How to Create a Cast Shadow in Adobe Photoshop CC

Add realistic shadows to photos with Adobe Photoshop CC

Learning how to add realistic cast shadows to images in Photoshop is one of the more difficult skills to master. Before creating the shadow, you must select an object from the background and then move it to a separate layer.

Instructions in this article apply to Adobe Photoshop CC 2019.

How to Create a Cast Shadow in Adobe Photoshop CC

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, you'll begin by adding a drop shadow and then use the Free Transform tool to adjust it:

  1. Use the Lasso tool to select the object.

    Use the Refine Edge tool with the Lasso tool to refine your selection.

    A screenshot of Photoshop with the Lasso tool highlighted
  2. Right click the object and select Layer Via Cut.

    A screenshot of Photoshop with the Layer Via Cut command highlighted
  3. Select Fx at the bottom of the layers panel, then choose Drop Shadow from the list.

    If the layers panel isn't visible, select Window > Layer.

    A screenshot of Photoshop with the Drop Shadow layer effect highlighted
  4. Enter the follow settings, and then select OK:

    • Angle: -180 degrees
    • Distance: 69 px
    • Size: 5 px

    You can experiment with these settings to adjust the shadow effect.

    Adjust the drop shadow settings and select OK.
  5. With the shadow layer selected, right click the Fx beside the layer name and select Create Layer from the list.

    A screenshot of Photoshop with the Create Layer command highlighted
  6. Select OK to ignore the warning.

    Select OK to ignore the warning.
  7. Select the shadow layer, and then select Edit > Free Transform.

    A screenshot of Photoshop with the Free Transform command highlighted
  8. Right click on the object and select Distort.

    A screenshot of Photoshop with the Distort command highlighted
  9. Drag the handles to adjust the position of the shadow, then press Enter when satisfied.

    Drag the handles to adjust the position of the shadow, then press Enter when satisfied.
  10. Right click on the shadow layer and select Duplicate Layer.

    A screenshot of Photoshop with the Duplicate Layer command highlighted
  11. Select OK.

    Select OK.
  12. With the shadow copy layer selected, select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

    A screenshot of Photoshop with the Gaussian Blur option highlighted
  13. Move the slider to the right to blur the edges of the shadow, then select OK.

    Move the slider to the right to blur the edges of the shadow, then select OK.
  14. With the shadow copy layer selected, select the Add Layer Mask icon (beside Fx at the bottom of the layers palette).

    A screenshot of Photoshop with the Layer Mask button highlighted
  15. With the mask selected, select the Gradient tool and set the color of the foreground to white and the background to black.

    A screenshot of Photoshop with the Gradient tool highlighted
  16. Draw a gradient from about ¼ the distance from the bottom of the shadow to the top to make the shadow fade into the distance.

    Draw a gradient from about ¼ the distance from the bottom of the shadow to the top to make the shadow fade into the distance.
  17. Adjust the Opacity in the layer's palette to make the shadow appear more natural.

    A screenshot of Photoshop with a layer's opacity slider highlighted

Once you're satisfied with the result, save your image as a PSD file or in your preferred format.

A blue sign on a pole casts a shadow on a white background.
 Yevgen Romanenko / Getty Images