How to create any shadow behind a character in Photoshop?
In this Photoshop tutorial, we’ll show that an image can really say more than a thousand words. We will add a shadow for the person as an expression that one day one can really become what is behind him. Or, in fact, he is already the shadowed image, but he can hide it from others. For example, as a well-known Dr. Jekyll a Mr. Hyde. Or in our photo, where a boy is probably imagining himself as the shadow we see behind him.
It is a really interesting and popular effect created in photoshop. You may remember that it was used extensively a few years back, for example, on Star Wars – The Hidden Threat, where the young and innocent-looking Anakin Skywalker seemed to form the shadow of Darth Vader behind him. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a magical effects specialist to do that in your photos. All you need is photoshop and a little creativity.
I chose a photo of a little boy:
As we can see, this boy imagines himself as a superhero. So let’s help him a little and add a real superhero shadow to the wall behind him.
We will try to do something like this
Put the whole character in the selection
After opening the photo in Photoshop, use any selection tool (lasso, magnetic lasso, pen, etc.) to draw a selection around the character.
Copy the selection to the new layer
When we look into the layer panel, we see that we have only one layer of “background” in which our photo is. Layer panel where we only see a single “background” layer
We now need to copy the figure in the photo to our new custom layer above the background layer so that we can cast a shadow behind it. Since we already have a selection drawn, all we need is CTRL + J and Photoshop copies the selection to a new layer. In the picture, we do not know, but in the layer panel we will see a new layer named “Layer 1” in which we see this (in my case), boy
Open the photo with the person or object we want to use for the shadow.
To create a shadow, we will need a second image that contains anything we like as a shadow. It does not matter if it is a person or an object of any kind. I’d like to give a boy a superhero shadow, so I’ll use this picture below:
Make a selection around the character or object
Just as we did with the original photo, we need to make a selection again around the character from which we want to make a shadow. So again, use any selection tool that suits you
Step 5: Move the selection to the original photo
When the selection is complete, use the Move tool. You can do this by pressing V on the keyboard. Then simply, even if we have each image open in our window, click anywhere in the middle of the shadow selection and move it to the original photo. When you release the mouse button, you’ll see your selection from the second image in the original photo:
Now you can close the second image window as it will no longer be needed.
One more thing I want to fix before we continue. The boy in the photo is looking to the right, but my chosen superhero is looking to the left. So we need to turn the superhero to look in the same direction as the guy he does. To do this, simply choose Transform from the Edit menu and then “Flip Horizontal”. Photoshop now turns the hero so that they both look to the right
Step 6: Paint the shadow image with black
Since we want to use the selected image that we just moved to the photo as a shadow, we must fill it in black first. Set your foreground color to black. You can also do this by pressing D on the keyboard, it will reset the foreground color to black and the background color to white. As we can also see on the toolbar. (top is black – foreground color, the bottom is white – background color)
Then use SHIFT + ALT + BACKSPACE to fill the figure or object with black.
If we just press ALT + BACKSPACE, it would stain the entire layer with black. But by holding SHIFT along with it, we only colored the character. The rest remained as it should.
Step 7: Move the shadow from the background layer to layer 1
Now we have an image that we want to apply to the shadow in the original photo and black. But the shadow is still appearing in front of the boy. But we need him to be behind him. To do this, use the layer settings
To move the shadow behind a boy, just move the shadow layer below the boy layer in the Layers panel. We can see that we now have three layers. One original with a background, the other with a copy of a kid in Layer 1 and a shadow over it in Layer 2
Layer panel showing three of our layers above each other
The shadow appears in the result above the boy because the shadow layer is above the boy layer. To adjust, just drag and drop in Layer 2 below Layer 1, placing it between Layer 1 and the Background layer (Photoshop won’t let you move anything below the background layer, as that wouldn’t make sense). So, click Layer 2 and drag it down until you see a black horizontal line between Layer 1 and Background Layer. Then release the mouse and the layers will be sorted as needed
Now that the shadow is under the layer with the boy and we look back at the resulting picture, we see that the shadow is behind the figure on the wall
Step 8: Move and resize the shadow using a free transform
With layer 2 still selected (the selected layer is always highlighted in blue), we press CTRL + T to start the Free Transform tool. Now you can freely zoom, shrink or move the shadow as you drag. To maintain the proportions of the shadow, it is always important to hold the SHIFT and move it at any corner point.
You may not see some free transformation points due to extensions and menus at the edge of the window. In this case, press F on the keyboard to launch the window in full-screen menu mode
Looking closer at the photo, we find that the boy’s left hand is slightly higher than his right hand. But the superhero has the opposite. To correct this, we are still using the free transformation tool. While holding CTRL, we start moving the left-center point down, which skews the image a little. We move it until we have the hero’s hands at the same height as the boy’s hands.
When we are satisfied with the result, we press enter to complete the transformation
Step 9: Apply Gaussian Blur to Shadow
Now that we have the shadow in the right size and the right place, we have to fine-tune a few details. As you can see, the edges of the shadow are all too unnaturally sharp, and the shadow is too dark and saturated. Both can be easily solved. Select Layer 2 in the Layers panel. In the menu, choose Filters -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur
The Gaussian Blur dialog box appears in front of us. We want to blur the edges of the shadow a little so that they are not as sharp. On the other hand, we cannot blur them too much so that we do not lose the detail of the shadow and it would be difficult to maintain its shape. So we need some blur value, so we set a radius somewhere between 2 and 6 pixels. It depends on the resolution of your photo. I use a relatively low-resolution photo, so the 2.5-pixel radius looks nice for my needs.
Click OK when you are satisfied with what you see in the Gaussian Blur preview window
Step 10: Reduce shadow coverage
Finally, we need to reduce the intensity and saturation of the shadow. Select Layer 2 in the Layers panel and decrease the opacity value in the upper right corner of the panel. We choose eg 35% and now we’re done. Below you can see my result of the whole effort.