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In order to create a realistic drop shadow for an image like this, I can't actually use the Effects panel. Well, I can use the Effects panel to start, but then we're going to need to make a modification. Right now, the vase is sitting on this white background, and I want to cut out the vase from the background. So that we don't have to spend a lot of time doing that, I've actually saved a path within my document. Now the path was drawn with the Pen tool, which is a little bit advanced for the fundamental series, but I just wanted to let you know how I drew it.
You can convert a path into a selection by choosing Make Selection from the flyout menu. I'll accept the defaults and then we'll return back to the Layers panel. Now, in order to hide this white background, I'm going to go to the bottom of the Layers panel and add a mask. Photoshop automatically turns the background into a layer, and you can see from the layer mask that we're hiding all of that white in the background. Now depending on your preferences, you might be seeing a checkerboard behind your vase. If I change this to Medium, we'll click OK, this is the checkerboard that designates transparency in Photoshop.
But as we make this drop shadow, it's going to be harder to see the results if they're overlaying this transparent checkerboard. So I'm going to return back to my Preferences and I'm going to turn that setting back to None. I just wanted you to make sure that you knew that this was actually transparent and not white. Okay, to add the drop shadow, we'll start with the fx, we'll choose Drop Shadow. And you can see that I can reposition the drop shadow, I can make it a soft-edged drop shadow or hard-edged drop shadow. But this drop shadow, it really only works if we're casting a shadow against a flat wall.
The drop shadow itself isn't laying down as if it's casting a shadow from a light source maybe up over here. So I'm going to make it a little bit darker and then reposition it down at the bottom of the vase-- it's basically just a grayscale version of the vase at this point--and then click OK. Now I need to separate this effect from the layer, so I'll right-mouse-click where it says Drop Shadow and choose Create layer. Photoshop is going to warn me that some aspects of the effect cannot be reproduced with layers.
I'm okay with the Drop Shadow effect, so we'll click OK, but there is one thing I need to do. I'm noticing that on the right- hand side I have this little icon. When I double-click on that, Photoshop will bring up the Layer Styles dialog, again into the Advanced Blending area. I need to turn on what is usually on by default, this Transparency Shapes layer. Now I'll click OK and we'll be all set. I want to transform this, but I want to do it in a nondestructive manner, so I'll right-mouse-click and convert this to a Smart Object.
Now we can use Free Transform and I can squish down that shadow. If I right-mouse click, I could also choose things like Skews or Distorts if I want to distort the shadow. But for now, this will be fine, and I'll tap Return or Enter. Now the drop shadow doesn't look correct because when you typically see a drop shadow, the further away from the object, the blurrier and softer the shadow gets. So I'll select Filter and then Blur and Gaussian Blur to give the shadow a blur. I'm going to back off a little bit right there.
What I want to show you is that I need the hard edge here, but I need the soft-edged blur there. So right now I'm going to pay attention to the amount of blur along the edge of the shadow. I don't think 8 pixels is going to be enough; I really want it to drop off to a very soft edge, so I'll select around 16 and click OK. Now the benefit of using the Gaussian Blur as my Smart Filter is that I get a mask automatically. Where the mask is white, we can see the blur, but if I tap the G key to get my Gradient tool and I select the Linear Gradient, if I want to show the blur, then my mask should be white.
If I want to hide the blur, my mask will be black. So we can see that I'm going to drag from white to black. Because I want the blur to show up at the fringes of this drop shadow, I'll start my gradient here and drag down towards the base. Now you can see I have a sharper edge at the base of my vase and then it goes slowly into a more blurry shadow. If I want to refine that or if I don't like the gradient that I drew, we could start a little bit lower and drag down again.
Now I think you can really see that the shadow is starting to drop off. The other thing that we might want to do is we might want to lower the opacity of the shadow as it fades back. In order to do that, I would use a layer mask on the Drop Shadow layer itself. So I'll click on the thumbnail for the Drop Shadow layer, click on my Mask icon. My mask is white so I can see everything in the layer. I've got my Gradient tool. I want to see the shadow at the base of the vase, but I will click and drag up, and we can now see that that shadow disappears.
So the mask for the Smart Filter is controlling where the blur appears, but the mask for the drop shadow appears where I can actually see the shadow itself. I might use the Move tool by tapping the V key and then just use my arrow keys to move that shadow up a little bit so that it actually looks like it's underneath the vase. Well, there you have it, an easy way to make a more realistic drop shadow in Photoshop.
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