50 Examples Of Stellar Use Of Light, Shadow And Texture To Kick Start Your Inspiration

About The Author

Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. When he is not writing, he’s most probably running front-end & UX … More about Vitaly ↬

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May 2017 bring you a healthy and inspiring adventure. As for that kick-start inspiration, Vitaly Friedman hopes this article will help get you back in the creative mindset. The above illustration has a style that I’m sure everyone will admire. The combination of colors used is simply marvelous — so simple, yet so complex.

Many people find it difficult to get their minds back into work after a holiday season filled with love, food, and friends. May 2017 bring you a healthy and inspiring adventure. As for that kick-start inspiration, I hope this article will help get you back in the creative mindset. The above illustration has a style that I’m sure everyone will admire. The combination of colors used is simply marvelous — so simple, yet so complex.

Let’s begin!


This is just genius! So smart to work with the light and shadow. Just look at that pose, and the usage of beautiful contrasting colors.

Image credit: Spencer Wilson

Snowy Cabin

That smoke! A cozy winter getaway with great textures. The reflection on the water is so perfectly done, too.

Image credit: MUTI

Authentic Assets

Inspiring editorial illustration about millennial housing. Jealous about the gorgeous texture layer.

Image credit: Kotryna Zukauskaite

Figure Study

Great style and colors. Admiring the wood surface and subtle textures.

Image credit: Matt Carlson

Faces - James Gilleard

I’m admiring this piece of personal work from James Gilleard. Analyzing the complexity of how these faces are created is super inspiring to learn from.

Image credit: James Gilleard

Honeymoon Petra Villas

A view from an upscale hotel carved into the cliffs overlooking the Santorini Caldera. You sure would want to escape winter after seeing this.

Image credit: Anastasia Adamaki

Google Play | Script & Seal

Drilled down to just the basics with lovely textures.

Image credit: Script & Seal

Todd Terje - Preben

A great example that there are no boundaries to how a face should look if you are an illustrator.

Image credit: Bendik Kaltenborn

Vanity Fair France

Cover illustration for the Collection supplement of Vanity Fair France. The flow in Malika’s work is just so inspiring.

Image credit: Malika Favre

Illustration By David Holt

This is Beautiful! Great colors, very vivid and wonderful repetition of shapes.

Image credit: David Holt


Another breathtaking shot from my friends Jered and Ashley Gruber. It’s somewhere in the French Pyrenees’ and shot for Craft Sportswear.

Image credit: Jered Gruber


Nice idea and beautiful usage of shapes to create a roaster. Thumbs up!

Image credit: Gardner Design

Maker & Match Candle Co.

Love the way those matches connect and create the flame in the middle. I’m also a big fan of knights. Never had the opportunity to use them. Well, not yet!

Image credit: Adam Anderson

IBM Latin America

A piece from the iconic work Paul Rand has done for IBM.

Image credit: Good Design

Desert Nights

Some super beautiful gradients and wonderful line work. Available as a wallpaper, too.

Image credit: Maria Shanina

Pool Without Water

I’m loving the continuation of these series by Maria Svarbova. This time the central theme is a pool without water.

Image credit: Maria Svarbova


I’ve always been a fan of custom lettering, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Just beautiful!

Image credit: Erik Marinovich

Esteban Fallone

Esteban Fallone is an award winning Architect based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The idea behind this visualization was to take a variety of his house projects and translate them into a different language.

Image credit: Gianluca Fallone


Pretty sweet what can be accomplished with just a few colors. I like the simplicity and the monochromatic colorway.

Image credit: Mads Berg

Toyota Magazine - Future Tech Article

The complexity of this illustration makes it a perfect fit for an article about future technology.

Image credit: James Gilleard

The Guardian Review Books

Cover for The Guardian Review books. Love the concept of a huge book pile in front of a giant moon. Nice contrast of the figure in front of the moon.

Image credit: Robert Frank Hunter

Sheffield Hallam University’s Events Calendar

Since January still qualifies as being festive it seems only appropriate to add something that fits that spirit.

