A Long Shadow Effect In Adobe Illustrator CC 2014

Twitter logo with long shadow
Long shadows are not terribly difficult to create with Illustrator.


Long shadows are a hallmark of the trend to Flat Design on the web which is a reaction to the Skeuomorphic trend that was led by Apple. This trend was common through the use of depth, drop shadows and so on, to imitate objects. We saw it in the stitching around a calendar and the use of “wood” in a bookcase icon in the Mac OS.

Flat design, which first appeared when Microsoft released its Zune player in 2006 and migrated to the Windows phone four years later, goes in the opposite direction and is characterized by a minimalist use of simple elements, typography and flat colors.

Though there are those who seem to regard Flat Design as a passing trend it can’t object.. Especially when Microsoft builds this design standard into it’s Metro interface and Apple moves it into both its Mac OS and iOS devices.

In this “How To” we are going to create a long shadow for a Twitter button. Let’s get started.

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How To Start Creating The Long Shadow

Two copies of the Twitter logo are on the asrtboard
You start by copying the object to get the shadow and pasting it behind the original.


The first step in the process is to create the objects being used for the shadow. Obviously, it is the Twitter logo. All you need to do is to select the object and copy it. With the object on the Clipboard, select Edit > Paste In Back and a copy of the object is pasted into a layer under the original object.

Turn off the visibility of the top layer, select the pasted object and fill it with Black.

Copy and paste In Back the black object  The pasted object will be selected and, holding down the Shift key, move it down and to the right. Holding the Shift key while moving an object, constrains the movement to 45 degrees which is exactly the angle used in Flat Design.

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How To Use The Blend Menu To Create The Long Shadow

The Titter logo fades into the copy of the logo.
The key is using a Blend.


A typical shadow runs from dark to light. To accommodate this, select the black object outside of the artwork and set its Opacity value to 0%. You can also select Window > Transparency to open the Transparency Panel and set that value to 0 as well.

With the Shift key held down, select the Black object in the button to select both the visible and invisible objects on separate layers. Select Object >Blend> Make. This may not exactly be what we are looking for. In my case, there is one Twitter bird in the new Blend layer. Let’s fix that.

With the Blend Layer selected, select Object> Blend > Blend Options. When the Blend Options dialog box appears select Specified Distance from the Spacing pop down and set the distance to 1 pixel. You now have a rather smooth shadow.

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How To Use The Transparency Panel With the Long Shadow

The Multiply mode in the Transparency panel is selected.
Use a Blend mode in the Transparency panel to creat the shadow.


Things are still not quite right with the shadow. It is still a bit strong and overpowers the solid color behind it. To deal with this select the Blend layer and open the Transparency panel. Set the Blend mode to Multiply and the Opacity to 40% or any other value you choose. The Blend mode determines how the shadow will interact with the color behind it and the opacity change softens the effect.

Turn on the visibility of the top layer and you can see your Long Shadow.

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How To Create A Clipping Mask For The Long Shadow

The Clipping Mask menu item from the Object menu is selected.
Use a clipping mask to trim the long shadow.


Obviously, a shadow that hangs off of the base is not exactly what we expect. Let’s use the shape in the Base layer to clip the shadow.

Select the Base layer, copy it to the Clipboard and,,again, select Edit >Paste In Back. This creates a copy that is in the exact position as the original. In the Layers panel, move this copied layer above the Blend layer.

With the Shift Key held down click on the Blend layer. With both the copied base and Blend layers selected, select Object >Clipping Mask> Make . The Shadow is clipped and from here you can save the document.