2 Ways To Create a Long Shadow Effect In 5 Steps or Less



In today’s tutorial, we will take a closer look at the techniques used to create a long shadow design with the help of some live effects and Appearance panel in Adobe Illustrator. Taking long shadow effects as a basis, we’ll create two graphic styles which can be applied to single paths and to groups of objects. Have fun and enjoy our new tutorial!

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator CS5 – CC
  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Topics Covered: Appearance panel, live effects
  • Estimated Completion Time: 10 minutes

Final Image


Step 1

Start Adobe Illustrator and create a new document (Cmd/Ctrl + N). Your artboard can be of any size. The styles created in such a way will work equally well in the RGB and in the CMYK color modes.


Creation of a Solid Long Shadow

Step 2

Let’s begin with simple things. Create a rectangle of any color and size which will serve as a background. Then draw a random object the color of which is different than our background. I created a star with a white fill with no stroke. We will apply the long shadow effect to this object.


Open the Appearance panel (Window Appearance) and select the star.


Click on the Add New Fill button in the Appearance panel.


Step 3

Select the lower fill in the Appearance panel and change it from white to gray.


Keep the star and the gray fill selected, go to Effect Distort Transform Transform…. In the opened dialog box, set the value of vertical and horizontal shift to 0.5 px. The shadow will be placed on 45 degrees angle–that’s why shifts are the same. Check the preview option and set the number of copies. Their value depends on the length of shadow which you want to create.


Step 4

For the gray fill, set the Multiply blending mode in the Appearance panel.


We created a simple long shadow effect. To save it as a graphic style, drag the star into the Graphic Style panel.


Now you can apply this graphic style to other objects. These might be objects consisting of one path, Compound Path, editable text and even a group of objects.


I don’t think that creation of such style will confuse an experienced user. However for beginners, I hope it was useful to find out the Appearance panel opportunities. Let’s work on creation of a not so obvious effect now…


Creation of a Gradual Long Shadow

Step 5

Often designers create a shadow which looks lighter the further away it is from the object, i.e. its density decreases. So let’s create such style. Let’s return to our star with the effect of a solid long shadow. Replace the gray fill in the Appearance panel with a gray-black linear gradient.


Set an angle of 135 degrees for the gradient, and switch a black slider with a gray one in the Gradient panel (Window Gradient).


Step 6

Keep the object and the lower fill selected in the Appearance panel, go to the Effect Pathfinder Add. The application opens a warning window which informs us that we cannot apply this effect. Ignore it and simply click on the OK button.


And now drag the Add effect lower than the Transform effect in the Transparency panel.


Processing of the effect by the application might take some time. This all depends on how complex the object is and a number of copies of the Transform effect.

Step 7

If necessary, edit the length of the gradient with the help of the Gradient Tool (G) and intensity of the grey.


As you can see, we reached an effect of gradual long-shadowed effect. Save the received long shadow effect in the Graphic Style panel for later use. We can apply this style to path, Compound Path, editable text and to group of objects.



Step 8

After applying any of styles we’ve developed, a part of the shadow can extend beyond the background.


In such case, hide the excess part (outside the background) with the help of a Clipping mask. Create a duplicate of the background (Cmd/Ctrl+ C; Cmd/Ctrl + F), then place a new object above all existing objects.


Step 9

Select the upper object and objects to which the long shadow effect was applied, then go to the Object Clipping Mask Make or use Cmd/Ctrl + 7 shortcuts.


Step 10

If we apply long shadow effects to different objects which are located close to each other, then we see shadows overlay as it is indicated on the figure below.


To fix this problem, group objects with shadows and select the entire group in the Layers panel. Now check the Knockout Group in the Transparency panel.



And we’re done! I hope you liked our quick tips tutorial and that you’ll find described techniques useful in your future projects.


Iaroslav Lazunov

Author: Iaroslav Lazunov

My name is Iaroslav Lazunov, I am a graphic designer from Ukraine. I am glad that I finally found the job in my life that I can share my knowledge and experiments with you in my tutorials. Follow me on Twitter or visit my blog Vectorboom.com


2 Ways To Create a Long Shadow Effect In 5 Steps or Less | manda | 4.5
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