Tip: Better shadows in Photoshop


Shadows are great ways to jazz up your newspaper layouts. Today, you can even make decent looking shadows in InDesign — you don’t even need to use Photoshop. But with Photoshop, you can make a few adjustments that make the shadow more realistic. Here’s one option. It makes the corners of an element appear higher off the paper than the centers of the edges. I use it to create photographic prints. Let’s make one.

First, open a Photoshop document in whatever size is needed to contain the element you want to draw. Create a new Layer — you don’t even have to name it. You can use the Layers panel or the Layer drop down menu.


Draw the rectangle or square and select Layer > Layer Style > Drop shadow. You’ll get a dialog box with some choices, and you can certainly experiment with these. We’ll use Distance of 4, Spread of 0 and Size of 16. You can make the size larger, but you might need to feather it a bit. Let’s forget it. You can probably leave the other settings as they are.


Next, right-click or go to the Layer command and change layer into a Smart Object and then Rasterize it (again, Layers menu or right click).

Now we want to make the shadow thinner along the middle of each edge so it appears the corners are lifted. Easy. Click on the Section Ellipse tool (hold down the Selection Rectangle tool to switch it) and draw a thin ellipse wider than the edge. After it’s drawn, you can use your arrow keys to nudge it up or down, left or right.


When you have it where you want it, hit Delete to get ride of what’s inside the ellipse, then Deselect it (Select > Deselect or Ctrl-D). Then do the same on all four sides. I prefer a more radical ellipse and cut on the top and bottom than on the sides, but that’s taste. The larger shadows at the corners make them appear lifted.


Then place a photo in it, and it looks like a real print. If you angle it a bit, it looks even more real.

nikaYou can have some fun with this by making the shadows bigger (mine are pretty subtle) or “curl” the corners more by making the ellipse rounder.

E-mail  (bobatnewsdesignschooldotcom)   me if you have questions or need assistance. Check out my InDesign tips

Categories : InDesign

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It was the winter of 1994, and I put up my first news design site at According to some estimates, that made it one of the first 10,000 sites in web history. Makes me feel old. If you need advice with your design work, let me know. I would be happy to help. You can contact me by e-mail  (bobatnewsdesignschooldotcom)  .

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