Welcome. This blog is my little home on the web. It's mostly about my favorite hobby, digital scrapbooking. You might also find some recipes, home decor projects, or parenting woes. But mostly digital scrapbooking.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Occasionally I have digi friends ask me about how I shadow my layouts.  The short answer is that I use One Little Bird drop shadow layer styles. I've been using them for about three years, maybe more.

I use the 120 degrees shadows, and the styles I use the most from this set are:
  • Leaf Shadow (for leaves AND flowers)
  • Flat Flower Shadow (for flatter flowers or for papers/ribbons with a warped shadow)
  • Curled Ribbon Shadow (for curly ribbons/strings)
  • Stitching Shadow
  • Paper Shadow
I often tweak them a bit, but I still like having some place to start.  Lately, I've been doing a bit lighter shadows, and a bit bigger shadows for things like flowers.  I'll use this layout as an example.

The leaves: I started with the Leaf Shadow, but I thought it was too dark.  So I changed the blend mode to Multiply (from Linear Burn) and also bumped up the size quite a bit.  So the shadow settings on the leaves are:
  • Multiply, 60% Opacity, Distance = 45 px, Size = 76 px.

The flower: Lately with flowers I've been using really large sizes and distances to achieve a more diffuse look. I started with the Leaf Shadow here, but then took down the opacity and bumped both the size and the distance. The shadow settings on the flower are:
  • Linear Burn, 37% Opacity, Distance = 75 px, Size = 87 px. Really huge numbers on the size and distance, right?
I mentioned that I've been tending toward lighter shadows. I've caught myself bumping up the size of flower shadows lately, as a way to lighten them up a bit. I think that is why I'm getting such large values for the flowers.

The button: I use One Little Bird Button Shadow for just about every button that I shadow, but I almost always remove the Spread and bump up the Size a little. However on this button I did keep the Spread value. The shadow settings are:
  • Linear Burn, 48% Opacity, Distance = 37 px, Spread = 6 px, Size = 59 px.

The stitched ribbon: This is an example where I used a little warp on the shadow to help give a bit of depth. I started with the Flat Flower shadow (Linear Burn, 49% Opacity, Distance = 30 px; Size = 35 px), then I moved the shadow to its own layer. I did not change any of the shadow settings. I used the Warp tool to slightly pull down the ends of the shadow on the left most side and the upper right side, and I nudged the shadow up closer to the ribbon where the button would be holding it close to the photo beneath.

Her are some closeups.... the effect is so subtle, it hardly seems worth the effort. That's why sometimes I bother to warp and sometimes I don't. Hover your mouse over the image to see the warped shadow.

Again, those settings were:
  • Linear Burn, 49% Opacity, Distance = 30 px; Size = 35 px; Warped Shadow

The photo strip frame: Since this frame is a bit distressed, it is a good candidate for some warping.
  • I used the Flat Flower shadow, moved it to its own layer and then moved it down in the Layers Palette so that the shadow was below the photos instead of between the photos and the frame. I did not change any settings.
  • I pulled/stretched (not Warp) the left side of the shadow toward the left so it extended out a little on the left side. 
  • And I pulled/stretched the bottom side of the shadow upward so that it did not extend down so much. 
  • Then I did a little warp on the left side to slightly stretch the bottom left corner outward and tuck the top left shadow in a bit closer to the frame. This is realistic to me because the ribbon at the top would be holding the frame tighter to the background and there would be less shadow.
Hover over the image to see the warped shadow.
  • Linear Burn, 49% Opacity, Distance = 30 px; Size = 35 px; Warped Shadow

This is change is a little less subtle, but still is is not a huge change. Is it worth the effort? I guess it was to me at the time. I do like the warped shadow better, and it wasn't a lot of work, but it is still a subtle effect. I go through phases when I hardly warp any of my shadows at all, and I go through phases when I like to play. For me it is more to do with my mood and being creative than trying to create the most realistic or dramatic shadows.

I have a couple of other shadow pet peeves, but I'll try to find some good examples of those and share in a later post. To summarize:
  • One Little Bird shadow layer styles.
  • Warp shadows on high impact elements only.
  • Flat Flower shadow is my go-to starting point if I want to warp the shadow on a paper or ribbon.
  • Use really big shadows on bulky flowers.

Those are my main shadow tips with some examples to illustrate. Thanks for stopping by!


  1. I own those shadows. I've been using someone else's for a while now, but am thinking I should go back to them. I think that in PSE because the shadows can't be set to linear burn they look too dark, but maybe because you're using PS, and the blending mode can be controled separately, they look awesome. Since I now have PS, I should play with these! Thanks for the lesson!!

  2. I love and use one little bird shadows too. I'm using PSE, so my options are a bit more limited, but I appreciate all the detail you've given. Great post!