Drop Shadows In Inkscape

Drop Shadows In Inkscape

  • Software: Inkscape
  • Level: Beginner
  • Subject: Drop Shadows

This is quite a simple technique you can use to create drop shadows of objects you have designed in Inkscape.

Drop Shadows of Simple objects

Drop Shadows - 00 - Simple Object

Let us first look at a simple example.

Make a copy of the object (rectangle in this case) and move it few units to the bottom and to the right.

Drop Shadows - 01 - Simple Object

Then, change the color to black or dark gray.

Drop Shadows - 02 - Simple Object

This would be the shadow shape. Move it under the object – either by pressing [Page Down] or [End].

Drop Shadows - 03 - Simple Object

Now, open up the Fill and Stroke dialog box. Either use [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[F] while selecting the shadow object, or you can choose the Fill and Stroke from the Object menu item.

Drop Shadows - 04 - Simple Object

Increase the blur from 0 to 3.0 or 4.0. You now have a drop shadow for your simple object.

Drop Shadow of Complex Shapes

This technique can be used for creating drop shadows of complex objects too. There is just one additional step.

Drop Shadows - 05 - Complex Object

Even when the object is complex set of shapes like the one above, just make a copy of all of them and paste it over it. To do this, select all the shapes, then use [Ctrl]+[C] to copy and then a [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[V] to paste it over at the exact same spot. When the new copies are still selected, move them all together and position them a bit to the bottom and to the right.

Drop Shadows - 06 - Complex Object

Now, with all the new copies still selected, hit the [Ctrl]+[+] or choose Path > Union.

Drop Shadows - 07 - Complex Object

After this, follow the steps similar to a simple object, and you have drop shadow for your complex object too.

Drop Shadows - 08 - Complex Object

Here, if you observe carefully, you will notice that I have reduced the Master Opacity of the shadow shape along with blurring it.

Armed with this technique, you should be able to create drop shadows of almost any shape/object. You needn’t position the shadow the same way as I have done, but keep it consistent with the direction of the light source.

If you have any questions, feel free to use the comment form below.

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  1. Arthur’s avatar

    What I’d like is a drop shadow (or other such effects) which updates automatically when the master object is updated. Is this possible with some cloning commands or the like?


  2. Vyoma’s avatar

    Well Arthur, I just did some experiment, and I think, it is not possible with the current (0.46) version, it is not possible.

    First of all, not sure if it works on complex objects.

    If we take single shapes, the clone object does let the clone to be blurred, but it does not let the color of the clone alone to be changed. That would defeat the purpose of having a darker gray or black shadow shape under it.


  3. ShaneK’s avatar

    Arthur, you can do it via filter effects in 0.46


    This is a video tutorial that will walk you through it step by step. Drop shadow updates on the fly and everything.


  4. Vyoma’s avatar

    I stand corrected – that is a great link, ShaneK. That screencast does provide a wealth of information.

    That said, I think it is time I explore 0.46 version a bit more – did not realize that they had a new version released. :)


  5. Alex’s avatar

    When it comes to creating a shadow for a complex object, I thought of drawing a rectangle above the whole thing then doing a logical intersection between the complex object and the new rectangle. Path\Union is cooler though :-)


  6. chris’s avatar

    Than you for all the explanations, the tut on screencasters perfectly completes it (incredible what you can do simply with the filter effect, I must use it more often).
    Another related question: I’m drawing drop shadows on my diagram, then I want to export it to pdf for inclusion on a latex document (using then pdflatex). The problem is that the created pdf file is poor for the shadow; depending on the methods it disappears, it is transformed to plain grey, or it shows ugly bitmap pixels. I tried to use the “save as pdf with cairo”, and a pdfcreator printer, but didn’t manage to achieve correct results. Does anyone have a solution for that, or is it impossible to have a pdf with cast shadow ?


  7. Jimmy Volatile’s avatar

    Or just go straight to the user manual for the written version: http://tavmjong.free.fr/INKSCAPE/MANUAL/html/Filters-Example-DropShadow.html



  8. Tim Anderson’s avatar

    It is possible to create linked shadows. All you need to do is create a linked offset(Path – Linked Offset(ctrl+alt+J) ). This updates whenever the parent is. You can also make it do offset stuff


  9. APM Designs’s avatar

    I too created a tutorial on creating a shadow using Inkscape and much like this article it involved duplicating the original design, giving it a dark grey colour, applying a blur effect and finally setting it behind the original image.

    However, it is an interesting conversation regarding automatic update on the master object update.


  10. Holly Knott’s avatar

    I love this technique. Inkscape is great but often some basic things are just too complicated. Thanks for posting your tips.


  11. apm designs’s avatar

    Actually very easy to read.


  12. Saskia’s avatar

    Thank you :)

    Very easy to understand the simple objects explanation, however…i get lost with doing my little mouse that has a gradient. If i copy and paste the mouse and put the new selection a layer below it stuffs with my gradient, making it darker (the background being a dark grey).

    Just wondering…how do i keep my gradient of the mouse unchanged? I alredy have all the buttons at the top (affect) selected (i.e.”move gradiens along with object”)

    Any help is much appreciated!




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