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Tips for Bringing Light and Shadow to Your Design

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Mar 31, 2022• Proven solutions

As an aspiring designer and developer working in the industry, there will always be moments far down the road where you will be learning about small elements that can make or break your content. Being in the graphics world means always being ready for change and embracing the revolutions that innovation brings about. Learning new skills is a part of growing.

In today's discussion, we shall know about a simple yet relatively significant tool that can elevate your designs significantly, i.e., light and shadow. You can learn how to use light and shadows in your designs to change the entire perspective below.

Part 1: What is Shadow and Light in Design?

If you look around closely, you will see the impact of light and shadow on everything you see. It is the fact that it's so common that this phenomenon is often overlooked. The visual effects of light and its consequence, i.e., shadows, are everywhere.

Let's have a little throwback to the sixth-grade science lesson to know what a shadow is. Shadows are formed when light falls on an opaque object and is unable to pass through it. This results in a bright area surrounding the object and a much darker area outlining it, which is called a shadow. But that was the physical aspect of shadows and lights. Today we will be talking about what light and shadow signify in design.

light and shadow in a design

Now the common medium used for design might be paper or a digital tool, but the thing to notice here is that these canvases are two-dimensional. This means that our designs will generally look flat and single-textured whenever drawn. But you must have also seen designs giving off a three-dimensional illusion. This is where shadows come in handy.

To add a realistic connection between our normal perception and our designs, the shadow effect is significant. By adding elements of light and shadow in the design, artists can create an illusory effect of realism. The three-dimensional effect that shadows add to a design helps establish a visual metaphor that creates a link between what we see on a screen or paper and what we see in the real world.

Part 2: How to Use Light and Shadow in Your Design and Video?

After knowing what light and shadow signify in design, let us now know how to use them. Below are a few tips and techniques to establish a spatial connection in your design using elements of shadows and light.

Before starting your design, always remember to set a specific area that will be your light source. This way, you can easily determine which areas of your design should be bright and where you can add the shadows. Once that is done, you can follow the additional tips mentioned below.

1. Gradients can be Fun

One of the easiest ways to make your design look realistic with shadows is to add a gradient. If you look around, you will notice that the casted shadows of different objects feature a color gradient rather than just a single flat color. Take notes from the things around you and see how gradient works. You might see a bright color where the light shines directly, but as you move away, the color becomes darker.

gradients in design

Try the same technique in your design. Use gradients to add a faint color variation as you move along. You can use radial gradients to make it seem like light is shining directly upon your subject. A fun way to add a pop of color to your videos is to use the Fuchsia Light Pack offered by Filmstock. It is a video template that features 8 titles with 12 elements and 4 overlays, best suited to liven up your videos.

2. Don't Forget the Highlight

The next crucial part when playing with light and shadow in your design is highlighting the important parts. Highlights are a subtle way to add light to your design and are hence used on objects closest to the light source. They are a good element for balancing shadows and adding a little gleam to the object. This way, it will appear more realistic and easily catch the viewer's eye.

highlight in design

It is not often easy to overdo highlights; as usual, they won't be much noticeable. But when done correctly, highlights will add the shine that your object needs to stand out and the realism that your design needs as well. A good trick is to zoom in while adding highlights to see what you are doing clearly.

3. Determine Opacity and Transparency

Like the gradient point mentioned above, light and shadow are not a flat splash of a single light or dark color; they have depths. To incorporate that depth in your design, you should play with the transparency and opacity of your shadows.

opacity and transparency

If you wish to add realistic light effects in your videos, Wondershare Filmstock has the answer for you. It offers its Cinematic Light Pack, which contains 25 different effects and overlays to give the perfect cinematic experience that your video needs.

4. Work on Typography

If your design features block letters, you can also add shadows to them to appeal to the viewer's eyes. Do not think that light and shadow elements are only for objects; they work like a charm for typography too. You can add striking realistic effects in your design by adding the shadow effect to your letters.


Fonts are a great way to add eye-catching shadows as they allow multiple options and dimensions to the elements. You can add shadows over or below the letters and even on them. Drop shadows also work wonderfully well with the text.

Suppose you are wondering where to get a good lively text template for your video, head over to Filmstock and look at their Light Letter Pack. This template contains 16 titles with 61 different elements and 4 overlays and transitions, making it the perfect fit to brighten up your video.

5. Try Subtle Drop Shadows

Drop shadows are a great way to add a convincing effect to your designs, but they are hard to get right. It is always advisable to start with a light and subtle look and then go darker. This way, there are fewer chances to mess it up. Also, think about keeping things simple, for your sake. Cast and drop shadows look great, but there is a high likelihood of getting it wrong.

subtle drop shadows

But when done right, drop shadows add great texture and depth to the overall look of your design. Just remember to keep in mind the direction and intensity of light. By doing that, your shadows will not go in the wrong direction and will not appear too dark to the eye. You can change the entire position of an object in space by using these correctly.

6. Abrupt Edges

This is once again a thing to observe from your surroundings. Shadows around us aren't usually sharp and abrupt. Instead, they are soft and almost fade out as you move away from the light source. Keep that thing in mind when adding light and shadow to your design.

The physical form of a shadow depends all upon the intensity and direction of light. A dark and hard-edged shadow means there is a single light source in the space. If it is a light and soft shadow, it suggests that there is diffused light. This can have different impacts on your design.


Oftentimes the things that look the most mundane and inconsequential can be highly significant. Particularly in design, the most ordinary and tedious details can set the entire tone of your design. This happens when playing with light and shadow.

Work on the above-mentioned techniques to add the shadow effect to your designs and make them stand out. You can also head over to Wondershare Filmstock to try their amazing templates to use in your videos. View more about video effects from Filmstock below.

If you want to try all video effects from Filmstock, then you can download and install the Filmora video editor. Because lots of Filmstock's footage and video effects are compatible with Filmora. It's friendly to use for every video creator.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What is light and shadow in drawing?

Light and shadow are used in drawing to define and outline objects visually. They are critical when creating a 3-dimensional illusion and adding concrete aspects of shading to your design.

  • How are light and shadow used in art?

Playing with light and shadow is an important skill taught in the art. It enables the artists to add realistic effects to drawings and create the illusion of a 3D space on a single plane. It is used to depict the illusive 3-dimensional space in art forms using a source of light and to center the shadows accordingly.

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Max Wales
Max Wales is a writer and a lover of all things video.
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