One way to approach learning new design skills is to think about it as acquiring new tools for a design arsenal.
Meaning, sure, you probably have a project in mind right this second that requires you adding a shadow to an image, but the steps in getting to that final output point will each teach you something new.
Now, you’ll not only know how to add a shadow, but also how to do things needed to get to that point, like potentially remove the background of a photo, or how to transform an image into a silhouette.
How to Add a Shadow to an Image
To add a shadow to an image, you must first create a second image. Then, you’ll darken that second image as the shadow, and place it behind your original image. You can offset the shadow image in any direction to give a shadow effect.
Now, there is a lot more that goes into it, so here are the instructions on how to add an image to a shadow. I’ll be using Canva, but there are a number of tools that can accomplish the same.
1. Add a Second Image
To create a shadow, you’ll need to have two images or layers. And, the shape of that second image will depend on your end goal.
Meaning, if you simply want to create a rectangle shadow behind your rectangle photo, your second image will be a rectangle. In Canva, you can add any number of shapes from the “elements” menu.
Alternatively, if you want the shadow to represent something in the photo, lets say a dog sitting in the park, then your second image will have to be in the shape of that dog.
The tricky part here is that you need to isolate the dog by removing the background. With Canva Pro, this takes a single click of a button (you can get a 30-day free trial here).
To do so, just go to “Effects” and then “Background Remover.” Make a copy so you have two images.
2. Darken the Second Image
Next, you’ll need to darken the second image to represent the shadow.
Going off the above, if you’re working with a simple shape, you can just click the shape to select it, and then go to the color palette to change the color. You can choose black or gray, or whichever color you’d like.
If working with a particular photo subject like the dog removed from the background, once you’ve removed the background, go to “Effects” and then “Duotone.” Click “Cherry” and then once the settings icon appears, click it again. Next, change both the “Highlights” and “Shadows” to Black.
You should now have your main image and then the copy of the image as your shadow.
As an extra step, you can decrease the transparency if needed by looking to the top right of your workspace, clicking the transparency icon, and then moving the slider adjustment.
3. Arrange Images
Last, all you need to do is move your shadow image behind the main image. To do this in Canva, select your shadow image and then click “Position.” Then click “Backward.”
From here, you can have a little fun! And, by putting just a little more time into the project, you can achieve better results. Like this blurred shadow!
Or this “shadow on a wall.”
Keep reading for steps on how to achieve both!
Bonus: Blur Second Image
One thing I like to do is not only darken the second image, but to blur it as well. The problem is, you need to take an extra step once you’ve removed your background to do so.
So, once you’ve removed the background from your image, download the image by clicking the “Download” button and then selecting PNG. You’ll also want to click “Transparent Background.”
Once your file has downloaded, look to the left of your Canva workspace and click “Uploads.” Then click the button “Upload Media.” Now, upload the file you just downloaded. By doing so, Canva will treat it as a true image and will allow you to make different adjustments that you couldn’t before.
Now, add this new image to your project and change the color again as we did before (“Effects” and then “Duotone”). After, go to “Adjust” and then slide the “Blur” adjustment to blur your image.
As you can see now, your shadow is a bit more natural looking!
Bonus: Shadow on a Wall
You can skip back to when you had your original photo and your second photo in a different color.
Enlarge the photo with color and place it in the background, offset a bit.
Then, go to “Elements” and then “Shapes” and select the rectangle shape. Change the size of the rectangle so that it’s skinnier and longer. Arrange the rectangles so they are extending from your original image to the shadow image.
Last, if you want the shadow to change color, you need to grab all of the pieces (dark shadow object and the rectangles) and click “Group.” Then, click the transparency icon and reduce transparency.
And that’s it! Hope this was useful, and please let me know if you run into any additional challenges.