photoshop creative

Photoshop Tutorial: Creative shadows in portraits

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
September 23, 2013

Edit a new shadow into your image to create a Photoshop composition with a twist

Step 1

Download ‘Creative Shadows.jpg‘. This is going to form the shadow of the effect. Notice how the bottom of the sword’s handle is missing. We can bring this back in later. Select the Quick Selection tool, or if this isn’t part of your Photoshop inventory, use the Magic Wand instead.







Step 2

The Quick Selection tool works by dragging the selection over the area you want to keep or get rid of. Start with the legs of the model and drag upwards to the head in one motion. You can continue this selection over the arms as well if they weren’t picked up the first time round.







Step 3

The sword will need to be included in this selection too. Change the size of the Quick Selection tool to 20px (use your square bracket keys to adjust brush size quickly). Gradually work the selection to the tip of the sword. If you go outside the area, hold down Alt/Opt and click to remove mistakes.







Step 4

The selection so far would have missed the small triangle between the model’s arms. Hold Alt/Opt and drag the selection in this area. Press Q to activate the Quick Mask mode to check the accuracy. Use the Eraser and Brush tools to edit the Quick Mask mode to touch up the areas and then press Q to return to your image.










Step 5

Press W to keep the selection tool active, Ctrl/right-click inside the selection you made and choose Make Work Path from the list. Hit OK in the pop-up box while keeping Tolerance set to 0.5. The marching ants are now a solid path around the model, ready to be saved as a custom shape.









Step 6

Go to Edit>Define Custom Shape to set this path as a shape. In the pop-up box give this shape a name and hit OK to save it. You can check to see if this has saved it by going to the Custom Shape tool (U) and into the Options bar. Look in the bottom of the Shape thumbnails list.






Step 7

Open your image of a portrait and select the Custom Shape tool. You’ll have to make sure your Foreground swatch is set to black. You can do this by either clicking on the square at the bottom of the Toolbar, or by pressing D on your keyboard.






Step 8

Choose the shape we just made from the list of silhouettes in the Options bar. The martial artist should be the last one in the group. Holding Shift, click and drag the shape onto the image next to the person. The shape should roughly be the same size as your subject.





Step 9

Press Ctrl/Cmd+T to activate the Free Transform boundary. Rotate the shape into position and go to Edit>Transform Path and select the Perspective option. You can drag the corners of the box to add perspective and to lay the shape on to the ground so it looks like the shadow of the person.







Step 10

Go to the Filter menu and down to Blur>Gaussian Blur. Hit OK in the dialog box, which will rasterise the shape layer before the filter is opened. Adjust the Radius slider until it reads 8px. This will soften the outline of the shadow. Hit OK and then reduce the layer’s Opacity down to 50% in the Layers palette to make it more transparent.






Step 11

You may have some of the shadow covering your person. Click on the Background layer and use the Quick Selection tool to select areas of your main subject with shadow on. Click back on the shadow’s layer and press Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+I to inverse the selection. Add a layer mask to hide the areas of shadow going over your person.