Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bethy's Tutorials: Shadows

Below is a mini-tutorial I put together about shadows. Different shadows will give you very different looks. This will give you the info to follow *your* muse and make those shadows speak! Use it as you'd like.

Ok . . . let's talk about shadows! They are a huge part of digital scrapbooking . . . dare I say essential! For any layout that is striving to show depth, layers, texture, then you NEED shadowing. Many elements come with small shadows already applied. Why? Well, when I'm creating let's say a bead, the light source needs to be there. The gleam on the bead is essential to making it look real. An element without a shadow simply doesn't look right. It's not complete. Light source is assumed when I create each and every piece. I think about how the light will hit a piece of paper, a ribbon, a piece of yarn. Then I do my best to create that digitally so everything will be realistic. From the texture, to the gleam on a metal brad, to the shadow.


And if shadows are so important in creating a kit, they are just as important in creating a layout. Let's take a look at four ways an element might look. The first example above is the out-of-the-box shadow. Just as it comes when you download the kit. It's small. Barely there. Perfect for adding to your layout without further adjustment necessary. AND, small enough that you can add your own shadow and give it an extra kick. Pop it off the page more, even rotate and still keep the shadow direction looking realistic. So, the second example is an average shadow setting that I use in a layout. (Photoshop settings: distance, 2; size 3; opacity 55)

As you can see it gives it just a little extra. Nothing major but I can rotate the item and keep everything looking great. But, note: on backgrounds, when I'm creating I do keep the light source in mind but rotating isn't going to change things much. With a bead or a metal object, or even a ribbon, the light source is MUCH more important. It just can't be rotated without thought. If you flip a bead upside down, not paying attention to the shadow, it's going to look strange. The little gleam might be on the bottom. Opposite of the rest of your layout's perceived light source. There is a way to change the rotation of these items. Just pay attention to the shadow. I've found with a horizontal string of beads, if I rotate anywhere to 90 degrees counterclockwise, the shadow still looks realistic and the gleam still works. That's enough play, if you are creative, to position anything just the way you want!

When I created these flowers, I had in mind those glue pop dots that give LOTS of height to an element. Lots! Take a look at the EXTREME shadow I applied to the third example. (Photoshop settings: distance, 17; size 21; opacity 70) That's A LOT of shadow! It really pops clear off the page. And to give it a bit more realism, I put the shadow on it's own layer and warped it just a bit. If an element is that high off the page, it usually isn't completely flat and straight. So by warping it just a bit, it looks even more real. But that's only for paper-style layouts or placement of paper-style elements. What if you want to add a graphic touch? Well, in the fourth example I got a little creative. I selected the flower, made the selection just a pixel of two less, feathered a bit, reversed and deleted. That got rid of the shadow and made the flower blend a bit into the background. Then I tried a few blending modes, lowered the opacity, and viola', it's no longer a paper-style element but a beautiful graphic element. You could layer it on another background, a photo, etc. It becomes PART of the page not something added on top.

SO, one element with a standard shadow. The options on what you want it to look like are really up to you!! You can take it as it is, add a bit to up the realism, go extreme, or go totally graphic! Fantastic versatility for your layouts! You can change the look with just a few clicks! Think of how you can create new looks *just* by changing the shadow!


Ash said...

Thanks so much for the tut! I always thought those large dramatic shadows were a big no no but I may try the pop dot shadow effect on my layouts one of these days.

Jan said...

Thanks for the explanation. I use shadows but don't really know the rules behind them and the exact numbers that you're setting them at is helpful.