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Design Photoshop Foundations Layer Basics Layer Styles

highpriestess
highpriestess
5,486 Points

Confused about making a drop shadow in Photoshop

If I open up a .png image in PS....am I supposed to create a new layer in order to add a drop shadow?

I tried doing that and it didn't work. I could only create a drop shadow on the original layer.

I'm confused. I thought one reason for layers is so that I don't mess with the original image.

13 Answers

Daniel Johnson
Daniel Johnson
104,132 Points

Thanks for sharing the screenshot. I'm assuming you're trying to apply the Drop Shadow to the Mike the Frog image.

Layer 1 is an empty layer, so there's nothing for Photoshop to apply a Drop Shadow to. You can just delete Layer 1.

Layer 0 contains the PNG image of Mike the Frog, which contains something called transparent pixels. These are just invisible pixels in the PNG image. When you apply a shadow to this layer it will appear outside your canvas because it's using these pixels for the shadow. If you enlarge your canvas size you can see the shadow is actually being applied to the outside of the transparent pixels.

You need to delete the transparent pixels from the PNG in Layer 0 before you can apply the shadow the way you want. You can do this a few different ways, but here's probably the easiest way to do it.

  1. Select your Magic Eraser Tool.
  2. Click once anywhere on the transparent or invisible pixels to delete them, so Photoshop doesn't try to use them for the Drop Shadow.
  3. Now you can apply your Drop Shadow directly to Layer 0.
Daniel Johnson
Daniel Johnson
104,132 Points

PNGs are just a type of image you can output from your Photoshop documents. Make sure you don't confuse the two as the same thing.

You'll either need the original PSD if you want to make edits to the image or you'll need to create a new Photoshop document (.psd file) and import your PNG (.png file).

You can actually use a Photoshop file in combination with multiple PNGs, JPGs, GIFs, layers, etc.... You'll want to create an actual Photoshop file with the extension .psd in order keep your layers saved.

You could also just edit any image directly if you don't need to save the layers but it sounds like you do.

highpriestess
highpriestess
5,486 Points

OK...I saved the png file as a psd file.

I then added a new layer and tried to add a drop shadow to it.

Nothing. The layer is there and drop shadow is checked...but there's not drop shadow.

There's clearly something I'm not "getting" here.

highpriestess
highpriestess
5,486 Points

OK...here's what I did and it worked:

I created the drop shadow on the original psd image and then right clicked and chose "create layer"...and it made a layer out of the drop shadow.

I assumed that I created the layer first and THEN added a drop shadow to it.

Creating a drop shadow is very easy to do...open the .png file in PS and than double click the layer in the layers panel (thumb nail) this will open a blending options menu, just check the drop shadow box to add a drop shadow. You can than click the drop shadow text to edit the properties of the drop shadow. No need to create a .psd.

Daniel Johnson
Daniel Johnson
104,132 Points

She seemed liked she was worried about her layers...

Saving a PSD is a good idea because it will make it much easier if you need to go back and make adjustments later on.

However, it really just depends on how complex the image you're creating is, and if you plan on making adjustments in the future. If it's just a small quick fix to something minor than you may want to just edit the image directly.

Otherwise, save your PSD because that's where your layers live. They will not be saved in the PNG.

highpriestess
highpriestess
5,486 Points

That's what I was doing....and no drop shadow was being created. The layer remained blank.

Daniel Johnson In that case yes...creating a PSD would be wise, I fully agree.

Daniel Johnson
Daniel Johnson
104,132 Points

Yeah, it's difficult to know unless we can see what she is actually working on.

highpriestess
highpriestess
5,486 Points

I'm not working on anything in particular.

I'm just playing around with the program and I was confused because the drop shadow wasn't working as expected. I double clicked the new layer to open up the options, clicked "drop shadow"...and nothing happened. No drop shadow was created.

I was able though to create a drop shadow on the png/psd image itself...not on the layer.

highpriestess
highpriestess
5,486 Points

Here's a screenshot of the drop shadow on the layer. It's blank...but says that there's a drop shadow there. The color is set to black.

http://tinypic.com/m/ilws46/2

Try un checking (hiding) the bottom layer and double clicking on the frog image. Apply a drop shadow to that layer...if you click on the drop shadow text it will allow you to adjust the settings, which I think you got now from your other post. You can drag the drop shadow around by clicking on the frog image and holding down...this is a good way to get the shadow where you want it while drop shadow menu is open. Make sure you have the preview box checked in the drop shadow menu.

Nathan Bentley
Nathan Bentley
12,680 Points

You need to put a shape or type text in the blank layer to see the result with drop shadows. Have you tried duplicating the original layer and add shadow to the copied layer? A blank layer alone wont work if you want drop shadow.

highpriestess
highpriestess
5,486 Points

Thanks for all your help.

I guess I just don't understand how layers work exactly.

I keep reading that one reason for using layers is so that I don't alter the original image. That's why I created a new layer for the drop shadow. Somehow...from watching various videos etc...I got the idea that the drop shadow would be applied to that new layer.

What I learned instead from trial and error is that I apply the drop shadow to the original image and THEN make a new layer from it. After I do that the drop shadow is in its own layer.

(I've used Fireworks quite a bit for simple things...but I never touched the layers panel...and I'm very new to Photoshop.)

Nathan Bentley
Nathan Bentley
12,680 Points

To be sure to keep your original by saving as another file rather then relying on layers. Layers can be used to construct new parts or move parts/sections of the image. So many options!

Richard Mellor
Richard Mellor
13,770 Points

It doesnt make it any easier that Allison is using an outdated version of Photoshop!! Treehouse claim to teach cutting edge technology so why dont they update these videos to the software that people can download and use (cheaply) ie the CC version of Photoshop. Im a little bitter because this is my second course in a row on Treehouse im unhappy with!