We are so lucky that so many designers here at Design House Digital add lovely shadowing to their elements so we don’t need to mess with playing with them often. However, sometimes you will find that you would like to tweak an element’s shadowing beyond the basic add a shadow layer. You may want to give it a little more dimension so that it appears parts of it are sticking out farther from the page more than others. Or you may want a corner of an element to look stuck down to the page as if it was glued down in a corner while the rest of it isn’t perfectly flat against the page. These are visual effects that applying the basic shadow layer are not going to achieve. But no worries, it is a pretty simple and quick thing to tweak… and actually can become quick addicting like weaving elements can be.
The main portion of this tutorial is focusing on using the Warp tool in CS. However, if you are using PSE and don’t have access to the Warp tool, I will cover another way that you can manipulate your shadows in PSE at the end of the tutorial.
To begin, I will show you a layout I put together. I was lucky that for the most part, the elements already had shadowing applied to them so I found myself only wanting to add some shadowing & tweaking it for the word “love” in the wordart.
Without any shadowing, it looked kind of flat against the frame which does have some dynamic shadowing to it.
So I began by adding a basic shadow layer to my wordart. Then I right clicked on the “effect” section of the layer to get the menu of actions. I chose “create layer” to move the shadow off of being connected to the wordart layer and become a layer on its own.
By putting it on its own layer, we have much more control over what we can do to it without it having any effect on our wordart itself.
I began by using an eraser and deleting all of the shadowing under the black text as I didn’t want it to look like it was hovering above the page but rather that it had been typed directly onto the paper.
Now that the shadow is on its own layer, we can play around and manipulate it to give it more dimension. Be sure you are selected on the new shadow layer that was created. Now, grab your marquee tool and make a selection around an area that you want to make the element look like it is farther away from the paper than the rest.
I began by choosing the leading tail of the “l”. I set my selection so that I had a little room around the part I wanted to change so that I will be adjusting the middle of the selection. I find this will help you achieve smooth adjustments at the edges.
Now that you have the marquee around the section you want to adjust first, Control-T/Command-T on a Mac to get the free transform tool for that selection. Then click the Warp tool in your top menu bar. Your free transform bounding box will change to the warp tool bounding box with additional lines that you can pull or push with your mouse to achieve your desired warping.
Next, I used my mouse to click on the wordart shadow at the lowest part of the leading tail and then gently pulled my mouse down and to the right. This will warp the shadow as you pull your mouse. Be gently with adjusting shadows or you will get some very unrealistic effects. If you are grabbing the middle of your selection, your edges won’t be warped very much at all which leads to nice, smooth adjustments.
Continue the above selecting and warping steps for each area of your element you want to lift off of or push down to the page. For most realistic results, be sure to pull your warpings in the same direction as shadowing is created by directional light. If you have your shadowings going in many different directions, it will appear unrealistic. You can get away with it a little if it is only going in two directions as you may have 2 light sources but more than that is uncommon. Think about how your page would look if it were real paper and then adjust accordingly.
I went on to adjust a few more places along my wordart like the tops and bottoms of letters.
It is as simple as that and can result in some very lovely and more realistic, dynamic shadowing to your pages. I love using it whenever I apply a string wrap to a photo as you can then make the string tails look like they are lifted up off the page and dangling.
To recap, here is a comparison between the wordart with no shadow, with a basic shadow and then with our warped shadowing.
If you don’t have CS, you can achieve a very similar look by following the beginning steps by adding a basic shadow and then putting it onto its own layer and erasing the shadowing under the black text.
Then instead of using the Warp tool, you can use the Smudge tool  which works like a finger. You can then push shadows closer to the wordart to make it appear closer to the paper or pull shadows away from the wordart to make it appear farther away from the paper. I find it best if you work in small parts at a time and gradually push and pull shadows so that you aren’t left a break in your shadow. If you pull it too far out, you can simply push it back in a little.
Here is the effect I managed using the Smudge tool.
It is very similar to the Warp tool effect and sometimes even quicker to use if you just want to make a minor adjustment to a shadow.
I hope that you have enjoyed learning about how you can adjust shadows to get more dynamic effects out of them. If you have any questions, please be sure to visit the forums and ask. All of the Decorators here would love to share our knowledge and experience with you, as well as, we would love to learn from you if you have something that you would like to share with us.