Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Design > Adobe Creative Suite

Lights and Shadows in Photoshop

  • Print
  • + Share This
Trying to re-create the interaction of the play of light on objects is always an enjoyable challenge. Here Bert Monroy offers some tips and techniques for doing just that in Photoshop.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

I love the play of light on objects. Trying to re-create that interaction is always an enjoyable challenge. California gives me new insight into the effects of lights and shadows. The California sun is very bright and clear. It tends to overly saturate the colors of a scene. It also casts very sharp shadows.

Artificial light is also striking. It has competing light sources that illuminate a scene from different angles. This creates a myriad of shadows that clash and compete for prominence. Artificial light also comes in colors. Colored light sources create colored shadows.

Shadows add life and dimension to an image. Without them, an object appears flat. Shading a scene properly gives it the illusion that it has a third dimension. Lights and shadows determine the relationship of one object to another and their place in the total scene. The position and strength of the lights and shadows also set the overall mood of the image.

Photoshop is a two-dimensional program. Photoshop's files are configurations of pixels that are placed across the width and down the height of an image. There is no depth, as one would find in a 3D program. The illusion of a third dimension is created through the use of shading and perspective.

The image on the cover of this book is called "late afternoon." The angle and color of the light streaming in through the window identifies the time of day for the scene. The sun is low on the horizon. The late afternoon sun is turning to that orange color of a sun that is setting.

The position of shadows in an outdoor scene automatically establishes the time of day. Figure 4.1 shows a tree in a field at noon. How do we know it is noon? The shadow is directly below the tree, which means the sun is directly above the tree, as it would be at the noon hour. Figure 4.2 shows a scene that represents a time that is a little later in the day. The sun has moved from directly above the tree, and the shadow streams away from the tree. Figure 4.3 shows a scene that is set late in the day. The sun is low, causing the shadow to lengthen.

Figure 4.1Figure 4.1. The noontime sun is directly above the tree, which causes the shadow to fall directly below the tree.


 

Figure 4.2Figure 4.2. The afternoon sun is off to the left, causing the shadow to fall behind the tree and to the right of it.


 

Figure 4.3Figure 4.3. The evening sun is low on the horizon, which results in a longer shadow. The setting sun also casts a warmer color over the scene.


Shadows are often the focus in some of my paintings. "Bodega shadows" and "shadowplay" are two very good examples of how shadows play a main role in some of my paintings (Figures 4 and 5).

Figure 4.4Figure 4.4. The painting, "Bodega shadows," uses a shadow as the central focus.


 

Figure 4.5Figure 4.5. In the "shadowplay" painting, the shadow is the subject.


The shadow starts as a shape that is outlined with the Pen tool. Figure 4.6 shows the paths created for the shadow shapes in Bodega shadows. In Figure 4.7, the path is turned into a selection and filled with a dark blue color.

Figure 4.6Figure 4.6. The paths for the shadow shapes.


 

Figure 4.7Figure 4.7. The path is selected and filled with the color for the shadow.


The final touches are illustrated in Figure 4.8. Note that the opacity was lowered in this illustration. The layer was also blurred with the Gaussian Blur filter (Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur).

Figure 4.8Figure 4.8. The layer of the shadow is blurred and reduced in opacity.


Figure 4.9 shows the paths for the shadows in shadowplay. These shadows hint at the structure that isn't in view in the image. The paths are filled with black, and they are blurred. This is a similar procedure as the one used in the previous Bodega shadows example. The difference here is that the area where the shadows are cast is made up of uneven surfaces, opposed to a flat surface. The shadows are made larger than the area they will cover, and they are clipped with the layer that contains the surface shape. Figure 4.10 shows the shadows that are cast onto the wooden board along the top of the scene. Figure 4.11 shows the clipped shadow. Refer to Chapter 1, "Off to a Good Start," for more information on creating a clipping group.

Figure 4.9Figure 4.9. The paths for the shadows in the shadowplay example.


 

Figure 4.10Figure 4.10. The shadow cast on the wooden board is put in a layer over the layer of the board.


 

Figure 4.11Figure 4.11. The shadow is clipped by the layer of the wooden board.


