If you’ve ever wanted to know how to add a drop shadow to an existing image, you’ve come to the right place. In this Photoshop tutorial you’ll learn the step-by-step process for adding a drop shadow that looks as natural as if the sun did the work for you.

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Start with an image that has a white background or has had the background removed. If you need to go through that process first and need a helping hand, check out our “how to” tutorial for removing a background.

Select an image to make realistic drop shadow

Start by opening your desired image in Photoshop, open the image layer and double-click in the blank space. This will bring up a window Layer Style.

Double click on first layer

Choose Drop Shadow under Styles, Blending Options.

Drop-shadow option in layer style

Move the shadow, select opacity 50 percent and adjust the size

Moving the shadow off to the right makes it easier to work with. Keeping the Opacity at 50%, adjust the size to get a “fuzzy look” around the edges of the shadow. Click OK.

Go-back to layer style and create layer

Next, go to Layer > Layer Style > Create Layer. Click OK.

Go-back to layer style and create layer

This removes the Layer Style and it adds it on its own separate layer.

Showing new layer created from drop shadow option

Move the drop shadow back to the original spot behind the image subject.

Next, go to CMD+T (Mac) or CTRL+T (PC) to begin the transformation process, dragging the small visible dot all the way down to the bottom of the image.

Transform selected

Continue to tweak the shadow by positioning it to a place near the subject where it would appear naturally as a shadow.

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Moving the drop shadow around

Want a few extra tricks? Hold down the CMD key (Mac) down or the CTRL key (PC) to get the little icon to move the corners around and slant them a little to get a more realistic shadow appearance. Then click Return.

Hold down command key to-get-the-little icon to move the corners

Moving the corners around to make the shadow realistic

You can also into the layer mask or remove the extra shadow bits at the front of the subject for a cleaner appearance.

Create mask to remove the extra shadow

The last step it to adjust the opacity settings to lighten the shadow’s appearance to your liking.

Adjusting opacity to lighten the shadow

Final image with realistic shadow

Final image with realistic shadow

So there you have it, the quick and easy process for adding a natural-looking drop shadow to your image. Want to keep learning? Check out our tutorial for transforming your average photo into a pencil sketched work of art.

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Rokaiya Yeasmin Munni

As manager and head of digital marketing at Clipping Path India, Rokaiya wants to help retailers and photographers use marketing strategies and tactics that will elevate their business. She has an 18-year background in graphic design, content management and digital marketing.

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