Clustering Elements | It's in the Shadows


Welcome to Lesson 2 of our Clustering mini class!

Yesterday, we learned about the Elements of a Layout and Layering. If you haven't read it, make sure you do so can fully understand the lesson.

This is our page from yesterday:


The clusters are actually looking good - the elements are basically proportionate to each and every aspect of the layout.

But if you take a closer look, the page is - OK but not really OK.


It lacks dimension.

The layout is basically - FLAT!


But how do we give our layouts dimension?

There really is no magic trick to that - the key to creating beautiful clusters is in the shadows!

Now, this one is NOT as easy as it sounds. When you add shadows to your layers, there is ONE important thing that you have to consider:

The light source

I know you'll ask why, so here:


To fully understand where you should apply your shadows, you should know where your light source would be! And when you do apply the shadow for an element, you will have to apply the same light source to each and every piece of element in your layout.

There are 2 most commonly used shadowing angle for digital scrapbooking, 45 degrees and 120 degrees. The above demo image used -120 degrees. Although there are scrappers who uses 60 degrees as well. It all totally depends on where you "would" want to place your light source.

Now, there are 2 ways for you to apply drop shadows. You can do it manually OR you can use a set of styles (in Photoshop and PSE).

Let's try doing it manually to put a drop shadow to our frame.


Click the frame layer, right click  and select Blending Options. You will be directed to the Layer Style window.


Click Drop Shadow. Adjust the Opacity, Angle (I prefer 45 degrees), Distance, Spread and Size. You may also opt to use Multiply or Linear Burn blending mode depending on the type of element you are using and how much darker you want your shadow to be.

(Some people prefers the linear blend mode but I try to use them both depending on my element)



Can you see the difference when the frame is flat and now that it has shadows?

It pops and it looks better, right? You can do the same method for all the other elements. Play around with the distance, the spread and size depending on how big or small your element is and how it is placed on the layout. The closer the element to your base, the smaller the shadow should be.

If you want to take things easy – you can just get yourself some shadow styles to do the work for you!

What is the benefit of using shadow styles when I can do it on my own? Sure you can do it. But think about having to do multiple layout and you need to shadow each and every element on your page. What if you have 150 layers (believe me some scrappers have more than that!)

Using shadow styles allow you to apply a drop shadow with just one click. A shadow preset will be applied to your element and you can also adjust these presets to your liking.



Take a look at our layout now that all the elements have drop shadows. Better? It sure is! Is has dimensions now and the layout does not look flat anymore.

For this tutorial, all of my layouts, and store product previews, I always use Me and Mye Shadow Styles. It has 20 shadow presets you can apply to your papers and elements.


Now that we have learned about shadowing, I want you to go back to your layout yesterday and apply some shadows, either manually OR using a style. Try both and see which one works better for you. Come back here and give me a feedback how everything went and by all means, link us up to your layout!

You think we're done? The sweetest part is just about to come. I'll see you tomorrow for the final lesson and on Friday, I'll be bring  guest clusterers with me. They will join us in the comment section so feel free to jump in.

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