I have created a logo using two crossed keys. It is a simple matter to add a drop shadow ...but... because one key is resting at an angle atop the other, the upper key needs a shadow that is further away and less dense at the top and close without too much spread at the lower end where it would be touching the table to give the appearance of being on an angle. The shadow also needs to jog up close again where that key is resting on the bottom key. Additionally the client wants to be able to use the entire image on different backgrounds such as wood, stone, concrete etc., so the finished image needs to be on a transparent background. This feels impossible. I have tried several tutorials - all end up with solid backgrounds and none allow for the angled shadow of the top key. Help?

I am not sure how you could do it in illustrator - I tried to find help with tha, but it appears you cannot have a shadow on a transparent object. (In the old days you could delete the object and keep the shadow) The keys I discussed above are photographic, not vectors. I should have attached a photo--I'm sure that would have made it clearer. I did finally find a good tutorial which allows me to create a distorted shadow to create the illusion of space at one end and touching at the other - it even fades out and blurs more as it becomes further from the surface. If anyone else is having this issue to http://www.photoshopessentials.com/photo-effects/cast-shadow/ Thanks for the input.

  • 5
    Might help if you were to post an image of what you have done already.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jun 20, 2017 at 7:06
  • 1
    I would use Illustrator for this personally Jun 20, 2017 at 7:09
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    A screenshot would really help, I'm not sure why you can't just (with each key on a separate layer) add a different drop shadow to each. Not sure why adding a drop shadow would cause you to loose transparency either.
    – Cai
    Jun 20, 2017 at 9:14

1 Answer 1


The drop shadow tool has limitations. When you need custom shadows you have to draw them. If you draw the shadow as a shape and apply effects like glow or feather to soften it you can save the image as a transparent .PNG and this can be used on any background.

The drop shadow tool only draws a shadow parallel to a shape and from one direction. To make dynamic shadows that arc away from an object, and react to the planes of other objects:

Use the drop shadow tool to preview where the shadow will fall (fig 1) and then copy and paste the shape itself, place it behind and below the original and tilt it into place (fig 2). make it a grey shadow color and soften the edges with feather or inner glow.

Where the shadow meets another object you must draw another shape that is offset to show a different plane. (fig 2)

enter image description here

Another way to make the shadow shape, especially long dramatic shadows, is to copy the original shape and place the new one behind the original. Use the Effect>3D>Rotate dialog to lay the shape way back and to the side. Bump up the Perspective in the dialog. After rotating and expanding the shape you'll probably have to stretch it more to be long enough.(fig 3)

Make it a shadow color and soften the edges. (figure 4). Apply a dark to light grey/opaque gradient to make the shadow look like it diminishes into the distance. (fig 5)

If an object gets in the way, send your shadow behind it or cut out the overlapped portion of shadow. Draw in the missing piece, bending your shadow to the planes of the new shape. Blend it and gradient to match the existing shadow (fig 6). enter image description here

  • That's right! Very extensive answer! 👍
    – Nekto
    Jul 6, 2017 at 19:52
  • Alternatively (to the solution #1) you can use not a new shape / object but the second fill with proper visual effects (blur, opacity, etc) to emulate the main shadow of the top object: prntscr.com/fsimpf
    – Nekto
    Jul 6, 2017 at 20:04

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