Step 1.

First off, you need to start with three layers to your image. You should have your background on the bottom, (in this case, a tan based on the tints of this wood background), the image you wish to give the shadow to on the top, and a blank layer in the middle. This is where we will put the drop shadow. The first thing we have to do is select the image we're giving the shadow to. Click on the top layer in your layer menu, 'Select All', (command-A), and press your up arrow followed by your down arrow. This should select just the Hand. Save this selection as a 'new' channel, you'll need it later.

Step 2.

OK, now we create the shadow. Without de-selecting the area you've chosen, click on the middle, blank layer. Select black as your foreground color. It's over there under your tool pallette. Press (at the same time) 'option' and 'delete'. This should fill the area you've selected with black. If this didn't work, you can always use your paint bucket to dump some black into the selection. Now, using you're arrow keys, push the image down about 2 clicks and over about 2 clicks (# of clicks optional. Use your artistic judgement). You may want to hide the little ants around your selection to see what you're doing. Press 'command-H' or use the menu. Now you have a hard edged shadow. You could stop here, but I like a blurred shadow, adds a little more realism.

Step 3.

Here we are, still working on the middle (shadow) layer. De-select the image. If you've hidden it in step 2, it's still there, just waiting to annoy you. Now go up to your filter menu, drag down to 'Blur' and drag a little further to 'Gaussian Blur'. This is the blurring tool you should be using almost all the time. Why? It's the best, that's why. Gives you much finer control. Select a value for your blur, preferably no more than however many clicks you offset the shadow. I offset this shadow 2 pixels, so I'll choose to blur it 2 pixels also. Wow! Looks pretty good, huh? We COULD be done, but I usually add one more step.

Step 4. (the last)

Now one thing I've noticed, is that after adding the blurred shadow under my image, the bottom edge looks REALLY sharp against the dark shadow, and by contrast the top left now looks rather weak. So what I do is load my selection that I saved in Step 1, (remember step one? I told you we needed that selection!), and I do a fill of black ON TOP of my shadow, completely covered by the floating image. Hmmm... You say. What's the point of that? It's completely covered! Well, not quite. Look at that top left edge again. Toggle back and forth with 'command-Z' to see the difference. There's a LITTLE bit of black bleeding through, defining that edge for you. It's a little too subtle to be noticed, but you notice when it's missing. (At least *I* do!) Now save your image. NOW! In Photoshop format. OK, now you can flatten it and save it as JPEG or GIF for WWW use.

Check out the difference. First we have the image from Step 3, and then after the black underlay from Step 4. Pretty subtle, eh? But it's the little details that make the big differences. Well, that's all on this one for now! Later!

Your pal, -doc-

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