Drop-shadow crocodiles [Livingstone, Zambia, July 2001; Fuji FinePix 2300 digicam]
People do seem to have difficulty generating drop shadows in Photodesk. It's not that hard, but perhaps there's an expectation that it should be possible with a single mouse-click. In order to use Photodesk's built-in drop-shadow facility, you need to make a selection, copy it somewhere, set up the shadow parameters, then paste it back to the original location -- and selection, copying and pasting can all be quite involved procedures.
The general advice given is to first draw your text on the image, then select it. This immediately poses problems if you're using textured or gradient-filled text, the text is translucent, or there's any other effect which stops the text being a single block of colour ... and even then you can easily find yourself selecting stray pixels in the image if you use the magic wand.
The solution is to use a layer for your text, a method with many advantages. Here's a step-by-step run-through of creating a drop shadow using layers.
- Load your base image. Open the Channels window, then click on Layers...
- Click on Layers:New layer (the plain sheet of paper at bottom right)
- In the dialogue, enter a Name for the new layer -- "text", for instance -- and click on Create
- You've now created a new layer on top of your image, although it will look the same -- a new layer has all its pixels set to transparent, so it's as if you'd placed a sheet of glass on top of your image. Maximise the Layers window to see this. The text (and the drop shadow) will be drawn on this "sheet of glass" layer.
The new layer
- Open the Drawing tools, select the Text icon, and place your text with suitable font, size, colour, gradient, fill etc.
- Go into Montage mode (the Scissors) and click on the Copy icon on the toolbar (two rectangles); the Copy window should open. Ensure it's set up as below.
The copy window
- Ensure your image window has the input focus, and type Ctrl-A. This will select everything non-transparent on the current layer -- in this case, all the text you've put there. Tip: Click the Menu button over an image to give it the input focus. This avoids any accidental application of effects.
- Type Ctrl-C to copy the text on to the clipboard.
- A new window will appear containing your text on a white background.
- Open the Copy window's pull-down menu by the Name icon and choose Selection>Load from>#6 Selection. This makes the text in the clipboard the currently active selection.
- Type Ctrl-V
- That's it. Your text should appear, with its drop shadow, on your original image.
- If you're not happy with the effect, undo (F8), adjust the shadow parameters, and type Ctrl-V again.
- Fix when you're happy. Remember to save in Photoshop format if you want to preserve the layer information.
- As a general rule, use a separate layer for any text work. It has many advantages: you can change the text and its style much more easily, the different layer-blending modes give great flexibility in combining text and image, you can interactively change the opacity of the text (even 'turning it off' to make further work on the base image much easier)... layers make using text effects much easier, a fact realised in Photoshop, which automatically puts text in a new layer.
- If you try to save your layered image as a JPEG (for example), you'll get a warning box that this format doesn't support layered images. Click on OK to save it in 'flattened' form; this doesn't affect the original image. To permanently flatten the image (only as a last resort), choose the Merge visible layers entry in the Layers menu, Even then, you can still undo this as long as you haven't 'tooled' the image -- that is, clicked on a tool icon.
- If you want more control over shadows you'll have to do them manually. For instance, you can't change the colour of the shadow using the built-in method, or apply a gradient (to simulate 3D shading). Essentially, you need to create a copy of whatever is casting the shadow on a new layer , and put this between the text and the image. Offset it slightly (the Move tool is handy here), then apply various darkening, blurring, colouring and gradient effects until it looks right. Use the layer's Opacity setting to change the 'darkness', and if you link the text and shadow layers (click on their 'cross' icons in the Layers window) you can move the whole effect around in one go,