Get a free year on Tuts+ this month when you purchase a Siteground hosting plan from $3.95/mo
In this tutorial I would like to show you a few techniques on how to create the long shadow effect seen in recent design trends. Feel free to read along and choose which one best suits your design needs.
1. Create a Long Shadow With the Appearance Panel
With a document of your size created let's begin by selecting the Rounded Rectangle Tool and create a rectangle of any size and radius of your choosing. I'll be using the information outlined below.
To make things simple I'll be using text to create the effect but these techniques can be applied to any shape you have for your icon. I've added the text below with the following settings.
With our text still selected navigate to the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance) and click the Add New Fill option from the bottom of that panel window. Be sure to click-drag the newly created fill below the "Characters" line to it appears behind the text itself. At this point it won't appear as if much has happened.
This is where the magic happens. Select the Fill line and then click Add New Effect from then bottom of the panel window and choose Distort & Transform > Transform and enter the following settings. You can then drop the Opacity of that fill to around 12% or where ever you feel comfortable.
As you can see, we're creating multiple copies of the fill then nudging it over and down 1 pixel so it repeats smoothly creating our flat shadow. Unfortunately the shadow now appears over the icon element we created earlier so let's create a mask now.
Select the Rounded Rectangle and then Copy and Paste it in front of the text itself. With both the text and the top most rounded rectangle selected right-click on the Artboard and choose Make Clipping Mask. The extra shadow bits will now be hidden and you can go ahead and select the underlying Rounded Rectangle and add the same technique to create a shadow for that as well.
2. Create a Long Shadow With a Two Toned Blend
Set up your document as you did before and select the text once again. Copy and Paste your text behind the original (Command + C > Command + B) twice to create a total of three instances of your text. Now adjust the color to Black.
Select the bottom most copy and while holding Shift on the keyboard drag it down at a 45 degree angle so the edge of the text just hits the edge of the edge of the rounded rectangle. Now drop the Opacity to 0%.
Now select both the completely transparent text and the black opaque text then navigate to Object > Blend > Blend Options and enter as many Specified Steps as you wish. I'll be sticking with 150 to give it a nice smooth transition.
You can now drop the overall Opacity of the blend to 12% then apply the masking steps from the first technique and duplicate this technique for the Rounded Rectangle as well.
3. Create a Long Shadow With a Blend Converted to a Shape
This technique is similar to the last one. You will copy and paste the text twice behind the original and make a blend. However, there is no need to drop the opacity of the last copy.
With the blend created visit Object > Expand. This will release the blend to 150 individual shapes that will be selected. With these shapes still selected visit the Pathfinder (Window > Pathfinder) and select Unite. This will merge all the shapes into one.
With this newly created shape selected, enable the Gradient Tool (G) and create a black to transparent gradient that runs along a 45º angle. Then drop the overall opacity for this layer as well.
If you notice, after merging, there are quite a number of anchor points to this shape. Let's go ahead and reduce these so our over all shape is clean.
Since our overall shape is quite simple and angular it would be easier to just zoom in on our shape and with the Pen Tool (P) visit View > Smart Guides and you can quickly click around the shape to recreate it. If you hold down the Shift key on your keyboard this will let you create straight or 45º lines with ease. Should you have a more complex shape or icon you are using this technique on you may wish to use other methods or reducing the anchor points.
Another quick method would be to enable the Direct Select Tool (A) and select the unwanted points then select Remove Selected Anchor Points in the Control panel.
You can mask off this shape as well and repeat the steps to create one for the Rounded Rectangle beneath it.
Cast Away! You're Long Shadow is Complete!
As you can see the first two are completely non-destructive and the text or icons can be updated or adjusted with ease. The last one takes a bit more effort but they all can be easily implemented and adjusted to suit your needs.