How to Add & Remove Drop Shadow in Adobe Illustrator

Select the object or text you want to add a drop shadow to and go to the menu Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. This will bring up a dialog box where you can choose the characteristics of your drop shadow. 

If you want to remove a drop shadow, go to the Appearance panel. Make sure you have the object or text selected with the drop shadow. Click and Drag that to the trash can icon. Or if you temporarily want to remove it or “hide” it, click the eye icon next to the Drop Shadow line. 

My name is April, and I’ve been working in the graphic design field for 13+ years now. Illustrator is fantastic for making vector artwork as well as assembling some layouts. It also has a full menu of effects you can add and the Drop Shadow is a fantastic one to help a graphic stand out in your layout.

The Drop Shadow is simple to add but is a great way to add depth to your design. Between textures, shadows, and colors, those are the ways you can make your design stand apart from the competition if used well!

Let’s take a look at adding and removing a drop shadow. 

Key Takeaways

  • Add a drop shadow from the overhead menu Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow.
  • You can adjust or remove a drop shadow from the Appearance panel.
  • You can add a drop shadow to pictures, vector graphics, and even live text.

Note: The screenshots from this tutorial are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC Windows version.

2 Easy Steps to Add a Drop Shadow in Adobe Illustrator 

You can add a drop shadow to your designs in just two steps. Select Effect from the top menu bar and adjust the settings to suit your preference.

Note: All the screenshots in this tutorial are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC Windows version. Other versions, like Mac, may look different.

To add a drop shadow in Adobe Illustrator, you first need an object to apply the effect. I will apply the drop shadow effect to the sample object below.

Let’s add a drop shadow to this object. Are you ready? Let’s get started.

Step 1: Use the Effect menu

Navigate to the Effect menu at the overhead menu bar. Click on Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow

When you apply the drop shadow effect, you will see the menu and a preview of your drop shadow appearance.

If you like the preview’s outlook, click OK to save the preset. You can further adjust the properties of your drop shadow in the settings. We will talk about this in the next step.

Step 2: Adjust the Drop Shadow Properties

Various menus in the drop shadow settings allow you to customize the appearance of your design. 


The mode presets allow you to set the mode of your drop shadow (it shows how the drop shadow is expressed on the object). 

The default drop shadow property mode is Multiply. You can play around with it and see how other modes complement your design and affect your shadow.

Take a look at the demonstration above.


With the opacity preset, you can control how transparent or opaque your drop shadow is. Increasing the opacity of the drop shadow gives it more depth and doesn’t make the background show through.

Decreasing the opacity makes the drop shadow softer and also makes the background show through.

X and Y Offset

The X Offset and Y Offset settings allow you to change the position of your drop shadow on the artboard.

Changing the X Offset will move the shadow left and right, whereas the Y Offset will move your shadow up and down.


The blur settings control the softness and the size of the shadow. Increasing the blur will make your drop shadow larger, softer, and less visible.

Decreasing the blur will make it smaller, harder, and more visible.


The color preset allows you to change the color of your drop shadow effect. Clicking on it will open a color picker for you to choose your color. 

In addition to adding color, you can choose the drop shadow color base. You can use any of the properties to choose the color base.

  • HSB
  • RGB
  • CMYK
  • HEX
  • Darkness

The darkness preset is a pretty quick alternative to the color preset. You can make the color shade of your shadow darker instead of choosing a new color shade. This preset can help you save time working with a particular color fill.

Using the darker shade of a fill color makes your shadow more believable.

How to Edit a Drop Shadow in Adobe Illustrator?

To edit a drop shadow in Adobe Illustrator, select the object to which the drop shadow has been applied.

Go to the Appearance menu by navigating to Window > Appearance

When you click on Appearance, a new menu will open (the appearance menu). You will find a list of items within the appearance menu. Select Drop Shadow.

The drop shadow menu allows you to edit the drop shadow properties just like when you created it. Click OK to apply the effect once you are satisfied with your changes.

If you want to remove a Drop Shadow in Illustrator, you can also do it in the Appearance panel.

