layers panel.

  2. This opens the Layer Style dialog box and activates the Drop Shadow settings. The effect will be previewed on the document.
  3. Apply the Structure and Quality settings as needed. Many times, all that is needed are minor tweaks to the Opacity, Angle, and Distance. Click OK when finished (Figure 97b).
    Figure 97b

    Figure 97b Minor tweaks to Opacity, Angle, and Distance will often provide a good result for a text-based drop shadow.

    Blend Mode—This setting determines how the shadow will be blended with the background pixels. Because shadows are by definition dark, leaving this set to Multiple is usually a good idea.

    Opacity—This setting determines the opacity or strength of the shadow.

    Angle—This setting refers to the angle of the simulated light that is falling across the letters in your text and thus casting a shadow. Typically, values between 135 degrees and 45 degrees work best, in terms of maintaining readability and creating a pleasing look.

    Distance—This setting defines the distance in pixels between the center point of the shadow text and the text layer itself. Usually, values between 4 and 10 pixels suffice for most photographic uses.

    Spread—This setting is analogous to feathering a selection or mask; it tends to increase the width of the shadow's lettering or shape.

    Size—This setting defines how large the shadow is. The larger you make it, the softer it becomes, and the less defined it becomes.

    Quality—For text shadows, leave these settings to their default.

Layer Effects are like adjustment layers or Smart Filters in the sense that they are applied nondestructively.