I'm trying to make some real life shadows of depth on some designs. I've attached some examples of another artist's works that illustrate the effect I'm trying to achieve in Illustrator CS6

enter image description here

Okay Guys here's what I tested. I did a simple square example as it's easiest to illustrate.

enter image description here enter image description here

I was able to manually make the shadow effect. Even enlarging it's distance of shadow as I 'went down' into the design.

*My question is for anyone is how can I keep the shadow effect, as it's own shape/vector? I know I could trace the shadows, but wanted to know if there is a way (for more difficult shadows) to have the shadow as it's own vector shape?

  • Hi Patrick, thanks for your question. Could you tell us what you tried that didn't work? Always good to show some effort, and your chances for a good answer increase. You basically just create the different shapes and then use a clipping mask for the shadows. You can also either add a noise effect to the shadow or use a texture graphic. You can also add a gaussian blur to the shadows.
    – AndrewH
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 19:12
  • Andrew. Cheers for the fast reply. What didn't work? Well I suppose my goal is to take random shapes, as these examples (circles, octagons, diamonds..etc) and create this type of depth with convincing shadows as if the shapes appear to sink down. These examples illustrate well what I want to learn, but with my own shapes. I am unaware if Illustrator had this. I'll try what you wrote. Thank you very much! I'll let you know how I get on...
    – Patrick
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 11:33

2 Answers 2


I made a quick test with 10 minutes of my time and this is what I get:

enter image description here

Image 1: first test. Texture by Stephen Gilbert.

Here's what I did:

  1. took a paper texture.
  2. put a multiply layer on top for color.
  3. Made a clipping mask in the shape of a hole.
  4. Copied steps 1-3 behind.
    1. Released Clipping mask
    2. Offset it and then nudged it to side.
    3. Reapplied mask.
  5. Repeated step 4 a few times.
  6. For shadows I took one layer
    1. Then filled it black
    2. Dropped opacity
    3. Applied a blur
    4. Offset it.
  7. for final touch up I added a dark layer in same style below each one for thickness.

You could do MUCH better this was my first attempt after all. Colors and textures could certainly be better.


Each color would be its own layer. double click on the layer to bring up the layer style pallet. You can now apply drop shadows, emboss effects, etc. Should be very easy to recreate this type of design this way.

  • Cheers Tin Monkey. I'm going to give your advice and AndrewH as well.
    – Patrick
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 11:33

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