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I've been trying to render only shadows in Cycles, is that possible? If so, how?

For example, when I render a character, I want Cycles to render only the shadow of the character.

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Not sure if this is where you want to go.... but:

.blend: https://www.dropbox.com/s/wzf8haoxrs6yfwv/special_case.blend?dl=0

enter image description here

produces:

enter image description here

Here's why I called the file "special_case": the ground plane extends beyond the edge of the camera, and produces a shadow png. If the ground plane edges are inside the camera view, you will see a thin black line at the mesh edge. I am sure there is a way to eliminate it, but darned if I can figure out. Also, the masking box is a bit of a cheat.... but works for a still image. See .blend file for results. Node tree set-up here:

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ instead of just a file please summarize the steps taken. If the link to your file disappears the answer will be useless. $\endgroup$ – cegaton Dec 6 '15 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ Also please add an explanation to your images and the logic behind the node tree you propose. $\endgroup$ – cegaton Dec 6 '15 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ I found this very useful but cegaton is correct more details would be very helpful. I spent about an hour trying to get it to work correctly. $\endgroup$ – Dontwalk May 17 '16 at 19:19

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