Learning how to create shadows within a mosaic will add a realistic element to your design by creating depth and a 3-D effect. They are integral in replicating life and achieving realism.

There are two types of shadows you can create, 'Drop or Cast' shadows and 'Core' shadows. A drop shadow is where the object is blocking the light and casting a shadow of itself. They can make an object appear to be resting on or floating above a background. Whereas a core shadow is created on the object itself, such as a fold in a piece of material or the shadow created by a rounded object such as a piece of fruit.

A much used example of shadows within a mosaic Gary Drostle's Koi Fish mosaic "Fishpond", he has used both types with stunning effect. The shadows in this design are used to give the fish form and realism, while the 'drop shadows' are used to connect them to the pond. You feel like you are looking down on them and could reach in and touch them.  

Gary Drostle's koi fish in


Another great example of using 'drop' shadows is 'Bug' mosaic which has been created by Barb Keith. The bug actually appears to be standing rather than sitting flat on the background.

Example of creating a mosaic shadow, Bug by Barb Keith


Creating shadows can be a difficult task, with practice being the key to achieving a great outcome. Before creating either type of shadow, you will need to determine where your light source is coming from. You need to consider the angle of the shadow, and its size and shape.

Here are some practical tips to help you:

  • To create a drop or cast shadow, visualise drawing an online around an object then moving it down and to the side. Try drawing the object, then using tracing paper trace around the object, then cut it out. Position the tracing on your design, down and to the side of the original object. Draw a line around the areas of the drop shadow.
  • Consider colouring the shadow in the same colour as the background but in a darker shade. Avoiding black and grey shades will make the shadow appear more realistic, this is particularly important when using black or grey grout. Another colouring option is to use complementary colours, for example colour the object red and the drop shadow green.You can play around with the colour options by drawing difference combinations on a piece of paper.

The most important element in all of this is to have fun and enjoy the journey!