Drop shadows are one of the first few tricks most people learn using photoshop or in any graphics program. It may look simple to execute but getting the most out of the effect can be tricky. I've learned from experience that getting the drop shadows right really counts if you want to accomplish the desired effect for your design. What I have here is a few design tips that might help you with your drop shadows.

To Blur or not to Blur

Doing a drop shadow effect does not require you to blur the shadow. Using the blur effect on a drop shadow that sits on a light background like white can even make the overall design come out dirty.

In this image sample, I use a drop shadow for my text with the blur effect and one without it. You'll notice that the shadow which I applied the blur effect comes a little dirty compared to the one without it. This may be crucial in keeping the clean look especially when working with a corporate design.

One way of getting the clean look with a blurred shadow is using the right amount of opacity for the layer. You can play around with opacity ranging from 25%-75% depending on the lightness of the background color.

Finding the right opacity

The opacity is also crucial in getting the right drop shadow you need. Leaving the opacity as it is (default 100%) may not work. The shadow might come out too dark or too strong especially on light backgrounds. Try reducing the opacity of the shadow from 25%-75%. Also don't be afraid to experiment with your own settings.

Getting the right offset

The shadow offset refers to the distance of the shadow from the object making it. The position of the drop shadow usually appears at the lower left or lower right of the image. The amount of offset used in the shadow can also be important. Too much offset may not work and same goes if the shadow comes to close to the object making it. I usually play around 2-4 pixels offset (2-4 pixels down and 2-4 pixels left) on web images but it varies depending on the design and your own preferences.

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