It's common to use the terms drop shadows, inner shadows, glows, etc - these are all well known and understood

An effect you see all the time is:

  1. a border around
  2. on the top and left, it's a darker color
  3. on the bottom and right, it's lighter than the color in (2)

enter image description here

Skeumorphically, it's symbolically as if the panel is pushed in a few millimeters and of course the falling light causes that side "edges" to be darker (perhaps even a small shadow) and on the far side lighter.

Often the panel "pushed in" is made slightly darker or different..

enter image description here

Anyway, we all see this everywhere -- but what's the best term for this?

As I say, there are clear popular terms for inner shadow, outer shadow, drop shadow, glow, frame, etc. What the heck do you call this?

I can only think of using "emboss" or "pressed" or "pit" in some way; I don't know the answer.

footnote - i quickly made the image above very badly for the sake of posting this question; I'd never use horrible corners and messy lines like that!!

  • 1
    What about well?
    – Larivact
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 14:58
  • What about inset shadow?
    – passatgt
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 16:26
  • Honestly "tray" is a good of term as any. Makes sense.
    – DA01
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 21:57
  • Hey DA whassup - you know, it's definitely an iOS dev term; I really think it's pretty unclear to use that. (Also - really it doesn't really look like a tray to me!) I think Das has the answer..)
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 22:17
  • Hi passatgt .. you know, that does kind of make sense when you think about it; what do others think? It tends to confuse me thought with "inner glow". Also a shadow is only on two sides you know .. it's almost like two inner shadows, or something
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 22:20

2 Answers 2


Stylistically, the visual design term for that is debossing.

  • 3
    This is fantastic. (What the hell are you doing suggesting "tray" in the comment? :-)
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 22:17
  • Sorry men I'd forgot to tick an answer here. Thanks again! Wish I could tick both!!
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 14:45

Bootstap uses the term "well" to describe these. http://getbootstrap.com/components/#wells

A well is a container in that causes the content to appear sunken or an inset effect on the page.

  • nice one Das !!
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 18:29
  • Note that Bootstrap is using a slightly different effect, however. Instead of showing debossed edges, its using an inset shadow.
    – DA01
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 21:56
  • @DA01 True, it does differ depending exactly how you want it implemented. I will say that I have never heard a dev while wireframing describe an element as a debossed element, they simply say "a well". But when it comes down to it your answer is more accurate for this case. I think debossing may be a term more widely known by designers than devs, or perhaps "well" is just a more generic term.
    – DasBeasto
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 13:36

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