Shadows in GIMP: A Beginner’s Guide

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To many, making shadows may seem easy, but in reality it’s very hard to get things to look right, and that’s because most of us lack the basic understanding of shadows.

Before we start making shadows, we must first understand the purpose of light and shadow in art.

One of the essential skills is the ability to use light and shadow to create the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. 

If the light and shadow are not shown on a picture plane in this depiction of space, the three-dimensionality of the objects will be poor.

Here is an example where I created a simple composite where I didn’t paint the shadow.

Shadows in GIMP: A Beginner's Guide

Here is the same image where I painted the shadows.

One of the best ways to create a shadow is to first simplify the shadow into multiple parts, like light shadows and dark shadows (Contact Shadow).

The rules are straightforward. Contact shadow is darker and light shadow is lighter than contact shadow.

How to paint the shadow

Actually, there is not a single best method to paint shadows, but there are a few methods that can make painting shadows easier for beginners.

But first, make sure that you have a soft brush with very low force.

You can lower your force and opacity while painting the light part of the shadow, and increase the opacity and force a little bit to paint the contact shadow.

Tips to make a believable shadow.

Take your time


Don’t try to overdo things.

Buildup your shadow overtime 

Lower force is always better.

Reference From Real Image

Look at real images and observe their shadows and try to replicate them in your image.

Create shadow on multiple layers.

Make different part of the shadow in their own separate layer, like make contact shadow in a separate layer and make light shadow in their own layer, because it is easer to control after that like you can reduce opacity of the layers and use layer masks if needed.

Always think about light and shadow.

When creating a shadow, keep in mind where the light should not be touching and where the light should be the highest.

Be consistent with your shadow.


I’ve noticed that many new individuals who have just started out in photo composite have a very inconsistent shadow, which means some of the time it’s really dark and other times it’s quite light, so keeping it consistent is very easy when you notice.