How to Create a Cast Shadow in Adobe Photoshop CC

Add realistic shadows to photos with Adobe Photoshop CC 2019

Portrait of jumping cool girl with sunglasses

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

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.

    Use the Lasso tool to select the object.
  2. Right click the object and select Layer Via Cut.

    Right click the object and select Layer Via Cut.
  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.

    Select Fx at the bottom of the Layers panel, then choose Drop Shadow from the list.
  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.

    With the shadow layer selected, right click the Fx beside the layer name and select Create Layer from the list.
  6. Select OK to ignore the warning.

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

    Select the shadow layer, and then selected Edit > Free Transform.
  8. Right click on the object and select Distort.

    Right click on the object and select Distort.
  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.

    Right click on the shadow layer and select Duplicate Layer.
  11. Select OK.

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

    With the shadow copy layer selected, select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.
  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).

    With the shadow copy layer selected, select the Add Layer Mask icon (beside Fx at the bottom of the layers palette).
  15. With the mask selected, select the Gradient tool and set the color of the foreground to white and the background to black.

    With the mask selected, select the Gradient tool and set the color of the foreground to white and the background to black.
  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.

    Adjust the Opacity in the layer's palette to make the shadow appear more natural.

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