Adobe Illustrator Tutorial – Creating Professional Drop Shadows

Creating shadows in Adobe Illustrator is a quick and easy task that can either help or hurt…….”yes I did say hurt”……your graphic layout. Just because an effect looks “COOL” doesn’t mean it was meant for your graphic design.


The purpose of adding a shadow is to make any element so it stands out from whatever is behind it. In Adobe Illustrator you need to go to: Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow.

This can be either suttle or substantial. There are a whole bunch of ways to customize a shadow. You want to make sure you are making sure your shadows go with your design.

For instance, if you are designing a party flyer, you can go a little bit crazy with the shadows as opposed to a clean professional design.

Shadows can be incorporated on basically any element, including line art, typography, and imagery.

They can add a huge amount of life to a piece if set properly. I like to set shadows behind elements that have strokes on them as in the two examples below.

The Stroke basically contains the image because in some cases if there is not stroke and the image has light colors going to the edge, they are going to completely blend with the drop shadow.

Learn About Clipping Masks

Learn How To Create A Basic Stroke
Graphic Designer Tips Drop Shadow Tutorial Adobe Illustrator

In the images above you will notice example 1 and example 2.

Example 1

This is a shadow has too much going on. In my opinion, the viewer is concentrating much more on the shadow than the piece it is attached to

Example 2

This shadow is much more a part of the piece and will help it to pop off of any background.

TIP: Try making your X Offset, Y Offset and blur all the same value. Do not go by the .02″ value in this example, this is based on two things:
1. The WxH size of the image is very small with required a smaller value.
2. My Adobe Illustrator GENERAL unit of measure is set to Inches.
You can find this by going to either File or Illustrator at the top > Preferences > Units & Display Performance.