Figure 4.12 shows the larger shadow that is cast over the main part of the wall. Figure 4.13 shows the detail of the fence at the bottom of the image. Notice the shapes that the shadows take as they travel over and around the banister.

Figure 4.12Figure 4.12. The large shadow over the main wall.


 

Figure 4.13Figure 4.13. The shadow that is cast over the railing has to conform to the various angles that make up the construction of the railing.


Shadows with Layer Style

Up to this point, the shadows are created as separate shapes. Each is unrelated to the shapes in the scene and only hint at the shape of the objects casting them. There are times when the object casting the shadow is completely visible in the scene.

The traditional drop shadow is one of these instances in which the object casting the shadow is visible. The drop shadow is commonplace in today's design circles. Figure 4.14 shows a traditional drop shadow effect.

Figure 4.14Figure 4.14. The drop shadow is a commonly used design element.


The drop shadow has the identical shape of the object casting it. The distance from one object to another object and the direction of the light source determine the position of the shadow. Layer Styles enable you to add a drop shadow to layers. The shadow is controlled in many ways. Figure 4.15 shows the Layer Style for the Drop Shadow blending option.

Figure 4.15Figure 4.15. The Drop Shadow blending option controls in the Layer Style dialog box.


The position of the shadow is established by adjusting the Angle field's value in the Structure area of the dialog box. The distance determines how far the shadow falls from the object casting it. The Spread field works like the Hardness feature of the brushes—the higher the percentage, the harder the edge. The Size field allows you to control the size of the shadow.

The Quality section of the dialog box includes a Contour field that allows you to set parameters to control the shape of your shadow. In Figure 4.16, you see a drop shadow applied to a red circle. The Distance value is increased to add separation to clearly view what happens with the Contour control. In Figure 4.17, a contour is chosen (not the default contour) by clicking on the arrow bar located to the right of the Contour icon. Note the shape of the drop shadow. You are not bound by these presets. Clicking the Contour icon brings up the Contour Editor in which you can set your own parameters (Figure 4.18).

Figure 4.16Figure 4.16. A drop shadow is applied to a layer in the Layer Style dialog box.


 

Figure 4.17Figure 4.17. The contour for the drop shadow is changed.


 

Figure 4.18Figure 4.18. The Contour Editor enables you to modify the contour effects on the drop shadow.


The Noise field enables you to set a noise level for the shadow, which aids in the prevention of banding. If you use the Add Noise filter, it applies the noise to the entire layer. In the Layer Style dialog box, the noise is applied to the shadow only.

The command at the bottom of the Drop Shadow dialog box, Layer Knocks Out Drop Shadow, sets the shadow's visibility when the object casting it is transparent. Figure 4.19 shows the red ball casting a shadow. In Figure 4.20, the Fill Opacity for the red ball is reduced to 40%. The drop shadow remains hidden behind the ball. In Figure 4.21, the Layer Knocks Out Drop Shadow button is deselected, which makes the shadow visible through the transparent ball.

Figure 4.19Figure 4.19. The solid red ball casts a drop shadow.


 

Figure 4.20Figure 4.20. The opacity for the red ball is lowered. The shadow remains dark, but is not visible through the ball.


 

Figure 4.21Figure 4.21. With the Layer Knocks Out Drop Shadow option turned off in the Layer Style dialog box, you can now see the shadow through the transparent red ball.


In the Layer Style dialog box, there is a section for Blending Options. Here, you control General Blending and Advanced Blending options (Figure 4.22). In the General Blending section, you see the Opacity setting. You can set the opacity for the entire layer's content. In the Advanced Blending section, you see the Fill Opacity setting. This setting lets you lower the opacity of an object in the layer without changing the style effects (Figure 4.23).

Figure 4.22Figure 4.22. General Blending and Advanced Blending are two of the sections of the Layer Style dialog box.


 

Figure 4.23Figure 4.23. The first ball on the left is the original object. The second is the one that has Layer Styles applied to it. The third is the ball that has an Opacity setting of 50%. The fourth ball has an Opacity setting of 100%, and the Fill Opacity setting is lowered to 50%.


  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email ask@peachpit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.peachpit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020