Image credit: Naomi Wilkinson

Laurel Canyon

In awe when I see how all the shadowing is done in this illustration of a house in Laurel Canyon.

Image credit: Chris Turnham


A thing of beauty. I dig the green color palette, too.

Image credit: Eight Hour Day

Skiing Magazine - Salomon Skis

Enjoying the mood in this illustration. The sweater on the deer is such a nice detail that drives it all home.

Image credit: Matt Carlson

We All Love Stories

So true! We all love stories, especially when it’s about something we are passionate about. Beautifully illustrated. Love the curvy lines and soft tones.

Image credit: Xoana Herrera


Part of a bigger illustration piece that you can see here. Strong texture work and I love how the figures are drawn.

Image credit: Cruschiform

28 Days Of Peace

Beautiful new work from the queen of lettering. It’s for an ambitious project, illustrating a countdown for Advent in which each number is unique and related to a daily reflection or action leading up to Christmas Day.

Image credit: Jessica Hische

Maligne Lake

There are worst places to do a nap. Beautiful Canada, the Rockies.

Image credit: lebackpacker

Nomad Hill Brand Board

This is looking really great. Loving the patterns.

Image credit: Andrew Litmann

The New Yorker - Double Solitude

Detailed and an atmospheric mood that sometimes allude to something darker, that’s how I would describe the work of French illustrator Antoine Maillard.

Image credit: Antoine Maillard

Official Rogue One Magazine Cover

The intricate details of the illustration are just amazing! Those are some mad skills. One can only dream.

Image credit: DKNG

Jamie Oliver Magazine

Admiring how certain elements are set to another perspective. Makes for an interesting collage.

Image credit: Ale Giorgini

Patagonia Dreaming I

Such beautiful light effect! Only one image out of a beautiful collection of Patagonia, Chile. The rest can be seen here.

Image credit: Andy Lee


A style that I truly love. Such wonderful colors, too.

Image credit: Jones & Co

Amsterdam Skyline

Awesome illustration, so many fine details if you look closer. Interesting combination of colors.

Image credit: Dmitrij

Th World

“Architecture’s great problem is the gap between the visionary and the grubby compromise of reality.” A very interesting combination of objects. Such perfect tones on the shapes to create the depth and shadow and light effect.

Image credit: Ray Oranges

Russian Post

Love how the lady looks casual chic. The floor pattern is also a eye catcher. Everything is just perfect in this one.

Image credit: Maria Menshikova

A Guide To Being Human

Rich colors and well executed linework. That fingerprint mark at the end finishes it off.

Image credit: Mike Smith

Techo Key Visual

I like the flow that is going within this illustration.

Image credit: Rocío Galarza


This is quite lovely. Digging all the elements and admiring the style of her face.

Image credit: Matt Carlson

Drown In Her Madly

Apparently I’m not the only person who mostly uses a mouse to draw. This one is completely created with mouse in Illustrator and Photoshop. Be sure to view the entire piece here. Beautiful job.

Image credit: Andrea Moresco

Gerhard Richter

Part of a series of illustrations of houses based on famous artist. Be sure to go look at the others.

Image credit: Federico Babina

Sleeping Beauty

Wonderful book cover for Sleeping Beauty, a mid-century fairy tale. Original pattern on the background, and who doesn’t love robots.

Image credit: Pixturebook Makers


Those colors and super pastel gradients are so beautiful! Taken in Artipelag, Värmdö, Sweden.

Image credit: Anders Jildén

Vintage Colnago

Makes me want to illustrate a vintage bicycle, too. A real Italian vintage Colnago.

Image credit: Pavlov Visuals

Chen Design Associates

Lovely letter-pressed poster in a special color palette.

Image credit: Ryan Bosse

Dario Flaccovio Editore

The illustration looks so “simple”, but the longer you look at it, the deeper you get into the design.

Image credit: Marco Goran Romano

The World’s Best Street Food

Illustrated cover for a Lonely Planet guide. The grunginess is inspiring and the colors work well with the hand lettering feel.

Image credit: Muti

SOS Fire In The Sky

No words needed.

Image credit: Arto Marttinen

Further Reading

Smashing Editorial (il, mrn)