How do I produce the ideal drop shadow in Photoshop (like this one)?


Question

We all know the default Photoshop drop shadow:

enter image description here

I know that ideal is subjective, but I have a hard time producing anything that doesn't seem nearly as crude as this does.

A drop shadow that is more "ideal" is one like this:

enter image description here

I love how the drop shadow is sharp and defined (almost black) up close to the object, but has a large spread. I suspect it might be achievable with contours, but I don't know well how to utilize them.

This is a quick effort:

enter image description hereenter image description here

And these settings don't work well at all on text.

Anyone have any better advice? How do I produce a drop shadow that isn't as crude-looking as the default? Using what techniques can I achieve drop shadows like in the example image?

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3/28/2012 5:36:00 AM

Accepted Answer

Scott is right. To reproduce the effect I had to use 3 sets of drop shadows. One for the buttons, one for the text, and one that is slightly in-between the two. Here is the result:

(The right half of each icon is the original; the left half is the reproduction.)

Drop shadow sample next to original

There are some kerning differences, and I didn't bother to reproduce the background noise, but it's fairly close for a quick mockup.

Here are the settings for the two main shadows: enter image description here

Here is the PSD file.

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3/28/2012 7:13:00 AM

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