How to make realistic mockups and collages with overlay shadow

Hello loves!

I got a comment from Thalyta on Insta about the mockups I use to display some of my designs or blog posts. It was my cue to finally write this post, that was already on my list for this month. Thank you, Tha! 🦋😇 Muito obrigada, Tha!

The type of design she refers to is this one below. That’s also the post she commented on :)

You may have notices, specially if you’re a designer or aspire to be one, that this kind of composition has become a big trend recently. It’s beautiful, and can be used for anything; what really matters is the content included in the mockup.

New on the shop:

💡In my opinion, the reason this type of design became a hit is because it makes the whole image look more human and real. That is, people like seing pictures, instead of digitally created designs. And mockups that simulate light and shadow, as if it was a photograph and not a digital design, captures the atention creates instant human conexion. And that has big value nowadays in social media. Agree?

Many websites like my own have this kind of mockups available for free. All you have to do is download them and replace with your own content. Mockup World for example has has amazing pieces. I prefer to make my own mockups because it’s super easy and I can follow my favorite style from scratch. Also, I just enjoy making them.. hahaha 💖👩🏽‍💻💖

Truth is, even though it looks like advanced, difficult design work, it’s actually preatty easy. Here are the little tricks you should know:

So I created the design above. And I’ll walk you through the process down below. You can add your personal touch by changing details to match your favorite style, ok?

Take a look at the screen recorded video first:

The essentials

Software: Photoshop. I don’t know any other software that can be used for this. You should have at least a moderate familiarity with PS to work on the project.

Design elements you’ll need:
🖌 a background with some texture (you can download one for free, take a picture or create it on Photoshop.)
🖌 the content, which is the main subject of your collage or design.
🖌 shadow image to overlay your content softly.

Interesting extras:
something to “stick” your content to the surface, like scotch tape, pins, clips…
cutout objects in the composition, like flowers, leaves, stickers, etc.

Step by step:

1 Pick a background in the style you want to use. You can download one for free on Unsplash, they have so many options. Search for “background” or “texture”.

If you prefer to create your ow texture, make a rectanlge in the color you want and go to Filter / Noise and choose the intensity.

Chose my bg!

2. Import or drag your content to the project. I can be a photo, another design you’ve made, or even a bunch of images to create a collage (like I did here). If you’d like, you can also type some text, width a rectangle behind it to look like a magazine cutout. You should let your imagination flow at this stage!

In my example, I used only 5 elements to simplify the process.

3. Your content needs 2 main styling edits: shadow and textures. The shadow should be solid, dark and short. It’ll look like there’s a lot of light shinning on your design. If the shadow is too blurry and clear, it’ll look like the object is floating.

Double click the layer and configure your shadow:

For the texture, I usually just go to Filter / Noise and check the amount of grain I think is necessary. I posted about that here, if you’d like to know more.

4. Now this is the best, magical, step! hahaha! The shadow overlaying the content, making the whole thing look like a real photograph. The two most common shadows I see are plants and window bars. Soooo beautiful and lovely… and ridiculously easy to make! :)

If you’re going for a plant, just google image “plant png” and look for results with clear background. Then import it to your project!

Here’s the editing I suggest:

  • Image / Ajustments / Hue Saturation and remove all brightness.
  • Select the layer and reduce the opacity to 30%
  • Last, go to Filter / Blur / Gaussian blur and configure as you wish.

After the edits, place the shadow wherever looks best. You can also make it bigger or smaller to adapt. If you wish to make it look more realistic, I recommend adding a bit of noise and change the hue of the shadow a little bit. Instead of grey, the shadow should have a more similar color to the one of the background. Go to Hue Sturation, click “colorize”, and find a good color to match.

If you’d like to add some tape or pin, it’s super easy and, in my opinion, looks great. Iusually get som tape image on Google or just draw a rectangle with 70% opacity.

Important: The shadow layer has to be above al the others. Otherwise the design wont work.

There you go! 🤸🏽‍♀️✨

Isn’t it super easy and gorgeous?

On my designs, I use the same filter on all the elements, to make them all look alike. On Photoshop the filters are called “actions” and you can read more about them here.

Phew! Finally. I hope you guys are not intimidated by the length of this post. If you like the tip, and put it to practice, I’d love to see the results. And if you have any doubts or comments, please let me know ok? 💜🙏🏽



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