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Puppet Shadowing: A Photoshop Tutorial

Good Morning digi scrappers!!! Tamara here back with a fun NEW tutorial on shadows and shadowing! If you have ever seen my layouts, read my tutorials or taken one of my classes, then you know that shadowing is something that I ADORE!!! Shadowing your digital layout can either make it or break it. It is the difference in making your layout look like you spent hours at your kitchen table cutting out each intricate element or an hour on your computer slapping it on a page.   It is the difference between looking totally realistic or just plain flat and boring. Shadowing, or correct shadowing anyway, is life and death to a digital scrapper. Without correct shadowing, you don’t get that POW that we all crave! To understand what I am talking about, lets take a look at the following two layouts.

This layout was shadowed using just a basic drop shadow.


It looks flat and one dimensional.  The butterflies are flat against the page, and the flowers and leaves look lifeless. Everything is just kind of mushed together. It looks like it  was glued down tight to the paper. OK, but not the most appealing.

The layout below was shadowed by tweaking those same basic drop shadows and adding some depth and dimension to the page.


Each piece looks like it was stacked on top of the one below it and by changing the distance of the shadows, you create a realism in the layout. By shadowing this way, you create a depth that allows this layout to look more like a paper layout would, however, I can warp a few of those shadows and create an even MORE realistic page!

Today, I want to share with you one of the best and easiest ways I have found to add even MORE  dimension to your digital layout!

When Photoshop released CS5 in 2011, I heard of a new and improved warp tool that could change the way you shadow. I knew right then and there, without a shadow of doubt, I HAD to have it.  So, after a LOT of begging and promises to do extra chores around the house 🙂 …my husband bought me the latest and greatest version of  Photoshop. I fell in love instantly!   The new editing tool,  called Puppet Warp, helped to change the way that objects and their shadows can be manipulated. In just a few steps, you can warp a  flat object so that it will appear to lift off of the page…and ALL without getting ANY distortion!!!  Are you interested? then let’s take a look!

In my sample layouts, I used Mye’s wonderful  kit called Hello Love.  I scrapped my layout just as I wanted it and added all my customized drop shadows, however, I wanted to add just a few more extra touches to make it look a little more realistic. To do this, I need to make the shadow appear on its own separate layer, so that I can edit it independent of the element, which in this case is one of my papers.

Begin by locating the element or paper that you want to manipulate in the layers palette. Right click on the drop shadow layer style (fx) of the element  or paper and select Create Layer from the fly out menu. Click OK.


This will put the shadow on its own layer.  The drop shadow will now be located UNDER the paper or element in your layers palette.


Make sure that the shadow layer is selected in the layers palette. It will be highlighted like the layer above.  Next, Go to Edit>Puppet Warp.


Don’t be shocked when you see a maze of lines all over your layout. Much like the puppets of old, these lines, or strings, are used to manipulate the shadow just how you want it!


Now it’s time to do the magic! First, pin down the area that you want to warp.  By adding pins to the paper or element, it keeps the movement to that layer isolated. I add pins around the page to keep the things I don’t want to move…still!!  To add a pin, click on the strings and a yellow dot will appear where you click. This is your pin.  Add  as many pins as you need to keep the shadow from distorting.


I added pins all down the side of my paper so that the shadow would not move! This part takes practice…you  can always select undo and try again if your first, second or even third attempt don’t net the results that you are looking for!

The pin with the black dot in it is the “active” pin and that is the one that will move when you click and drag it. I dragged my shadow layer slightly to the left away from the paper.


It doesn’t take much, but already you can see that the paper looks like it is lifted off of the page. You can adjust ANY of the pins by clicking on them, so if you want to make part of your shadow appear closer to the page, you can click on the pin and adjust it to create the look you want…be aware though…it doesn’t take much!

Next, click on the element or paper layer in the layers palette directly above the shadow layer you have been working on. Select Edit>Puppet Warp once again.  This time, once you add the pins to the layer, grab the corner pin and drag it up, creating a lift from the page.


The change will be subtle, but it will give you a little bit more dimension to your page.


I added a bit of lift to the paper on both corners and also to the LOVE photo and SWEET label.  This technique is great for lifting paper corners as well as adding dimension to banners. Use it to lift the edges of a paper flower petal or even a leaf! The possibilities are endless and it is a fun technique that lends that little something extra to the digital layout that makes it special!  Take a few moments this week to practice your Puppet Warp and see what new changes you can create to make your layout a standout!

Happy Scrapping!


comments +

  1. Barbara says:

    Thanks for this great tutorial. It’s so helpful! I’ve been a bit in awe of the puppet warp tool and haven’t felt comfortable that I’m using it correctly. (So I seldom give it a try.) I’m anxious to get home and give it a try now!

  2. Marilyn says:

    Thanks for a great tut. I love shadowing so every little suggestion helps.

  3. Jeri says:

    I was always too confused by Puppet Warp to use it, but this makes it seem simple! I am definitely going to try this, thank you!

  4. Su Hall says:

    That is a gorgeous layout! The shadowing makes it! Thank you!

  5. Nancy - physioscrapper says:

    Thanks Tamara and Mye for the tutorial! I’ve used it to correct distortion on pictures but for some reason never thought about it for shadowing! Wonderful idea! It would work great with the different layers we use!

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I'm Mye De Leon

I'm a mom with a desire to give the best for her family and turned a lettering hobby into a multi6-figure business. These days, I eat strategy for breakfast and turn other businesses into successful empires.

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I'm Mye


My business is to help your business generate more revenue so you can be who you want to be.

I'm Mye


My business is to help your business generate more revenue so you can be who you want to be.