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Creating realistic shadows in Photoshop CS5

Here's a great tutorial on how to create realistic 3D drop shadows using Photoshop CS5.
You can create shadows in Photoshop by simply using the "Blending Options" of a layer and selecting "drop shadow."

However, this kind of shadow effect only works with the object it casts and not with the background it is cast on, making the shadow look wrong and mechanical.

In this quick exercise, we will learn how to manipulate a "drop shadow" independently from its source or layer.

Drag an object with no background into a background image of your choice.

Move and resize accordingly.

On the layer containing your object, double click to open the Layer Style window, then choose "drop shadow" and double click on it for more options.

Drag your Distance slider to the right, up to 65 px , and adjust your "Angle" to match the direction of light of your background image.

Click OK

Select  Layer - Layer Style - Create Layer

Notice that your shadow effect is now isolated in its own layer, separate from the cat figure.

Select the shadow layer.

Give your layer a 36 %  transparency

Select the eraser tool.  

Right click and make sure your eraser has a soft edge and an opacity of 70%

Following the contour of the architectural background, re-shape the edges of your shadow as shown.

Soften up the right side of your shadow , to indicate that some light is leaking through from behind the cat.

Also, soften up the shadow of the "fish" and the "fish-line" on the wall.

And there you are !  This is not only a more realistic shadow but the shadow also becomes an instrument to visually bringing both images together.

For more tips like this, or to enroll into a Photoshop training course, visit GeniusDV.com
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