Don’t Let Drop Shadows on Text Ruin Your Images

Drop shadows are one of the easiest to use and most powerful ways to make text stand out on a page. They are especially useful when you need to set dark text on a dark image. Just add a light drop shadow, and your text will immediately pop.

However, used improperly, drop shadows can also cause problems with your layouts. The biggest problem we see at the lab is drop shadows that extend off the edge of an image, which result in a hard edge when printed.

Look at the first two examples on the right.

  1. In the first example, the tight drop shadow will print properly, but because it is dark it tends to make the text look muddy.
  2. In the second example, the drop shadow is much more attractive, but when it is printed, the right edge of the shadow will have a hard edge, ruining the drop shadow effect.

How to solve the problem?

  1. Make your drop shadow small and tight to the text by minimizing the spread, size and distance (in Photoshop), and instead lower the opacity to make the shadow appear softer. See JD Photo #3 as an example.
  2. If you need a large drop shadow, move the text away from the image edges as shown by JD Photo #4. The easiest way is to drop down 1-2 font sizes, for example, from 24 point to 22 or even 20 point text. If the text looks too small, raise it back up, use a smaller drop shadow, and lower the opacity.
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