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I want to create a realistic shadow effect to my products like in this image.

Original: enter image description here

The problem is I can't understand the process of creating this kind of shadow from layer structure. The layer structure of the original shadow looks like this and the actual shadow layer shown below it.

Layer structure and layer itself: enter image description here

layer behind the notebook enter image description here

I managed to create my version by looking at the shadow.

My Shadow on Notebook: enter image description here

Can someone tell me how to achieve this shadow to any product in front view or perspective?

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  • 2
    Hi and welcome. I fail to understand what is super realistic about the shadow?
    – joojaa
    Jan 2, 2018 at 12:58
  • @joojaa I think because it's both a drop shadow and a cast shadow. Cast shadows have to manually be created an can't be accomplished with the drop shadow layer style.
    – Scott
    Jan 2, 2018 at 16:01
  • 1
    @Scott may be more realistic, but super realistic in my book means physical based rendering.
    – joojaa
    Jan 2, 2018 at 16:03

5 Answers 5

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I have been obsessed with this question for a while.

Imho you can not do this with built-in filters or drop shadow on Ps, or Gimp as far as I know.

Let me analyze what this shadow is about.

enter image description here

A. You have a triangular zone with a gradient, where on the right corner you do not have any blur, because the object is touching the floor, so the shadow is sharp, but on the far side you have a lot of blur because the part of the notebook that is casting that part is far from the floor. This indicates a softbox as iluminant.

B. You then have a normally blurry shadow.

C. But this shadow has a logarithmic-ish decay.

The main obstacle is point A I tried masking, making a tiny triangle, and making a transparent gradient (That could work but is tricky), using motion blur, and zoom blur.


But as I am a fan of using vectors, here is an option. The image on the right is the original reference. I used Corel Draw, but the process should be the same on Ilustrator.

I have the cover pasted as a new object on top of my shadow shapes.

I constructed 2 shapes, red and purple. But a very important thing is the extra node on the purple shape. It is highlighted with the green lines. This node will translate to the corresponding vertex on the red shape.

enter image description here

And I mixed the shapes. https://helpx.adobe.com/in/illustrator/using/tool-techniques/blend-tool.html

enter image description here

You can notice how this extra node produced triangle A.

There is an extra feature on the original shapes. The rounded corner of the top-left is to smooth that part of the shadow.

Now I converted the combined shapes to a bitmap because I need the effect to be fixed, and I added a transparency. I am aiming for the darkest color of the shadow to match the tone of the target image. I could have colored the original shape this light gray, but I need the full tonal range of the image for the next step.

enter image description here

Now I edit the curves to give the "logarithmic-ish" decay on the tones of the shadow. This curve is very simple because I used the full tonal range from black to white.

enter image description here


The result is decent. We have triangle A, gradient B and the proper fall of C.

It needs a bit of tweaking to match the original. But the effect is more consistent than only using a drop shadow. That effect would imply a floating flat cover instead of a notebook on the floor with volume.

enter image description here


For a more realistic shadow, I would use a 3D program with a physically correct render. I could then import the shadow as a layer in case I need it as a template.

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  • It is a physically accurate shadow. Assuming a large light source and an extruded shape reaching all the way to the floor. Possibly there’s plugins that do this. Other option is indeed 3D software. Jun 20, 2023 at 6:12
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The original shadow was created as black shape on white background. I assume you did the same with your version. The layer structure is simple. Its purpose is to make the shadow available on any background, also on another image, not only on white. The method can be useful in mockup templates.

You can do the same by inverting your shadow and using it as a layer mask for exposure or curves adjustment layer. The adjustment layer is adjusted to make the underlying layer (=the background) darker and the layer mask defines the affected area + reduces the depth. Black = no effect, White=full effect

Do the following:

  • invert your shadow (Image > Adjustments > Invert) you need it as white on black
  • copy the inverted shadow to the clipboard
  • insert a background image behind your object
  • insert an exposure adjustment layer just above the background
  • adjust the exposure to dark
  • add a layer mask to the exposure layer
  • select the mask icon in the layers panel and hold Alt key at the same time; this brings the mask to the screen for edits
  • paste in place the inverted shadow
  • click the image icon in the layers panel

Now the shadow should be effective.

You can do the same with less hassle and without inverting the shadow. Simply place the black on white shadow layer just above the background and give to it blending mode=multiply. Adjust the opacity for good shadow depth.

Actually you do not need white at all, because transparency does the same, if you have a separate background.

Adjustment layer method gives mode adjustability - especially, if you use curves layer ( for example. some weird underlight effects are possible)

How to create the shadow starting from the object:

  • create a white layer, you need it as adjustment background
  • place a copy of your object layer above the white layer
  • goto Image > Adjustments > Curves and make the object copy full black (its useful now to duplicate the black object and hide it in the layers panel)
  • goto Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur and make the black shape fuzzy
  • move the original object to the top in the layer stack
  • adjust the opacity and placement of the shadow layer
  • for extended realism insert another shadow with different blur and different placement. If the other blurred version uses motion blur, very different effect is possible.

Here's an example

enter image description here

Instead of white background any image can be used. The blurred black shadow layers can be a little better with blending mode = multiply. Otherwise someone can see not a shadow, but a different solid grey object because in normal blending grey replaces the color. Blending mode normal works on white and grey backgrounds.

Here's another example (sorry for weird color selection, it happened to be opened in Photoshop):

enter image description here

Finally Motion blur was tested. It created quite sharp edges. They were fixed with Gaussian blur which was applied after motion blur:

enter image description here

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You might do better using two shadow layers. One like what you have, and another one with a tighter fit, that is, varying from black to white over a much shorter distance. Looking at the first image in the question, I see a fairly tight dark shadow snug to the object, and a fainter, softly spread out shadow fading out over a larger distance.

You can get different looks by using different compositing operations on the two shadows. I usually just play with the layer's alpha, until I get what I like. Between adjusting shadow darkness, tightness, and the layer transparencies, you're likely to get close to what you want.

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Create a drop shadow by using the right mouse button to right-click on a layer, selecting the blending option, and then clicking "OK." That is the approach that adheres strictly to reality and is the simplest one. I appreciate it!

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I'm pretty sure that one is made with Filters / Path Blur / Rear Synch Flash
That Looks something like this:
enter image description here
Then some curves to soften the blacks in the shadow
enter image description here
Then adding some textures and overlay shadows can make it look more real too...

enter image description here

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