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The blend modes in Photoshop offer incredible creative options for designers and photographers wanting to enhance images. In Photoshop Blend Mode Magic, Michael Ninness shows Photoshop users how to access and apply blend modes efficiently to achieve an aesthetic vision. He explains the building blocks of layer blending and demonstrates how blend modes can be used for color correction, sharpening, blending images together, adding dramatic glow, applying custom edge treatments, and many other creative effects. Michael also introduces advanced blending options for more experienced Photoshop users. Most of all, he demystifies this essential feature in plain, easy-to-understand terms and inspires photographers to use blend modes in ways they may have never considered before. Exercise files accompany the course.
When it comes to adding a Drop Shadow to a layer inside Photoshop they have made that pretty easy. There is a Drop Shadow layer style. We'll just click on the layer that we want to add the Drop Shadow to and at the bottom of the Layers panel the little Effects icon where you can choose Drop Shadow from the menu. You'll notice that by default the blend mode for a Drop Shadow is set to Multiply because you want your pixels to darken the underline pixels underneath the shadow, and of course you can grab your Move tool here and position the shadow outside the dialog box here manually and you can lower the Opacity, you can change it's Size, make it softer or harder and what not.
I am going to go ahead and hit Cancel here. We're going to use the old school method for creating a shadow because there is no effect for a Cast Shadow, meaning a shadow that trails off at an angle. So we're going to do that the old fashion way. We're going to begin by duplicating the Silhouette layer Command+J or Ctrl+J, create Silhouette copy. We'll go ahead and rename this by double-clicking on the name and saying Cast Shadow and we'll go ahead and move this below the Silhouette layer just by clicking-and- dragging. Great, so we get our Move tool now, press V on the keyboard and we'll just grab that Shadow layer and move it off to the left a little bit.
Now that we have offset the shadow a little bit, let's change its Opacity. I'm just going to press the number 5 on my keyboard and that lowers that Opacity to 50%. Well, I want my shadow not to be black. I want it to be a little bit of color. I want to have color in it. And I still want to be able to see my shadow over this background here. So let's make it the same color as the blue background, just for an example that I want to show you. I'm going to press the I key on my keyboard and I'm going to click on the blue background to sample that color, make it my foreground color.
If I press the Shift+Delete keys or Shift+Backspace key on Windows, I bring up the Fill command or I can choose to use the foreground color or any of these other colors in the pop-up menu. I want to turn on Preserve Transparencies that I only fill the pixels that are actually on this layer instead of the entire layer with this color. So I'm going to go ahead and click OK. And you can see now that when the shadow has been filled with the same color as the blue I have lost the shadow over against the blue background because they are of the same color. I can still see it against the purple on the orange because the Opacity is set to 50%, but where it's overlapping the blue I can't see it. That's why the Multiply blend mode is so important. I'm going to go change the blend mode of the Shadow layer to Multiply, and now you can see that even though it's the same color technically the Multiply blend mode takes those pixels and darkens the pixels underneath. So I can still see my shadow against the blue background and as you shift the shadow across other colors you can see just like in real life a shadow isn't actually black it's just darkening whatever the shadow is cast upon. So in this case the blue is getting darker, the orange is getting darker, and the purple is getting darker, but they are not all the same colors even though the shadow is the same across all three.
Great, so we've got this great effect now where it's more realistic and now we want to create the cast shadow part of this. To do that I want to do a perspective transformation on the shadow and just as a rule of thumb you want to always try to keep things non- destructive as much as possible. I may want to be able to tweak this transformation later on. If that's the case we want to turn this layer into a Smart Object before we do the transformations that we can always go back and readjust it non-destructibly. To do that I'm just going to right- click or Ctrl-click on the Cast Shadow name of that layer and choose Convert to Smart Object. That wraps that content up into a special layer, puts a little special icon on there to let you that it's a Smart Object, and now I'll use Free Transform, Command+T or Ctrl+T, to bring up the Transform bounding box around that layer.
If I hold down the Command key or the Ctrl key on Windows I can grab a handle here and do a free distort. So I'm just going to drag this around and kind of create this cast shadow. I can reposition it as I'm doing the free transform to get it into position, and maybe I want it to have the shadow go across the purple background as well. So again I'm just grabbing that handle, holding down the Command key or the Ctrl key. And once I get it the way I want it I just press the Enter key on my keyboard and that locks in that transformation. Now if I'm not happy with that, I want to distort it some more, because it is a Smart Object if I do Command+T or Ctrl+ T, again that bounding box comes back and remembers that the last transformation I had made. So I can just pick up right where I left off.
I'll hold down the Command key or the Ctrl key again and grab that handle, and just reposition this. So it's a little bit more of a severe angle for that cast shadow, then I press Enter+Apply. So there you have it, a cast shadow using Free Transform on a Smart Object layer and using the Multiply blend mode to make it look realistic.
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