How To: Paint a "Mock Drop Shadow"

I've been trawling through the internet for ages trying to find a tutorial for these bad boys, with no luck! 
So, I have decided to paint my first ever "mock drop" and upload a step by step guide, so no one else has this problem.


I used One Shot Signwriting enamel paint on a rusty old toolbox and tested out some lovely new "extreme liner" brushes I bought from Mack. Enamel paint provides that smooth shiny surface and helps maintain a sharp edge for lettering, but it is a complicated material to learn on the job, so if you haven't painted with enamels before then I'd recommend using acrylic (water based) paints, or pencil on paper for that matter. 

1. After printing out my reference from an old lettering book, I sketched out a quick freehand design, then went straight on to my toolbox using Staedtler Lumocolour Non-Permanent pencil

The trick to the "mock drop", is the illusion of 3D. You have to designate a direction for your light source and design the 3D letters' "block shadow" accordingly. 

Here are some reference alphabet's I found online, and I'll head to the shed and dig up mum's old worksheets from when she studied SignWriting at TAFE, we'll see what we can find there. 

Below = Light source top left hand corner


Below = Light source top right hand corner


If it's your first try, I'd recommend copying the letterform exactly like I did.
Once you get the gist it's easier to create mock drops for your own weird and wonderful lettering.


2. The first step is to undercoat under the lighter shades so they POP, I used a white enamel to undercoat (always remember if you're using enamel stick with enamel undercoats, and acrylic - stick with an acrylic undercoat). Next, I started filling in the grey highlights to my drop shadow.

I kept a painters palette and palette knife on hand to mix two shades of grey for the light and dark. A little bit of One Shot Enamel goes a long way, so I only needed a square inch or so on my palette to cover these small areas, using Mineral Turpentine to thin the paint and keep my brush flowing. 


3. The key to the whole illusion is the colour of the block shadow. That is, the shadow that the 3D block letter is casting on to the background surface. This must be a natural shade or two darker than the background colour.

If you're painting straight onto white paper, go with a delicate grey - or if you're painting the background colour in yourself then add some black to the paint to tint it for the shadow layer. For me, I mixed a rusty brown colour from scratch to match some of the darker shades found on the toolbox. 

I mixed the colour of my shadow with a dab of Reflex Blue, Vermillion Red, and a hint of black.


Instantly in love.

4. Next step is the lettering detail. Work with a small brush for finer details, especially if you're starting out. Tiny brush tips are necessary for tight corners if you're not used to working with a chiseled brush yet. I bought this Mack Brush fine liner from a local art supply store, but they are hard to find - only one store in my city sells them. You can purchase lettering brushes online from OneShot Australia and overseas. 


7. Thumbs up, job done, and out in to daylight to take a step back...


Loving that pop!!

Hmm, the dents in the toolbox make the "I" look crooked but she's true, don't you worry.
That's all part of it when you're working with reclaimed surfaces. 

I Hope you get to try one out ASAP, cause I love em!!! 
xoxoxo Bohie


Check out the "mock drop" in full effect on a mural I designed and painted for Uber Australia