How To Add A Drop Shadow To Text In Photoshop

by Oct 19, 2023Photo Editing Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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How To Add A Drop Shadow To Text In Photoshop

In this tutorial, I will share an easy way to add a shadow to text in Photoshop. We will do this using the Photoshop Layer Styles. Although we are adding a shadow to text, you can use the same technique to add a shadow to anything on a layer.

Adding Text In Photoshop

Let’s start by adding some text to a document to demonstrate the shadow effect. We do this using the Horizontal Text Tool, which you will find in the Photoshop Tools Palette on the left side of the interface. You can see the tool indicated in the following screenshot.

Selecting the Horizontal Text Tool in the Photoshop Tools Palette

After clicking the Horizontal Text Tool icon to select it, its controls appear in the toolbar at the top of the interface. Here, we can set the size and colour of the text we want to add. When you’ve done that, click once on the Photoshop document (image), which adds placeholder text. You can then enter your text to add it. In this example, we will add “Shadow Text”, which you can see in the following screenshot.

Text added to a document in Photoshop

We are now ready to apply a shadow effect to the text using the Photoshop Layer Styles.

Photoshop’s Drop Shadow Layer Style

You will find the Photoshop Layer Styles at the bottom of the Layers Panel. They are accessed using the FX icon, indicated in the following screenshot, below the popup menu.

Selecting the Photoshop Drop Shadow Effect in the Layer Styles

When you click the FX icon at the bottom of the panel, it displays a list of Layer Styles you can apply. The bottom option is to add a Drop Shadow effect. Click this with your mouse to display the Layer Styles dialog, which you can see in the screenshot below.

Photoshop Layer Style dialog with the Drop Shadow effect selected

Down the left side of the dialog, we see the different layer styles supported by Photoshop. At the bottom of this list, you can see the Drop Shadow effect with a tick mark to the left of it. When we select one of these styles by clicking it, the controls for that style appear in the centre of the dialog.

Currently shown in the centre of the dialog are the controls for the Drop Shadow. These allow us to adjust the shadow effect we see on the text. The main ones to be aware of are:

  • The Colour Swatch, which we see at the top right of the controls. This is currently set to black, but when you click it, you open a colour picker. You can then use this to choose a different colour.
  • Below this is the Opacity slider. This controls the strength of the drop shadow added to the layer. Move it right to increase the strength and left to reduce it.
  • The Angle control is a circle with a line through it. You can click and drag the line with your mouse to set the angle of the shadow. Then, to the right of this is an option to “Use Global Light”. When this is ticked, it sets all the layers in the image with the Drop Shadow effect to use the same angle of light. This ensures they all have the same shadow direction.
  • Below this are three important sliders: Distance, Spread, and Size. Let’s look at their effects with an illustration to make them easier to understand.

Distance Slider

In the following screenshot, you can see the effect of the Distance slider on the shadow.

Distance Slider for the drop shadow

In the top example, we see the Distance slider set to 10. Then, below this, the Distance slider is set to 50. The other sliders in the group haven’t been changed. You can see how the effect appears to control the height of the text from the shadow.

Size Slider

in the following screenshot, you can see the Size slider effect on the drop shadow of the text.

Effect of the Size slider on the text drop shadow

In the top example, the Size slider was set to 10. Then, in the lower example, the Size slider was increased to 50. This illustrates how the Size slider is used to control the blurring of the shadow around the edges.

Spread Slider

Below, you can see an illustration showing the effects of the Spread slider on the drop shadow.

Example showing the effect of the Spread slider

In the top illustration, the Spread slider was set to 3. In the illustration below, the value was increased to 50. The Spread slider is tough to describe. The best description is that it creates a stroke line around the shadow.

Most of the time, you will use a low spread slider setting between 0 and 5.

After applying your settings in the Layer Style dialog, click the OK button to apply them to shadow and close the dialog.

The Layers Panel

Having added the shadow to our text, let’s return to look at the Layers Panel. In the following screenshot, you can see the layers having added the shadow to the text.

The Layers Panel in Photoshop showing the drop shadow layer effect

Here, we can see the Shadow Text layer. To the right of this, the FX icon indicates a layer effect is applied to this layer. Double-clicking this opens the Layers Style dialog, where we can adjust our settings or apply new Layer Styles.

Below the layer, we see the Effects heading with an eye icon to the left of this. If you click the eye icon, it toggles all Layer Effects for the layer, off and on. The Layer Effects applied to this layer are listed below it. This example shows the Drop Shadow effect, but you can add many more.

To learn more about the different layer effects and how to use layers for photo editing, see my book Mastering Photoshop CC Layers.

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Adding A Shadow To Text In Photoshop Summary

You will now have a good idea of how to add a shadow to text in Photoshop. The drop shadow layer style is a simple and easy way to create a shadow around text or an object. But there is a limitation. The shadow assumes that the light source is above the text or object. This means that the shadow is always cast behind the text.

But what if you wanted to create the effect of text with a light coming from behind it? That would require the shadow to appear on the surface in front of the text. To do that takes a little bit more effort, but it is still simple in Photoshop. To find out how read my tutorial “How to Add a Shadow in Photoshop”. It also includes a helpful video showing the technique in this tutorial.

More Photoshop Tutorials

You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Adobe Photoshop Tutorials page.

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