When making graphics for your elearning or mobile learning module, adding 3-dimensional effects to your graphics can really help things pop off the page. This sort of design aesthetic can be found everywhere, even if it doesn’t call attention to itself right away. Drop shadows, gradient shading and textures all add an element of realism that will help your learner feel like there is physically a photo, a button or some other object in front of them, or that they are part of a real vignette. You can also use these techniques to call attention to specific parts of your image.
Adding drop shadows to objects in Illustrator is a pre-set effect you can apply to any shape. This gives the impression that your picture has a ‘thickness’ to it and is floating just a little above your page, depending on how far away you set the shadow.
Simply select the object you want to apply a drop shadow to, then select Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow and it will give you a pop-up that lets you adjust and customize the direction, size, blur and colour of the drop shadow. However, if you are starting with a raster image, you’ll have to make an identically shaped vector object underneath the layer your raster image is on to apply the drop shadow to.
Another way to make a drop shadow is to use the above method of making a similar shaped object and giving it a stroke with a gradient fill across the stroke. In the Swatches panel, select the Stroke, and then select the White, Black gradient from the Gradient panel. Set the white option to 0% opacity. Also in the Gradient panel, select the Apply Gradient Across Stroke option. This gives your shape a soft edge.
If you use the last option to create a shadow, you can take the spatial illusion a step farther by making the separate shadow object look like a shadow cast on the ‘ground’ away from the object.
Select the shadow object and select Free Transform from the Tools menu. Click and hold on the handle in the middle of the top of the shape to drag it around. On the left side you can also select the Perspective Distort, which will give you the option to shrink parts of the object that are ‘farther’ away from you. Then add the original object back in on top of the shadow.
If you’re not familiar with Illustrator, you can get started with our previous post on using the program – A Beginner’s Guide to Working With Vector Graphics for eLearning Modules