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Applying Realistic Drop Shadows


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#1 JenniferZ

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 12:24 PM

OK -- here's something that I've been struggling with ever since I learned how to use layer masks to weave ribbons, greenery, string, etc. under and over other elements. When I do this, there is inevitably some parts of the element that don't cast a shadow, since in the layers pallette, the element is technically over another one, but the mask is hiding it.

For example, in the image below, you can see (in the long rectangle) that this wooden frame should cast a shadow on everything under it. But, I used a layer mask to weave the purple ribbon (at red arrow) over and under this frame. This was done by placing most of the ribbon over the frame, but using a layer mask to hide the part of the ribbon I wanted to look like it was going under the frame (the part in the red square). As it is, the drop shadow isn't revealed because technically this ribbon layer is over the frame layer, so the drop shadow applied to the frame doesn't show up. Do you have any ideas on how I can get drop shadows where I want them when using layer masks? I have tried "brushing" a grayish/shadow-like low opacity brush in the area and copying and pasting a small section of the drop shadow, but I can't get it to look natural.

Any tips would be appreciated! Thanks!

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#2 Heatheranne

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 12:46 PM

I'm sure that someone will come along who really knows what to do, but I was just wondering - would the shadow work better, if you applied it to the frame before you threaded the ribbon? :-)

If my reply doesn't help, at least it will bump your question up. roflol :-)


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#3 PBarnes

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 01:17 PM

It sounds like you've already tried what I was going to suggest. I usually just go in and use the Burn Tool to draw in some shadow in situations like this. There may be a better way so I'll be watching this thread to see what others say.

#4 Rose Ann

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 01:30 PM

I haven't tried this, but can you put the shadow on it's own layer and then just put it where it would naturally fall?
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#5 JenniferZ

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 02:37 PM

It sounds like you've already tried what I was going to suggest. I usually just go in and use the Burn Tool to draw in some shadow in situations like this. There may be a better way so I'll be watching this thread to see what others say.


I've tried this Pat, but I cannot get it to match the look of the rest of the shadow...maybe I just need more practice...*sigh*

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#6 JenniferZ

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 02:38 PM

I haven't tried this, but can you put the shadow on it's own layer and then just put it where it would naturally fall?



I can put the shadow in its own layer; the problem is, I'd have to put it on top of the frame, so it would fall under the ribbon, then it's covering the frame. I guess if I duplicated the shadow layer and then pulled one on top and then erased the rest of it, that might work...hmmmmmm...

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#7 JenniferZ

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 02:44 PM

I'm sure that someone will come along who really knows what to do, but I was just wondering - would the shadow work better, if you applied it to the frame before you threaded the ribbon? :-)

If my reply doesn't help, at least it will bump your question up. roflol :-)


Thanks, Heatheranne! This is a tough question...I did apply the drop shadow to the frame layer first, but I can only use the mask to hide the part of the ribbon that is directly under the frame. Since the shadow falls outside the boundaries of the frame, the ribbon cannot be hidden past that point, because then there'd be a space between the ribbon and the frame and it wouldn't look realistic anymore -- though it would reveal the frame's shadow.

Does this make sense? (I'm not sure it really does...ROFL!!!!) Thanks for the bump and trying to help! :)

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#8 Heatheranne

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 03:39 PM

You're welcome. I like your shadow layering and erasing idea. I'll be watching to see if that works and in the meantime, someone else may reply to this thread. :-)
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#9 B&K Mom

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 03:52 PM

I guess if I duplicated the shadow layer and then pulled one on top and then erased the rest of it, that might work...hmmmmmm...

I think you've hit it with this idea. That was exactly what I was thinking. I'm interested to see if it works for you. I don't have the luxury of putting a shadow on its own layer in PSE 4 unless I make it myself (also and option...just dup the layer, fill with grey and decrease opacity). But I have done this in the past and even distorted the shape to ad more depth.

Good luck!
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#10 Cheri T

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 03:53 PM

For this, I would try copying the frame layer, complete with shadow, and put on top of the ribbon. Mask away what parts of the frame you don't want to show. I think you'll have to do that "sandwich effect" to get all the proper areas of shadow showing. Hope that works; I've never tried this:)

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#11 JenniferZ

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 04:29 PM

That's another idea, Cheri -- thanks...I'll try this and using the duplicate shadow layer method and see which one works better...I wish Photoshop would just do what I was thinking! LOL :)

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#12 MLLatscrapgirls

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 04:42 PM

The only other thing I can think of trying is the burn tool on a very low opacity setting for shadows, and brushing that over the ribbon where it should have the drop shadow. The advantage of the low opacity is you can "build it up" till you get the look you want. If the other ideas don't give you the look you want, perhaps that will work.

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#13 sunnie2004

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 04:53 PM

This is just how I do it Jenifer and there are a thousand and 1 ways but after I add a shadow I right click the layer and create shadow, it will ask some question I say (in other words stop and leave me alone I know wha I am doing here) ( i forget the question LOL) it will create the shadow in a new layer exactly how you put it. You can create a mask or just magic wand or eraser anything you want out and wither link or merger when you had gotten rid of what you wanted to. It is that easy! all done!
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#14 lvich

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 12:23 PM

Since you are using layer masks, I am assuming that you use Photoshop. If so, in a situation like this, I would separate the shadow from the frame by right-clicking on the layer effects symbol on the layer and choosing Create Layer. I would then duplicate this layer and rearrange it in the layers palette to fall on top of the ribbon. I would then use a layer mask to mask away any other part of the shadow that was not needed.
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