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How to Select Shadows in Photoshop

Updated on April 27, 2013

There are numbers of ways to enhance an image. You can use Hue/Saturation, Color Balance, Contrast/Brightness, Level, Curve etc. to retouch your image. These options are under Image – Adjustments. If you use these options, without selecting anything on your image, changes will apply to the entire document. However, to adjust certain elements on the photo, you have to select Shadows, Midtones or Highlights before applying any effects.


Dodge Tool and Burn Tool

You can apply shadow and highlight effects on your photo by using Dodge (Highlight) and Burn (Shadow) Tools.

Select the tool, set the Range (Shadow, Highlight or Midtones) and Exposure, and simply brush over the area you want to highlight or darken.

How to Select Shadows, Midtones and Highlights

Open an image.

Go to Select – Color Range.

Color Range Dialogue Box will open.

When you click on the dropdown menu, you can see different options for selection, such as Reds, Yellows, Greens, Crayons, Blues, Magentas, Highlights, Midtones and Shadows.

Choose the option you want, and hit OK.

Selection will be loaded on your image.

Go to Image – Adjustments. Some of the options in Adjustments are:

Levels (Ctrl L)

Curves (Ctrl M)

Color Balance (Ctrl B)


Black and White (Alt Shift Crtl B)

Desaturate (Shift Crtl U)

Photo Filter


The options you choose under Adjustment command depends on what you want to do with your image. When you choose each option, a new dialogue box will open. Play with the sliders until you get the perfect result.


How to Select Shadows in Your Photo

Sometimes while retouching an image, changes will affect the entire image along with the shadow cast from the object in the image. Color and light scheme of the shadow may not fit with the new changes. In that case, you have to put the shadow in a different layer and work with the image.

Open the photo. Duplicate the layer.

Use any selection tool to select the object without the shadow. I use Quick Selection tool.

Click Add Layer Mask.

Go to the background layer.

Press Ctrl Alt 2. Highlights will be selected.

Go to Select menu and select Inverse (Shift Crtl I). Shadows will be selected.

Create a new layer just above the background layer.

Go to Edit – Fill (Shift F5) and choose Black.

Click Add Layer Mask. Now, you have the shadow in a separate transparent layer.

Drop shadow dialogue box
Drop shadow dialogue box | Source
Applying Drop Shadow
Applying Drop Shadow | Source

How to Create Drop Shadow

Open the photo.

Select the object. Move it into a new layer.

Go to Layer – Layer Style – Drop Shadow, or click Layer Style icon on the bottom of layer palette and select Drop Shadow.

Drop Shadow dialogue box will open.

There are different options for shadow effects, such as Opacity, Angle, Distance, Spread Size and Noise.

Play with the sliders to create outer shadow.

You can create shadow that matches to the source of light by adjusting angle, or amount of shadow by adjusting Distance and Spread.

Hit OK.

Go to Layer Style – Create Layer

You can see shadow in a new layer.

Go to shadow layer and set Opacity around 40 percent.

Erase excess shadow effect with Eraser tool with soft brush and around 70 percent Opacity.

Shadow created in Photoshop
Shadow created in Photoshop | Source

How to Create Realistic Shadow in Photoshop

Open the photo.

Select the object to cast shadow.

Copy the object in a new layer.

Go to Edit – Transform – Distort

Drag from the edge and distort image as if it is lying on the ground.

Click Image – Adjustments – Level (Ctrl L) and play with the slider to generate dark effects. You can also use curve (Ctrl M) and decrease darkness.

Lower the Opacity so that the image looks like a shadow.

Switch to background layer.

Go to Filter – Render – Lighting Effects.

Select 2 O’ Clock as the Style and Spotlight as Light style.

On the preview box, adjust the light source by dragging the pointers so that it matches the angle of shadow. Hit OK

Shadow created in Photoshop
Shadow created in Photoshop | Source


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    Post Comment
    • Naim Islam profile image

      Naim Islam 

      2 years ago from Dhaka, Bangladesh

      Hi Vinaya,

      you share a great tips but I think it's need to be more natural,right?

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal

      Vacation Trip

      Ceres Schwarz

      I'm glad that you found this hub interesting and useful. Thanks for your comment.

    • Ceres Schwarz profile image

      Ceres Schwarz 

      7 years ago

      This is a very detailed hub that's also very useful for those learning about photoshop. It's also great that you have pictures to show what you're talking about. That makes things even easier to understand.

    • Vacation Trip profile image


      7 years ago from India

      Wow. very useful hub. will bookmark this. Thanks for sharing this interesting hub. Voted up and useful.


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