Shadows Effect

Video Tutorial

Shadows for After Effects creates an accurate shadow for any object. The object can be defined using a stencil bitmap from a matte layer. The shadow is cast from a point source.

Target Audience

This plugin is meant for users who need to setup a 3D comp often to create shadows for text or chromakey assets. In order to cast a shadow, one must define a camera, and appropriate z-axis values for all assets. Shadows for After Effects does not require such a setup.

Also, conventional 3D software uses ray marching or blurs for casting shadows, and these shadows are either noisy or look fake.

Value Proposition

Shadows Effect simulates a basic 3d setup with a sun, foreground and background. Define the foreground using the Matte Layer selection, and then use shadow controls to define the type of the shadow cast on the background layer.

Using this plugin, a faux 3D effect can be created with a cast shadow similar to ray tracing techniques.

Qualifying Questions

To determine if Adobe After Effects users can benefit from using this plugin, you can ask the following questions:

  • Do you use After Effects for a 3D shadow effect often?
  • Do you want a quick and easy setup for a sun, a foreground and a background?
  • Do you use After Effects on an underpowered laptop and wish certain basic 3D effects would work without a powerful GPU?


After Effects CS6 and Creative Cloud. Tested with CC 2017, CC 2018, CC 2019, 2020, 2021. macOS 10.12 and above or Windows 7 and above.

Important Notes

You can download the Win trial version. The Mac version will be released soon.

This effect works with 8-bpc, 16-bpc, and 32-bpc color. The optimal usage will require 32-bpc and full resolution. In 32-bpc color, After Effects does not clip the video and allows the user to view any out-of-range data.

The effect has 3 groups – Matte, Light and Shadow.

Shadows Effect Controls :-

Use Matte controls to isolate stencil bitmap.

Matte Group

Use Light controls to define the location, strength and where the light is cast.

Light Group

Source – Selects the location of the point light source.

Intensity – Selects the intensity of the light source.

Region – Choose None, FG, BG, All. FG is the foreground and BG is the background. Here, the effect recognizes the matte layer as foreground and the regular view as background. Option – None – does not show any light from the source – only the shadow is seen. Options – FG, BG and All – will show the light cast onto the foreground, background and both respectively.

Falloff – Choose None, Linear and Inverse Square. Light intensity falls off with the inverse square of distance in real life. For graphics, linear falloff is more common. Options – None, Linear and Inverse Square – will show no falloff, linear falloff and inverse square falloff respectively.

Tint – Choose the color of the light.

Use Shadow controls to define the properties of the shadow cast by the light source using the matte layer-defined object.

Shadow Group

Types – Solid or Decay. The solid shadow is an accurate shadow cast with a penumbra. Decay shadow reduces with distance from the object.

Field Range – Clamps from 0-100% of the glow.

Accuracy – In case of stair stepping artifacts near the object, you may select a higher number. This number is the power of 2 that we use to multiple 360 degrees to generate sub-degree level accuracy when casting a shadow.

Penumbra Factor – This number controls the thickness of the penumbra.

Penumbra Degrees – This is the value in degrees that the penumbra is calculated. TIP:- Use larger value here if you find penumbra is being cut off.

Opacity – Amount of glow to blend with the lower layer.

Tint – Color of shadow. If you change this to any other color, it functions as a custom spotlight.


Software Engineer, Dancer and Filmmaker. Currently rebooting his life.

1 Comment

  1. Brilliant Anmol, A very aware person.🎥👍

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