1 Simple Trick For AESTHETIC Drop Shadows In After Effects

The native drop shadow effects in After Effects are boring. With these drop shadow tools, you'll be able to achieve a more eye-catching and aesthetic drop shadow for text, images and other foreground elements.

October 7, 2023
1 Simple Trick For AESTHETIC Drop Shadows In After Effects
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We've created this in-depth guide on creating various drop shadow effects in Adobe After Effects to help beginner and experienced users create more aesthetic depths to their videos. This post will not only teach you the technicalities of creating shadows, but it also help you master the art of creating visually appealing designs by using pre-made templates that are created using complex effects and expressions.

Adobe After Effects Drop Shadow Text

Adding a drop shadow element to your foreground elements such as text, solid layers and images can add a sense of depth to your video. When used correctly, shadows can dramatically enhance the feel of your video sequence, and best of all, they're easy to use even if you're just a beginner!

What Are Drop Shadows In After Effects?

Drop shadows in After Effects (and in general design) are used to add depth and dimension to an object in your video, which ultimately accentuates the appearance that a foreground element is positioned above another element. This could be text in front of a plain background, or even a transparent object nestled In front of other layers.

Usually, drop shadows aren't meant to be realistic looking as they are only used for decoration, however, if you're trying to achieve a real-life look, you can do so by using separate black or dark solid layers as a drop shadow instead of the drop shadow effect itself. This method of drop shadow creation may also require knowledge about After Effects 3D cameras and light positioning.

How To Add Drop Shadow In After Effects

For text, PNGs and other simple motion graphics, shadows can be achieved easily using the drop shadow effect.

  1. Open the effects panel and search for 'drop shadow'
  2. apply the drop shadow effect onto the desired layer by selecting the layer, then double clicking the effect. You can also drag the drop shadow effect directly onto the layer.
  3. Adjust the direction, opacity, softness and other effect controls of the drop shadow to your preference.

Some of the variables you can control with the drop shadow effect are:

  • Direction: Changes where the shadow points towards.
  • Shadow Only: Hides the original layer.
  • Color: Adjust the color of the shadow (we recommend sticking to either black, grey or white).
  • Opacity: Controls the transparency of the shadow.
  • Softness: Adds sharpness.
  • Distance: Moves the shadow further away or closer towards your layer.

You also have the ability to animate any parameter of the drop shadow effect by keyframing certain properties. See the templates below to find inspiration on how direction among other properties are adjusted to create eye-catching designs.

Layer Styles Method For Creating Better Shadows

Begin by creating a new composition in After Effects. Once you have done this, click on the “T” text function and type the text you want.

Next, select the Layer tab and navigate to Layer Styles > Drop Shadow. This method offers more property adjustments compared to the first method.

Within this menu, you can make even more adjustments to your drop shadow effect. For instance, you can choose the Blend Mode that works best for your shadow, such as Linear Burn or Multiply. You can also add “noise” to your shadow to give it a gritty appearance with the Noise Shadow setting.

If you want to ensure that the light sources for all objects correspond and the shadows align, use the Use Global Light setting. On the other hand, if you're dealing with transparent text or objects, the Layer Knocks Out Drop Shadow setting stops the shadow or allows it to be seen through the object.

With the Size Shadow setting, you can adjust the size of the shadow. If you want to change the angle of the shadow, use the Angle setting. Lastly, if you want to make the shadow spread wider than the original object, you can use the Spread setting.

Realistic Drop Shadow After Effects - 3 Simple Tricks

  1. Use a Gradient Fill to create a realistic shadow.
  2. Use the CC Radial Fast Blur to create a more subtle shadow.
  3. Use a Light and camera layer to create a realistic 3D shadow.

If these tips seem to difficult to design on your own, here are three easy-to-customize presets and templates that you can use to achieve a better looking drop shadow in After Effects. The first one is free to download and the following two will require a Motion Array subscription.

Long Shadow Titles For Drop Shadow Text After Effects


A popular look in recent motion design, the long shadow titles look good for opener videos and intros.

Add Drop Shadow To Text In After Effects


This template contains 10 unique drop shadow text styles which simulate the appearance that the text is under a spotlight, and thus, resulting in a shadow.

AE Drop Shadow Presets


Here are 10 unique presets for creating the ideal drop shadow effect for your text and foreground layers. We suggest you try each one to see what works best.

Final Thoughts

Drop shadow effects are an essential aspect of design, and Adobe After Effects offers a wide range of tools to create stunning effects. In this guide, we covered the basics of drop shadow effects and provided you with the techniques to create advanced drop shadow effects. With practice and experimentation, you can master the art of creating visually appealing designs with drop shadow effects.