Create a Drop Shadow Effect

I have written this tutorial to cover the basics of how to create a drop shadow effect for photographs such as shown in the example below. For this tutorial I am using Paint Shop Pro X, but the steps are almost identical as previous versions and very similar to many other programs.

Create a Drop Shadow Effect Sample Result

There is certainly more than one way to create this effect. The steps listed below are simply the steps that I use to accomplish this.

It is vital that I am working with a high quality file. I do not want to start with a copy of copy.

Many digital cameras export images to your computer using the JPG format. Unfortunately, every time you open a JPG file, make changes, and save it again, the image loses quality. Because of this, when I open an image for the first time, I always create a PNG or TIF file from the original photograph and then put the original away.

This gives me a working file to edit and resize without fear of losing quality every time I need to make changes, and assures that I will always have the original untouched image.

Once you have the working file of the photograph exactly the way you want it, right click on it and select copy.

Next, open a new image with a transparent background by selecting: File > New from the menu, or Ctrl + N on the keyboard. The new transparent background image must be quite a bit larger than the original photograph, to allow room to add the drop shadow effect.

Paste the copy of the photograph to the new transparent background image. To accomplish this, place your pointer on the transparent background, right click, and select: Paste > Paste As New Layer.

If the photograph is going to be placed on a background other than white, instead of opening a new image with a transparent background to paste the photograph to, I open a new image with the exact color of the needed background.

You can now create a drop shadow effect by selecting: Effects > 3D Effects > Drop Shadow from the menu. A drop shadow settings box will open. Experiment with different settings until you find the look you want, and then click OK.

View Screenshot

The goal is to create a very natural appearance, as if you were seeing the shadow created by photo hanging on the wall.


Place your pointer on the photograph, right click and select: Copy. Right click on the photograph again and this time select: Paste > Paste As New Image. Merge the layers by selecting: Layers > Merge > Merge All.

You can now optimize the photograph as a JPG file and be assured it is of the highest possible quality. Although you can create a drop shadow effect in other programs with fewer steps, when quality is important, I take the few extra moments to use Paint Shop Pro X.

J. Cricket Walker

Small Business Marketing Consultant and Scenic Photographer
Copyright © 2006 J. Cricket Walker of Online Photography Magazine All Rights Reserved

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