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Making a 3D Shadow

Use the Shear Filter to create a neat three-dimensional effect

by Robin Nichols

Adding Canvas
Adding Canvas
© Robin Nichols
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Increasing the Canvas Size

To make this technique work it is important to have a plain white background (a seperate layer) and to add to the canvas first (i.e. extend the real estate around the image. Go to Image>Resize>Canvas Size and enter the new dimensions of the document.

Quickest way to do this is to check the 'Relative' check box and then type in the amount of 'additional' real estate needed, making sure that the background colour is also set correctly. Click the small Color Picker square at the base of the dialog window to choose a new or different colour. Rememebr though this must be done FIRST. Once you have added new real estate, it is quite hard to change the colour.



Reducing the Contrast in the New Layer
Reducing the Contrast in the New Layer
© Robin Nichols
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Duplicating the layer

Now that the canvas size has been increased, duplicate the photo layer once (Layer>Duplicate). You should see two photo layers plus the white background layer in the document.

Making sure that the top layer is active (i.e. it's highlighted in the layer palette), choose the Filter>Distort>Shear from the top of the page.

This is an easy filter to use but it does not seem to have a Preview window. Point the cursor to the vertical line and cllick, hold and drag to add the Shear effect. To make this three-dimensional effect work well, don't drag the line too far otherwise the distortion goes too far. Be subtle! Click OK when finished to check if it looks fine.



© Robin Nichols
All Rights Reserved

Shadow Layer

Now click the lower layer and run Levels (Ctrl + L)

The idea here is to move the Output levels slider (at the bottom of the Levels scale) from the extreme right to the left - this removes all the contrast from the image, turning it black....


Distorting the Shadow Layer
Distorting the Shadow Layer
© Robin Nichols
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Adding Distortion to the Shadow

Repeat the Shear process, but this time reverse it. Drag the vertical line the other way to simulate the look of the shadow on an imaginary surface. If you are very clever, drag the line slightly out and down (while the top layer Shear was dragged out and slightly up).


Completing the Effect: Adding Blur
Completing the Effect: Adding Blur
© Robin Nichols
All Rights Reserved

Adding the Shadow Effect

With the lower layer now darkened using the Levels tool (Note: you could also do this using the Brightness and Contrast tool) choose Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur.

Up to you, but you can dial in about 10 pixels or more to the shadow layer to soften it down.

Using the Opacity slider, reduce the value to dim the shadow - I usually go for a setting of about 25%

A perfect shadow to our three-dimensonal image effect

Article by Robin Nichols. To learn more about photography, explore the many online photography and Photoshop classes offered here at BetterPhoto.com.


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