How to Remove Shadows in Photoshop

Shadows, when used artistically, can help to create some of the most stunning images. But sometimes, harsh shadows can become a distracting element and lower the overall appeal of an image. The balance lies in knowing when and how to remove and reduce shadows in an image to create a more realistic yet visually pleasing effect. And Photoshop has many tools that can help you do just that. In this blog, we offer you a step-by-step tutorial on how to remove shadows in Photoshop. So let’s get started!

Different Ways of Removing Shadows in Photoshop

Infographic stating there are many ways to use Photoshop to remove shadows from your images

Depending on the requirement and effect/result you desire, Adobe Photoshop has many tools that can be used to remove shadows. Here are some of the ways of eliminating or reducing harsh shadows from an image in Photoshop:

  • Using the Patch Tool
  • Using the Clone Stamp Tool
  • With the Dodge Tool
  • Using Adjustment Layers

How to Remove Shadows in Photoshop Using the Patch Tool

  • Step 1: Create a Duplicate Layer
  • Step 2: Select the Patch Tool
  • Step 3: Remove Shadows

1. Create a Duplicate Layer

Infographic stating creating a duplicate layer before editing is a good practice

By creating a duplicate layer, you will have a backup for when something goes wrong, or you make a mistake. Leave the original file as it is and start by creating a duplicate of the image. To do so, go to File and click on New to select the file you want to open. As the file shows up in the document window, the Background layer will appear in the Layers palette on the right side.

Now, right-click on the Background Layer, and select Duplicate Layer from the displayed menu. The Duplicate Layer dialog will appear where you can rename the layer and press OK. For reference, we are referring to it as the Duplicate Layer. The shortcut to add a duplicate layer is CTRL + J for Windows (Cmd + J for Mac).

2. Select the Patch Tool

Go to the toolbar on the left side of the screen and select the Patch tool. From the Patch drop-down menu, change the mode from Normal to Content-Aware. This will help you remove shadows from an image more accurately and smoothly as by selecting it, Photoshop will create new pixels.

3. Remove Shadows

Infographic stating harsh shadows in an image can be distracting

Now, we will get started with the process of removing shadows from the image. Begin by selecting the area that has the unwanted shadow. Now, drag the area to a portion that appears to be relatively similar. As you drag the area, observe that the selected area will change. Once you have got the desired result, release the mouse’s button, and the area will smooth out. To achieve more realistic results, you can go to Adaptation in the Patch toolbar at the top and adjust the numbers of Structure and Color.

Removing Shadows in Photoshop With the Clone Stamp Tool

  • Step 1: Create a Duplicate Layer
  • Step 2: Select the Clone Stamp Tool
  • Step 3: Select the Source
  • Step 4: Remove Shadows

1. Create a Duplicate Layer

For the second process of removing shadows in Photoshop, we will again start by creating a duplicate layer. First, open up the image in Photoshop using the steps mentioned above and then press the keyboard keys CTRL + J (Cmd + J for Mac). This will automatically create a duplicate layer named Background Copy.

2. Select the Clone Stamp Tool

Select the Clone Stamp tool (the rubber stamp icon) from the toolbar on the left side. Then, adjust the diameter of the brush if required by dragging the Size slider left or right. There are also different types of brushes you can choose from. For smooth edges, use a soft medium-sized brush. Set the Opacity of the brush at 100% if you wish to remove the shadow completely. However, if you just want to reduce it, you can set it at 50%.

3. Select the Source

In this step, we will select a clone source so that we can use the pixels in that area to remove the shadow. To do this, first, select a non-shaded area by moving the cursor there and then press Alt (Option key in Mac). This will confirm the selected source pixels. You will find that the cursor has now changed into a crosshair. Now, on clicking, the cursor will show the chosen pixels.

4. Remove Shadows

In the last step of this process, we will work towards removing shadows. To do this more accurately, zoom in on the image. Then, paint over the area that has shadows. To get more natural-looking results, you can again select clone pixels from a different portion of the image and repeat the process in steps 3 and 4. If at any point you want to undo a particular step, press CTRL + Z.

Removing Shadows in Photoshop With the Dodge Option

Infographic stating use the close stamp or the dodge tool to remove shadows
  • Step 1: Create a Duplicate Layer
  • Step 2: Select the Dodge Tool
  • Step 3: Paint over the Shadow Area

1. Create a Duplicate Layer

For images when you just want to reduce shadows in Photoshop and not completely remove them, the Dodge tool comes in handy. The first step remains the same. Just press CTRL + J on your keyboard, and a duplicate layer will appear as Background Copy under the Layers panel.

2. Select the Dodge Tool

Go to the toolbar on the left and select the Dodge tool (a filled-out magnifying glass icon). Now, go to Range at the Dodge menu and select Shadows from the drop-down menu. Now, go to Exposure and keep it under 50%.

Related Read: How To Dodge And Burn Your Images In Photoshop

3. Paint Over the Shadow Area

Last but not least, now we will paint over the shadows. Again, zoom in and begin painting over the shadow area that you want to reduce. You will see that the shadows of the painted area will appear reduced. However, if you do not see any significant difference, try further increasing the Opacity.

Reducing Harsh Shadows in Photoshop Using Layers

Infographic stating reduce harsher shadows in your images using layers and adjust brightness and temperature
  • Step 1: Select the Shadow
  • Step 2: Copy the Shadow to a New Layer
  • Step 3: Adjust Brightness & Temperature

1. Select the Shadow

Another way of reducing shadows is by using Layers. This method is most appropriate for when you want to reduce a harsh shadow. This will create a softer shadow effect. To begin with, select the shadow. To do this, go to the toolbar and select any of the selection tools – Magic Wand tool, Quick Selection tool, or the Lasso tool. To make the selection, choose any of these tools and while pressing the mouse button, drag over the shadow area you want to select.

2. Copy the Shadow to a New Layer

To copy the shadow to a new layer, go to Edit at the top menu bar and select Copy. Then, go to Layer at the top and click on New and then select Layer via Copy. You will find that a new layer will appear under the Layer panel with just the selected shadow area.

3. Adjust Brightness & Temperature

In this step, we will adjust the brightness and temperature of the shadows so that they are relatively less harsh and, at the same time, natural-looking as well. To do this, go to the Adjustments panel and select the Brightness/Contrast icon (a Sun-like icon). As you click on the icon, the Brightness Properties panel will appear, where you will find two sliders – Brightness and Contrast. Once you have adjusted the brightness, it’s time to change the temperature. So select the Color Balance icon (it looks like a balance scales symbol) in the Adjustments panel. Then, set the Tone to Shadows and adjust the temperature by using the Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow sliders listed under it. To make shadows appear less harsh – add more yellow to them by dragging the Yellow slider to the left.

Further Read: 3 Ways To Use Content-Aware Fill In Photoshop

Infographic stating experiment and find the tool that works the best for you

Now that you know how to remove shadows in Photoshop, keep experimenting on photos with different types of shadow areas. Shadows can sometimes turn out to be an important element of an image, so as you reduce or remove them, try to keep the edit as realistic as possible. For more tips on other Photoshop tools, you can explore our tips section. If you found this blog helpful or have any questions, let us know in the comment section below.

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