Becca here for our first “How To” post on Dani’s blog. Once each month we want to bring you a tutorial of some kind. I thought that today we would start with a pretty basic tutorial on shadowing.

In my opinion shadowing is one of the most important skills to learn when it comes to digital scrapbooking. I think many of us were once paper scrappers that became tired of trying to store our layouts with all the bulky elements. We turned to digital so that we could still create pages with the appearance of layered elements, without all the bulk. In order to give your layouts a realistic layered look, you need to have proper shadowing skills.

Here is a layout that I did recently. You can see the depth of the elements and the realistic appearance that shadowing gives a digital page.

Here is the same layout, only this time I hid all of my shadowing effects. See the difference?

By comparing the two layouts you can easily see why shadowing is the key to realistic digital pages.

I’m going to shadow a cluster of 4 elements to give you a basic understanding of the realism that your layouts can obtain with proper shadowing techniques.

I’m going to shadow from the bottom up, so I’ll select my paper layer first. To add a shadow to the selected layer, you are going to click the fx symbol on the bottom of your layers palette and choose drop shadow from the flyout menu.

When you select “drop shadow”, a dialogue box will open up.

You can see in the above image that I’ve pointed out 5 parts of the dialogue box that will constantly be adjusted depending on the element that you are shadowing. I’ll go through each of these numbers and explain each setting.

1. Blend Mode

The default setting for the blend mode is “multiply.” Most people don’t change this. However, after reading Peppermint Granberg’s Mind Blowing Shadow Tutorial, my new preferred blend mode setting is “Linear Burn.” You can read her explanation of why, HERE. Her explanation is much clearer than any I’ve heard, and rather than try and put it in my own words, I think you should read hers. 🙂  Right next to the blend mode, you will also see the color box. You can change the color of your shadow as well. When you click on that color box, a dialogue box will open up that gives you the option to change your shadow color. The default setting is black, but I prefer to change it to a very dark brown. It makes the shadow less stark and more realistic.

2. Opacity

The opacity is how dark or light your shadow will appear on your layout. This will vary greatly depending on many things. For one thing, the blend mode greatly affects the opacity you will choose. Linear burn will always give a darker shadow, so when choosing that particular mode, your opacity will be much lighter. The paper behind the element you are shadowing will also effect how dark the shadow appears. The key to opacity is to play with the slider until it looks good to you. When shadowing with linear burn, I tend to keep my opacity in the 30’s or 40’s depending on the paper. On a light background, I might even go up to the 50’s or 60’s. These memories you are creating are your own, therefore always go with what looks good to your eye.

3. Angle

As you can see in the image, the default shadow angle is +120 degrees. However, I always set my shadow at +45 degrees. Personally I think that it is a more realistic shadow angle and is much more pleasing to the eye. But I know many digital scrapbookers that keep their angle at the default setting. Once again, you should go with what looks good to you.

4. Distance

The distance determines how far off the page you want your element to appear. This will vary according to the element. When shadowing paper, your distance will be a small number. But, when shadowing a flower, or something that would normally be bulky in real life, your distance would be a greater number.

5. Size

The size basically determines how sharp or blended your shadow edges will be. If you bring your size down to zero, the edges will be sharp and hard. Alternately, increasing the size softens the edges of your shadow. Finding the right balance gives you a realistic shadow.

Let me also mention that I never adjust the spread. I always keep that setting at a value of zero.

Ok, so now that we have an understanding of each setting, let’s shadow each of the four layers. I have already selected my paper layer and added a drop shadow. I’ve gone in and changed the blend mode to linear burn and set my color to a dark brown (#241401 is the color I chose and I will keep this color for all of my elements), the opacity I lowered down to 50. I’ve changed the angle to +45 degrees. Since paper is barely off the page, I’ve set my size to 10 and my distance to 15. Here is what it looks like:

Now for the other elements. The white flower will be next. This flower is made out of paper, and appears rather flat to me. It isn’t going to have nearly as much depth as the pink flower is going to have, but a bit more depth than a flat piece of paper. I’m going to set my blend mode to linear burn. My opacity is going to be a bit darker this time because the flower is on a lighter background, so I’ve set it to 65. My distance is set to 20 and the size is set to 18.

Next are my leaves. One of the keys to great shadowing, is picturing what your elements would look like in real life. Because the leaves are on top of the white flower, they are going to have to have a greater distance from the paper.  So, I’m going to continue with the same blend mode and color. I’ll bring down the opacity to 55. The distance and size will need to be greater, so I’m going to set both of them to 25.

Finally our beautiful, and big, pink flower. Imagine this in real life. It is created out of rolled paper, so there is going to be some bulk underneath it. It is going to really need to pop off your page to be realistic. Just like I’ve done previously, I’ve set my blend mode, my shadow color, and the right opacity (55). My distance is going to be much greater this time at 65 and the size set at 60.

So, there you have it.  A basic understanding of shadowing technique. Obviously I’m not the final authority on this subject. There are some amazing scrappers out there that have some serious shadowing skills. I encourage you to do what I did when I was first starting out – Ask Questions. We have a wonderful digital community full of friendly people! Private message your favorite digital scrapper, and ask for some tips. I guarantee you that they will be honored to be asked and would be more than willing to give you advice.

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