Refining the details of a design artwork is a great way to push it to the next level. There are several ways to refine an artwork, such as adding in finer details using colours and shadows or applying various textures and effects.

With these techniques in mind, one could approach an artwork and selectively apply them to produce a unique piece each time. However, always bear in mind to maintain the intended visual hierarchy of the piece; don’t overdo the details (there are exceptions to this of course).

In this short tutorial, I’ll be highlighting the light and shadow aspect of refining. The Launch Team artwork will be used to illustrate this.

The artwork was initially created in Adobe Illustrator and is vector based. You may continue to refine your artwork in Illustrator or any preferred software but in this tutorial, I’ll be using Photoshop.

Before I start, it’s always good to have a rough sketch of what your artwork would be like when it’s completed.

The idea is to have a visual guide while refining and to see from the start whether the composition of the piece works.

Light & Shadow

The gist of this section is to have a (very) basic understanding of how light and shadow interacts with an object. Applying these principles will provide depth to your artwork.


The concentration of the light is strongest at the edge and gradually fades away depending on the distance between the light source and the object, and the contour of the object. This is a simple guide which illustrates that concept.


Shadows behave in a similar way as well. When a light is projected onto an object, a shadow is cast onto another medium (in this case, we’ll use the ground as an example).

The intensity of the shadow depends on the distance between the object and the ground, as well as the intensity of light.

Here’s what happens when both principles are applied to the Launch Team artwork.

The key to editing the artwork is to know where the light source is coming from and paint the light (relatively) the strongest at the edge and taper it off to 0 opacity.

Note that the shadow cast typically continues in the same direction as the light. And the same principle is applied here, strongest nearest to the object before its opacity slowly tapers off away from the object.

The end result will be a satisfying and polished artwork. And always remember to maintain the intended visual hierarchy.


Written by Alim (UI/UX Designer)