Creating Artificial Shadows In Photoshop

In this live workshop Karl demonstrates how to create realistic-looking artificial shadows in Photoshop.

Following on from a previous live show where he demonstrated how to create shadowless lighting for product photography on a white background, Karl explains important considerations for creating artificial shadows.

Karl guides you through the process of creating a shadow for a product, showing how to quickly and easily make selections, how to create halos/glows around a product, and how to use multiple layers to get the most realistic results.

To end the show, Karl also shows a second, quicker technique for creating artificial shadows which may be good for those who aren't as familiar with Photoshop. Additionally, Karl also shares tips for creating shadows for different coloured objects and transparent objects throughout the show.

Topics covered in this show include:
  • Creating shadows in Photoshop
  • Understanding shadows
  • How to create selections & cutouts
  • Working with layers and masks
  • Creating shadows for different coloured objects
  • How to change the background colour
  • Tips for creating shadows for transparent objects

For further Photoshop demonstrations, check out our post-production section.

If you have any questions about this show, please post in the comment section below.



  1. Hello. I was wondering what the white studio blocks that Karl uses are made of. Can they be purchased from a retailer, or do you suggest DIY?

  2. Hi Karl. I think shadows on white background are driving me bonkers. I need to shoot a full figure on a completely white (seamless) background but also get a shadow and I need to do this in camera, not in post. I’ve been looking through all of your classes but can’t seem to find a class that addresses this issue. The closest I’ve been able to achieve is through lighting my background with two lights, then lighting my subject with an umbrella, then using a fourth light pointed at the clothing / shoes with a magnum reflector and medium grid. It’s getting close but it’s not perfect. Do you have any suggestions / recommendations for achieving this clean white background with shadow in camera? I’m actually going insane trying to figure this one out so please help!

    1. Hi, can you give me a link to an example of the type of shadow/photo you are trying to acheive?

        1. Hi Shanyn, that looks relatively straight forward. The background cove is lit probably with 2 lights then the basketball guy is lit from relatively high up with what looks like a parabolic reflector but a large silver umbrella could come close. I recommend you look at our lighting comparison tool and set the paramaters to ‘full length body’ and you can run through the types of lighting and see the effect of the shadow on the floor this will allow you to visualise how the shadow would be on the floor if the model was further away from the background cove wall and also how much light that modifier casts on the background ,which won’t be enough, which is why you would need to add light to the background cove. This type of photography needs a relatively large space to be acheivable.

  3. Thanks for this. I wondered if Karl had any tips for creating a consistent shadow across multiple products. I have the same shoes in various colors and I am creating shadows as in the tutorial. At the moment I am just making each layer mask for the shadow individually therefore I’m not sure about how to make them look consistent. Is this just done by eye or is there an ingenious way of ensuring consistency? Copying the layer mask would not be too precise as the shoes are not perfectly aligned between photos. Thank you!

    1. Hi Geoff, hadn’t thought about this before because I just do it by eye because often different products (or shoes) will be dark or light so that would also affect how dense the shadows should look as well as total height of the product. I suppose it would be possible to save your selection shape and then create a gradient using the gradient tool to make the mask within your selection shape but it seems it might be a bit convoluted. As mentioned in the show you can create actions to do some of the donkey work and then just finish off with the brush tool, which by the way is easier if using a pen and tablet.

  4. Great tutorial! I will try to make the blurred layers as smart object so I can adjust the blur at any time to adjust the shadows. Carl, do you think that’s a good approach?

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