Creating a Custom Shadow

Hello there…I’m Angie from Gennifer’s creative team and I’m going to give you a few tips and tricks on how to create your own custom shadows.

Now you can always use the default shadow in Photoshop’s layer styles…and I do most of the time. But sometimes you just want a little something extra and that’s when I make my own shadow. It just gives the item a slightly more realistic feel.

I know there are probably 54 different ways to do this same process in Photoshop, but here’s how I’ve learned it. (Note: I am using CS5, so the steps may vary slightly depending on the version you are using.)

First, add a new layer UNDER the item you want to shadow. Now, with your blank layer highlighted in the layers panel, hold down the Command button (or Control button on a PC) and hover your curser over the SHAPE in the layer above. Note: it has to be over the shape and not the name of the layer. Click on the shape and you should get a set of marching ants around your object over in the layout.

Next go to Select – Modify – Feather. I usually feather it between 5 – 9 (pixels), but this will depend on the size of your canvas (mine is a 12 x 12) and what feels more realistic to you. I’m using a 9 pixel feather here.



Your marching ants should have bumped out slightly, and now you need to fill your shape. Go to Edit – Fill. I default to using black with the normal mode, and 65% opacity. You can always drop the opacity on your layer later if you need to later. You could change the color to more closely match the color of the item you are shadowing. This would be more realistic since shadows tend to take on a tint of color. I’m lazy, though. I generally leave it at black unless my element is a very light color. (The lighter the color the less “real” my black shadow will look.)


Hit Command + D to get rid of the marching ants (or Control + D on a PC), and your shadow is already looking fabulous. I usually bump the shape over two steps to the right and two steps down to start with…and then adjust the positioning of the shadow from there.


And here is the final shadow layer on it’s own (the bow is from Gennifer Bursett’s “Far and Away” kit.)


See, that wasn’t too hard! Now you can try some other fun stuff, like warping that shadow layer to make parts of the ribbon lift off the page. Have fun!

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