Drop Shadows

A drop shadow, by default, is a dark, translucent, offset shape that falls behind an object, as if a light was shining on the object. Drop shadows are the same size as the object to which they’re applied, although blurring a drop shadow may enlarge it somewhat.

They create the illusion of depth, with the result that the foreground object seems to pop out at the viewer. For this reason, drop shadows are frequently used to create the impression of space between two overlapping objects.

Figure. Canvas window showing images with a drop shadow applied.

Drop shadows also darken overlapping regions of background objects. A good example of when to use this is when you place text over a background that might obscure it. By adding a drop shadow, you can make a foreground text object easier to read.

Figure. Canvas window showing a text object with and without a drop shadow.

It’s easy to add a drop shadow to any object, since each object has individual drop shadow parameters in the Inspector and HUD. Once activated, drop shadows can also be manipulated directly in the Canvas.

Tip: Motion also has the ability to generate true cast shadows when using lighting in 3D layers. For more information about cast shadows, see Shadows.

Important: Text objects have additional drop shadow parameters, located in the Style pane of the Text tab. For more information about text object drop shadows, see Adding a Drop Shadow.

Adjusting Drop Shadows in the Canvas

You can interactively modify an object’s drop shadow using the onscreen controls.

The Adjust Drop Shadow Transform Tool

Selecting the Adjust Drop Shadow transform tool in the Toolbar provides additional onscreen controls for selected objects with active drop shadows.

Figure. Canvas window showing Drop Shadow onscreen controls.

Four handles at each corner allow you to increase or decrease the blur of the drop shadow. Dragging anywhere within the drop shadow’s bounding box allows you to simultaneously change the shadow’s angle and distance.

To increase or decrease a drop shadow’s blur
  1. Click and hold the Select/Transform tool, then choose the Adjust Drop Shadow tool from the pop-up menu.

  2. In the Canvas, drag one of the four corner handles in to decrease a shadow’s blur or out to increase it.

To move an object’s drop shadow
  1. Click and hold the Select/Transform tool, then choose the Adjust Drop Shadow tool from the pop-up menu.

  2. Drag anywhere within the shadow’s bounding box to move it around.

Drop Shadow Controls in the Properties Tab

In addition to the Canvas and HUD drop shadow controls, each object has individual drop shadow parameters in the Properties tab of the Inspector.

Use the checkbox to turn any object’s drop shadow on or off. Click the disclosure triangle to reveal additional controls.

  • Drop Shadow: Turns any object’s drop shadow on or off.
  • Color: Sets the drop shadow’s color. This color is black, by default.
  • Opacity: Sets the drop shadow’s transparency.
  • Blur: Specifies how soft the drop shadow is.
  • Distance: Sets how close or far an object’s drop shadow is to the object. The farther away a drop shadow is, the more distance there appears to be between the object and anything behind it in the composition.
  • Angle: Lets you change the direction of the drop shadow. Changing the Angle of the drop shadow changes the apparent direction of the light casting the shadow.
  • Fixed Source: When this checkbox is selected, the drop shadow behaves as if it were cast by a fixed light source, regardless of camera or text movement.