When you select Drop Shadow in the Appearance panel, you will see the little trash icon in the bottom right corner. Click on the trash icon to delete the drop shadow.

How to Add a Drop Shadow to Text in Adobe Illustrator

Drop Shadows can be added to any text (outlined or live). Here’s how it works.

Step 1: Use the Selection Tool to select the object or item you want to add the drop shadow to. I am using live text in the example. I know my text is selected because you can see the anchor points for it. 

Note: You can select multiple objects and add drop shadows to all of them at the same time. If they are already grouped, the shadow will be added behind all of them. If they are not grouped, the shadows will be added individually.

Step 2: Navigate to the overhead menu, and choose Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow.

This will bring up the Drop Shadow options dialog box.

Step 3: Adjust the settings. The mode will affect how it blends into whatever is behind the object that you are adding to the drop shadow. I often use the Multiply mode. Multiply allows the darkness of the shadow to stay dark. 

The best way to learn the different modes is to play around with them. Adobe makes that easy in this dialog box because of the preview option. Choose the mode that gives you the effect you are looking for.

The next option is Opacity. The higher the opacity, the less transparent the shadow will be. 100% opacity is 0% transparent, whereas 0% opacity is 100% transparent. 75% opacity is a good in-between amount because we want our drop shadow to show up, but not be too jarring with our background. 

This also may be adjusted because of the colors in whatever you are adding the drop shadow to.

X and Y offset will change the position of your shadow behind your object. I generally adjust this one. The smaller the offset, the closer the shadow is to your object. Here are some examples:

Now we want to set our Blur. This will affect how big of a blur you have. Higher number, bigger blue; lower number, smaller blur. Your setting will depend on how you want your shadow to look. Here are some comparisons:

Our last options in the Drop Shadow dialog box are Color and Darkness. I often use Color with black as the option. If you don’t like that look though, you can choose darkness. 

Darkness uses the collective color of your object for the shadow. So 100% darkness is the absolute darkest version of your object’s colors, whereas 0% darkness is a lighter version. Here are some examples:

You can also choose a custom color for your shadow. Just click the box next to color and the color picker will appear.

Step 4: Click OK in your dialog box and you will have your drop shadow. 

If at any point you want to adjust the drop shadow settings or remove a drop shadow, you can do it on the Appearance panel.

How to Remove Drop Shadow in Adobe Illustrator

Drop Shadows are great, but sometimes you need to make changes or even remove them from an object in Illustrator. 

Step 1: Select the object that you want to change/remove the drop shadow using the Selection Tool (keyboard shortcut V).

Step 2: Open the Appearance panel from the overhead main menu Window > Appearance. The keyboard shortcut for the panel is Shift + F6.

In your Appearance panel, you should see the Drop Shadow line.

Note: If you want to make changes to your drop shadow, simply click the underlined Drop Shadow wording in the Appearance pane. It will bring up the dialog box and you can make whatever changes you like.

You can either remove or hide the Drop Shadow. 

Step 3: If you want to hide the drop shadow, click on the eye icon next to Drop Shadow in your Appearance panel.

If you want the drop shadow to show again, you can toggle the eye on/open to make the drop shadow appear. 

If you want to permanently remove the drop shadow, click on the Drop Shadow effect and drag it to the trashcan in the bottom right corner to delete your drop shadow. 

Drop Shadow Not Showing in Illustrator?

There are a few reasons why the drop shadow may not be showing.

When you click on drop shadow, the menu will appear again.

You may experience a situation where the drop shadow effect you applied is not showing. Maybe you mistakenly set all the parameters to zero.

For example, you may not see the drop shadow if the shadow color is the same as the background color. 

Final Thoughts

Drop Shadows can make a graphic or image stand out, text be more readable (in the right context), or just add a little more pizazz to your design. Through the Effect overhead menu and utilizing the Appearance panel, you can make sure your Drop Shadow has all the correct settings to set off your design!

Have you used a Drop Shadow in Illustrator? What did you create with it and was it for fun or work? Let me know in the comments below.

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