Gradient and Shadow effects: How and when to use?

Gradients and shadows can be something that will highlight your brand or put it away, so, be careful and let’s talk about how you can use them right!

Back in the ’90s, effects like gradients and shadows were something unique, fun, different, and very common. But, after Google had introduced its ‘Material design’ and then Windows had its ‘Metro” look in 2014 everything started to change. A new era for the design, clean, solid colors, no shades, no gradients, no shadows, no effects. Starting a new style, and of course, just turned into a new trend (thank you Google for that).

But then, you ask me: “I like these effects, can I use on my brand?”, the answer is yes and no, this will depend on howwhen and where you will use.

Gradients and shadows are AMAZING to use in simple details, to highlight some information, to stand out the logo in advertising, etc… But these elements need to be used carefully and have the right time and place.

1) When. Having your logo file without any effect is the key! No shadows, no gradients, no 3D, etc… You will need your logo to do a lot of different designs and pieces, and each time you will need to have a different look, so if you already have this kind of effect will be very complicated to do a nice job with. Imagine a blank screen just with a tree in the center and nothing else, it’s easy to do something with, you can add a sun, or a moon, stars, grass, etc…, but if you already have a night painting on it will be a trick to do something because every detail will be already with shades of blue and white. This is the same with a logo that already has an effect. It’s much easier to have your logo without any effect and the result will be so much better and more professional because if the designer decides to do an effect, it will look perfect. So, add the effect WHEN you need it.

2) Compatibility. Let’s say that you request your designer to do your logo with a gradient effect, and when you got your file and send it to print, something got wrong with the file. Do you know why? Compatibility. There’s a lot of different software out there, Illustrator, Affinity Designer, Corel Draw, and the list goes on. Each software has its own engine, so if you try to open an Illustrator file on Corel Draw, all the elements will be twisted, because Corel Draw has a different structure. In each place, each designer will have their own preferences. If you have a logo with solid colors, this does not happen, because all software work with solid colors.

3) Where. Where will you use your logo? I’m sure that you will use it in several different places right? Each place has customization. If you want to print a banner, the gradient gold/silver effect may not look shiny and sparkle like on the computer screen. If you need a simple white adhesive with the silhouette, you will need a logo without any effect and all solid color. If you will add your brand on a website and want a shadow on it, the better is to generate the shadow in the software that is doing your website, so it will be more “light” for your clients to access on the internet. If you need small design pieces, effects could not be such a good idea, it will look blurred and not so clean. Okay, I think I made my point here 😉

On the image above I did a gradient and shadow effect on Affinity Designer – my current software, and then I saved it as an EPS vector. And then I tried to open it on Illustrator. The left side is the vector on Affinity Designer, and on the right is the file opened on Illustrator, how you can see, now my vector just turned into a raster image, and is no longer a vector, so even if you have the vector file you can’t access in another software, because is a different engine and it will not be processed. Don’t know anything about vector/raster/EPS, etc…? You can learn about this here.

But then you ask: “Okay, so I can go on Photoshop and modify how I want right?”, well, this time is a little more trick, and here it is why:

When I tried to use the magic wand from photoshop on the raster image with the gradient (left image), it just selected some areas from the same color tones, I would have to spend so much more time editing, if I just had the vector file with solid colors I would just need some clicks to change/edit the file. Even a PNG with solid colors is a little tricky BUT at least is something faster to edit, but the result will be low quality. So, again, the best is to have your logo on a vector file with solid colors and no effects.

Is so much better and more professional to have a brand without any effect, will be faster to work, will be better to work and it will work so smoothly. Time is money, and not just about the money, it’s the final result, more professional, more balanced, and more quality.

  • Ask your designer for a logo without specific effects
  • Solid colors are the best to go
  • Gradient and Shadows are nice but trust your designer’s judgment about how and when to use
  • Time is money, a vector file with solid colors is the winner

Don’t have a graphic designer yet and need a cute brand? Let’s talk 😉