How to Add Drop Shadow in Illustrator CC

Looking to add drop shadow in Illustrator to objects and shapes? The drop shadow feature may be a little hidden away, but once you find it, you can apply drop shadows with similar features to those in Photoshop, then edit and make changes in the appearance panel.

While the drop shadow feature in Illustrator is a little different to Photoshop’s in the way it is applied, it can still be an effective tool when bringing depth and realism to your vector graphics, especially if you don’t want to go too heavy with the bevel and 3D options.

Video Tutorial

If you prefer to learn with a video tutorial, you can use my tutorial above and follow along as I demonstrate the techniques used in this article. We go through adding, editing, and deleting a drop shadow.

Step-by-Step Tutorial

Add Drop Shadow

Step 1 – Select the object you want to apply the drop shadow to with the ‘selection tool’ from the lefthand toolbar.

Step 2 – With the shape selected, go to ‘effect > stylize > drop shadow’.

Step 3 – Change the settings in the ‘drop shadow’ menu to create your shadow accordingly.

Mode – Decide on the blending style for the shadow. ‘Multiply’ is a common one, but you can choose from several options.

Opacity – Select how strong or faded you want your shadow to be. A lower opacity will create a lighter shadow, with the background objects and graphics more visible behind the shadow.

Offset – Set the position of the shadow in relation to the key shape/object. Your X offset is the distance on the X axis (left and right), and the Y on the Y axis (up and down).

Blur – Set the level of blur for your shadow, for a crisper or blurrier shadow.

Color – By default, your shadow will be set to black, but you can use the color picker for a shadow of any color you like.

Darkness – Use this option to set the level of shade of your shadow, based on the selected color.

Preview – Check this to instantly see a preview of the changes you are making on the canvas.

Step 4 – Once happy with your settings, click ‘ok’.

Edit or Delete Shadow

Step 5 – Now that your shadow has been added, if you want to edit or delete it, first bring up the appearance panel by going to ‘window > appearance’ or selecting it from the righthand toolbar.

Step 6 – In the ‘appearance’ panel, you will see all the effects applied to the selected object. Scroll down this list until you see ‘drop shadow’. You can toggle this effect on or off using the ‘visibility’ button.

Step 7 – With the ‘drop shadow’ layer selected, click the ‘delete selected item’ dustbin icon located in the bottom right of the ‘appearance’ panel to delete the drop shadow.

Step 8 – Simply click the ‘drop shadow’ text to bring up the ‘drop shadow’ menu once more, and refer back to step 3 to make changes.

Step 9 – With ‘preview’ on, you will be able to see the preview of your shadow as you alter the settings. Once again, click ‘ok’ to confirm those changes and add the shadow.

Even when working with vector graphics, drop shadow can still add depth and realism to your artwork.

Using a combination of the ‘drop shadow’ and ‘appearance’ options, you can create controlled and precise drop shadows that can be applied to any object or shape on the artboard.

While Illustrator’s drop shadow does work a little differently from Photoshop’s, it is still straightforward to use once you know where the option is and how to edit it. Have fun with this feature, and use it to add some depth and character to your flat vector graphics.

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