Photoshop: Modern Style Shadows

This tutorial will demonstrate a method to help you create unique shadows, that differs from the traditional “Drop Shadow”.

Modern Style Shadows in Photoshop


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The final result, which can be seen below, is just one example of what you can create. This tutorial is going to be done in such a way, that you can form your shadow into any shape or direction you wish.

The first thing you need to do, is set up your place holder. At first, this will house your image, then we’ll convert it into our shadow. I have simply used a Rounded Rectangle, with a corner radius of 5px.

Once that’s in place, grab your Direct Selection Tool from the Tools on the left, and right click your new shape on the bottom line, towards the middle. Click on “Add Anchor Point” to add a new point. If you want to find the exact center of the shape, use your rulers.

Now that there’s a new anchor point on your shape, you have the ability to bend that line. In my example, I selected the point, and with my Shift key held down, I pressed my up arrow twice to move it up by 20px.

The next step is to place you image. I’ve gone ahead and added my photo as a new layer in this project.

Once your image is on top of your placeholder, hold down Command (Mac) or CTRL (PC) and click on the Vector Mask of the placeholder’s layer. This will create a selection from your Rounded Rectangle. Once the selection is made, click on the “Add Layer Mask” button at the bottom. This will place your image inside the placeholder.

Now that your image is in place, we’re going to turn the placeholder into the shadow. If you want to save the placeholder, make sure to duplicate the layer first. With that layer selected, grab your Direct Selection Tool once again. This time, select all the points on the bottom right corner by dragging a box around them. Once they are selected, you can move them like you did before. In this example, I moved them 40px left, and 10px down. (Hold your Shift key for increments of 10px). Do this to both the left and right bottom corner.

Once you’re happy with the placement of the shadow, it’s time to blur! As a big supporter of non-destructive editing, I’m going to make sure to convert my layer for Smart Filters by going to Filter > Convert for Smart Filters. This will allow us to now only edit the blur later on, but we can even edit the shape’s form.

For the blur, you’re free to use any blur that you wish, but I found a nice Gaussian Blur worked well. (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur). I chose a value of 6. Decreasing the opacity of that layer to around 70% should give you a nice looking shadow.

If you need to change the blur at any time in the future, simply double click on the Smart Filter. If you wish to alter the actual shape of the shadow, you can double click on the layer’s thumbnail to make your changes.

Again, the direction you take your shadow is completely up to you. Experiment with that you find to work the best. After all, anything is better than the standard “Drop Shadow”. Enjoy!