3D Look vs. 3D Feel
Replace your drop-shadowed, two dimensional look with a true 3D feel!
In many cases, applying a generic drop shadow to a two dimensional image can give it a decent three dimensional appearance. This is by making the object look as though it is standing away from the page and works very well for text. But, when you are dealing with other objects, a 3D look just doesn’t cut it; you end up with that clip-art look. Instead, replace the drop shadow with a duplicate object.
Compare the two images below. Which one gives off a more 3 dimensional feel?
The one on the top uses a generic drop shadow, while the one on the bottom uses a duplicate of the object.
On the bottom: The object (eagle) is duplicated and blacked out. In this particular image, it is blacked out by a color overlay. But, if your graphics software does not have that functionality, filling in the duplicate object with a solid black fill will give the same result. Then the duplicate is stretched, skewed, distorted (whatever you want to do to it) to give it a different perspective. Guassian blur is added (25) and then gradient transparency to provide the initial feel of distance.
Here is the secret to true 3D in a 2D image: The generic drop shadow! Ironic, isn’t it? Adding a white or pale yellow drop shadow to the object pulls it away from the shadow made from the duplicate object. This gives a feeling of real, touchable distance.
I have packaged the images and corresponding raw files (.psd) so that you can download them and see how this is done. They are created in Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended and fully compatible with The GIMP.