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Shadowing Acrylic Elements: A Photoshop Tutorial

Good morning scrappers! Tamara here back with a fun new week of tutorials!  Learn how you can add magic to your graphic designs using photoshop. For those of you that don’t know, I teach both the Art of Clustering workshop and the brand new Me and My Shadows workshop at Gotta Pixel.  In fact, I am now in week three of the very FIRST Shadows class and boy am I having fun! It got me to thinking, however, as I was writing a supplemental lesson for this week lesson, that there are LOTS of you that have questions on shadowing. I didn’t really think much of it until we had our weekly chat and I was bombarded with questions that pertained to “hard to shadow” elements. When I asked what my student considered “hard to shadow”, I was met with about 6 different objects that I thought really were considered pretty difficult to shadow because they required a different type of shadow..not your typical drop shadow! Since I was writing this as a supplement to the lesson, I felt I could share one part with you, my favorite readers,  today!

Here is an excerpt from my Me and My Shadows workshop!

Shadowing Acrylic/Plastic Elements in CS

Transparent elements can add a fun and whimsical look to your page! I love to add an acrylic title, a plastic “slip in” pocket that allows you to fill it with fun little trinkets, or even some fun little acrylic flair, but shadowing these clear elements can be a bit tricky. Adding one of the basic shadows to your element leaves it looking dull and “muddy” and it doesn’t lend to the idea of making it look realistic! However, having no shadow at all makes your element look to NON transparent, so adding just the right shade should help that acrylic element to pop off the page and make it look more realistic!

When I set about to shadow my acrylic/plastic items, the main change I make, more than anything else, is the Blend Mode! I prefer to use the Linear Burn blend mode because, as we learned in the earlier lesson, it reflects the colors of the paper underneath it yet, because of the way this mode works, it maintains the transparency of the element we are shadowing.

Once you determine how thick you want your element to be, the rest is very easy!  For instance, acrylic alpha, frames and swirls would all be bigger bulkier items and would need a shadow to reflect their size. Smaller items such as the new trend… plastic slip-ins, would need a smaller shadow to reflect less distance from the background page.

Begin by opening  the acrylic element that you want to shadow.

Once your element is open, add a basic shadow to it clicking the Photoshop fx function found at the bottom of your layers palette.

Select Drop Shadow from the menu and a dialogue box will appear.  Add the numbers I have listed below.

Blend Mode: Multiply   Opacity: 68%   Angel: 45

Distance: 9    Spread: 0    Size:   7

You can see in the photo above that using the multiply mode gives it a sort of gray appearance in the middle of the acrylic. In reality, when you add an acrylic element on to your page, it should show the true color of the paper beneath because it is TRANSPARENT!! So, in order to better reflect this, we need to change the blending mode to Linear Burn.


Here you can see that the shadow has now taken on the hue of the paper beneath it. The shadows are not as gray and the middle of the arrow now looks clear instead of muddied.

A closer look at the two modes together will show you the differences the blending mode will make when shadowing.

You can see here that the top (Linear Burn) element is a better shadowed element because it reflects a truer since of how a real acrylic element should be shadowed.

Here is a closer look at the differences in the blend modes on colored paper.

By changing the distance and size..making sure to keep the size  around one or two pixels BELOW the distance, you can add the depth that you need to your acrylic items. In the photo below, I changed my distance to 15 and my size to 13 to make it have the appearance of being a thicker acrylic than in the arrow above.

There you have it! A difficult to shadow element that comes to life with just the right shadow added to it!I hope you found this tutorial easy to use, and if you are just DYING to know more, BOTH classes will be available to purchase  for a May 1st  starting date! Hope to see you back here soon!


comments +

  1. […] the rest : HERE both-the-art, clustering, fun-new, shadows, tutorial, […]

  2. JeannieK says:

    Happy Monday! Thank you so much for this timely tutorial! I ran into this problem yesterday. Now I can fix it properly. I added a smaller shadow which helped, but the element didn’t look quite right. Thank you for making my page better!

  3. connie miles says:

    This was a great tutorial. Very helpful. Thanks so much!

  4. Connie says:

    Thank you, Tamara! Another great tutorial, which I sooo appreciate.

  5. Tara says:

    Thanks for this tutorial! Now I am wondering if you used an action to create those great acrylic elements or if it is from a kit that is for sale?? Thanks!

  6. Lis says:

    Thanks for this tutorial! Very helpful!

  7. […] learned how to shadow properly yet, you may want to check how you can shadow flat elements, acrylic and dimensional […]

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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.