As promised, today is a continuation of my blog series on compositing shadows. I believe lighting and shadows are the most important components in creating cohesive and beautiful compositions. If something in the image looks “off” it will distract the viewer take away from your story line. If you have not had the opportunity to read the first two blog posts you may review them here. Lesson 1: It’s in the shadows… and Lesson 2: When you hit a brick wall…
Now that I have covered how to determine placement, direction and intensity of your shadows I would like to break down the tools and brushes you need in order to hand draw them in Photoshop.
The Point of Contact:
I draw my shadows in three steps: Contact shadows, Cast shadows then Surface shadows. This post will only deal with the first of the three and that is “Contact Shadows”. This shadow is drawn exactly the way it sounds. It is the thin dark line that is created when one object touches another object. It is 100% black and it is only a few pixels wide, running along the edge of your object. If you make this contact shadow too wide it will look off and cartoonish. It is just a tiny thin line.
My brushes for drawing contact shadows
Load the brush set that comes with Photoshop called “Drop Shadow Brushes”.
I use either the 19px round with the hardness set to 50% or I use one of the square brushes at its default settings, with the color set to 100% black. In order for this to work you will need a very clean edge on your object. I use the pen tool to cut out all of my components before I begin to composite them together. I make sure every component is on its own layer and the edges are very clean and smooth. If your edges are not and they have background pixels overlapping them, or jagged edges, then this technique will not work. Also, I do not recommend you draw these contact shadows directly on your object layer but on a separate layer placed directly under your object.
Below is an animation of before and after I placed my contact shadows. Sometimes contact shadows are all you need to ground your object into the scene and you may not need to place any cast shadows. This contact shadow however, is always needed.
That’s it for contact shadows. I’ll move on to cast shadows next!
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