I’ve got a riddle for you . . .
A little leafy embellishment walks into the school cafeteria. He sees four tables of friends, all of whom he knows well.
Sitting at Table 1 is a stuck-up and confident group referred to as the Nos. They claim to need no shadow in order to feel complete.
Table 2 is filled with a group of humble chaps called the Lows. They prefer to work behind the scenes maintaining a low-profile and helping out where needed.
A little farther down sits the Bolds group at Table 3. Everyone is staring at them. They are a little obnoxious and are always vying for attention.
Lastly, near Table 4 is the group of Customs. They cannot seem to make up their minds about where to sit. Some are standing up, some are sitting down. They are simply waiting for someone to direct their path.
So, where does the little leafy embellishment decide to sit?
You’ll find the answer to the riddle below my signature. But for now, all this was designed as a reminder to you. You really do have a choice when shadowing the embellishments you place on your page, and your choice can have a high impact.
Things Requiring No Shadow
These include: Brushy Photo Masks • Type • Doodles • Stamps • Word Art • Overlays • Brushes • Rub-ons • Paint • Tape • etc.
This group of embellishments could be described as things that you could not reach down and pick up off your page. As a whole, these things are stamped, written, or brushed right onto a surface. Adding a shadow to any of these would remove their believability.
Things Requiring Low Shadows
These include: Brads • Stickers • Paper • Stitches • Confetti • Buttons • Flat Ribbons • Low Profile Flowers • Alphas • Low Profile Frames • Staples • and the list goes on forever
In the digi world, this shadow category is by far the biggest. It is comprised of anything that lays flat on your scrapbook page.
A few of these things, like stitches, could actually go without a shadow. But, that is because the designers build the slight shadow into the stitch.
Most versions of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements will automatically apply a bold and bossy shadow to your layer as soon as you click on the drop shadow option. I find it rather annoying, actually. So, it’s up to you to lovingly tell the shadow, “Back off, buddy!”
Items that are meant to lay flat on a page have no business running with their bold counterparts.
Low Drop Shadow Description
I consider a low drop shadow to have an Opacity of 50%, a Size of 10 pixels, and a Distance of 5 pixels. This is just a jumping off point, however. Depending on the item, the size and distance may need to go up or down—very slightly.
Things Requiring Bold Shadows
These include: High Profile Flowers • High Profile Frames • High Profile Embellishments
This is by far the smallest category but has the greatest chance to be the biggest disaster. Things belonging to the bold drop shadow group all are things that would make your scrapbook page way too bulky in real life. In fact, these are mostly things that belong in a shadow box. Think big. Think bossy.
Bold Drop Shadow Description
In short, a bold shadow is everything that a low shadow is not. Bold shadows are generally defined by their high Size and Distance values. I would describe a bold shadow to be 2x the size and distance of a low shadow. Although, sometimes it’s just the high opacity (+75%) that makes the shadow bold.
Things Requiring Custom Shadows
These include: Curly Ribbons • Knotted Strings • Branches • Foliage • Bows • Banners • etc.
These are things that sit BOTH on and off the page at the same time. In reality they would have both a low shadow and bold shadow at the same time. There’s really no easy way to accomplish that without a custom shadow.
When done correctly and applied in moderation, custom drop shadows will add the oh-so-perfect touch to your layout. In fact, using only one or two custom shadows per page will produce the grandest effect. Less is actually more in this case.
Custom Drop Shadow Description
Custom shadows are best demonstrated. It’s our pleasure to show off custom shadows in action. Watch our video.
So, how about you? I’d love for you to share your thoughts on shadowing your layouts.
Answer to the riddle: He sits at Table 2 because he knows they would never leaf him astray.
The Moral of the Story
When in doubt, go with a low drop shadow. 😀