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How to Create a Drop Shadow in Illustrator — Full Tutorial

How to Create a Drop Shadow in Illustrator — Full Tutorial

You’re working on a new design in Illustrator, and you notice a few parts that need to stand out more than others, but you’re not sure how to do it.

Great! Because I’m about to show you how to do it in three simple steps using one of the most common and useful Adobe Illustrator tools: the “Drop Shadow” effect.

A “Drop Shadow” is a visual effect created by a drawing element that appears to be an object’s shadow. When you look at it, you get the impression that this object is elevated above the others.

By applying this effect, you can make those objects pop up and come to life, and your objects will appear to be standing in front of the rest of the background, bringing a sense of depth.

Whether you choose to work with a group of objects or to individually modify either of them, here I’ll share some easy steps to fulfill your task and to take one step forward on the road to creativity. 

The first step in adding a drop shadow in Illustrator is to select the object you want to work with. Then, at the top of the screen, go to the main menu bar and select “Effect.” Choose “Stylize” from the options, followed by “Drop Shadow”. 


3 Simple Steps to create drop shadows in Illustrator

Applying this effect to your objects couldn´t be easier. Keep reading and you´ll figure it out in 3 easy steps. 

It’s important to mention that, before you start exploring the “Drop Shadow” settings, you must activate the “Preview” mode. Thus, you will be able to see the results in real-time and make sure the final result is satisfactory. 

Try each parameter up and down as many times you like: do it without concern, because the changes won´t be applied until you press “OK” (the end of 3rd step!). 


Step 1:

Select an object or group (or target a layer in the Layers Panel). 

Once you decided on the object you want to edit, go to “Selection Tool”, right on the top part of the toolbar (you could also get there by pressing the shortcut “V”), and select the object or group you are choosing for applying the shadow.

Create Drop Shadows in Illustrator Step 1


Step 2:

Select “Drop Shadow” from the menu.

To start working with this effect, you need to click on “Effect” from the top menu bar, then click on “Stylize”, and select the “Drop Shadow” option. 

A pop-up menu box with options will appear and show you everything you need to setup your effect.

Create Drop Shadows in Illustrator Step 2



Step 3:

Define your “Drop Shadow” settings on the menu box.

You can configure the settings however you want.

Remember to click on “Preview” to be able to see all the settings you are applying on the go! And feel free to investigate by trying different combinations to adjust the appearance of the shadow. 

Here’s a short description of each one of the settings available:

Mode. It´s the blending mode you want for the drop shadow. By default, you´ll see “Multiply”. 

Opacity. Here you can choose whether you want the shadow to be more or less transparent. 

Position (X and Y Offset). Move your shadows along the axis to specify how near or far it will stand from the object. The X Offset moves it to the sides; the Y Offset does it up and down.

Blur. It´s literally what the name means. You can blur the shadow a lot to make it softer and bigger, or keep it thick and heavy. 

Color and Darkness. You can change your shadow color and choose any color you want! Move through the color spectrum to pick one. Apart from that, you can alternatively set the amount of black you want to include in the shadow. 

Create Drop Shadows in Illustrator Step 3



Step 4:

Click on Ok to confirm.

Does it look good to you already? Then click “OK” to apply the effect!

The final result should look exactly as it looked on the preview. 

Now that you have finished your work and you are happy with it, Remember that you can always come back to the panel and keep editing by going to “Window” on the main menu, and select “Appearance”.

You never know if your client, a colleague, or even yourself want to review some aspects and make one or two modifications. So, it’s good to know it’s possible to edit the drop shadows once they´re created.


Create Drop Shadows in Illustrator Step 4



Frequently Asked Questions About How To Use Drop Shadows In Illustrator


How to delete the drop shadow from an object?

If you want to get rid of the drop shadow, follow these steps: go to “Window” on the main top menu, click on “Appearance”, and select the “Drop Shadow showing on the panel. Do you see the menu? Well, then say goodbye as you press on the trash can icon that stands on the right corner at the bottom of the box. 


Can I hide a drop shadow and activate later?

Of course!. You can see your “Drop Shadow” effect or effects shown on the “Appearance” panel as like other effects as well. You just need to hit on the eye icon, (as it works on the layer panel) to hide it, and you can do the same to re-activate.


Can I use more than one shadow per object?

Yes, you can! While standing on your actual “Drop Shadow” showing on the “Appearance” panel, go to the icon that looks like a page called “Duplicate Selected Object”, and by clicking on it you will duplicate the effect.


Can I use drop shadows on text and pictures too?

Absolutely! Just type a text on the artboard or insert an image and go back to step 1 of this tutorial to give this kind of objects more dynamism.