Adding a Layer Style

Photoshop offers 10 effects to choose from. Each offers several options for customization and can be used to create unique and dynamic Layer Styles. Each effect has its own interface, with many shared commonalities; however, each deserves close exploration.


Create a new document and choose the 2 x 3 preset.


Select the Type tool and add the letter T. Use a thick sans serif font and set the point size large enough to fill the canvas. If you are not yet familiar with the Type tool, you can open Layer_Style_Start.psd from the Chapter 13 folder.


At the bottom of the Layers palette, click the circular f, and choose the first effect, Drop Shadow.


The Layer Style dialog box opens, and you have control over the effect.

Drop Shadow

The Drop Shadow effect is straightforward, useful, and serves as an introduction to the Layer Styles. Several of the Drop Shadows interface elements appear in other effects. Let's examine its window closely.

  • Blend Mode: You can specify the blending mode for the shadow. This allows the shadow to more realistically blend with lower layers. The Multiply blending mode is the most common for shadows. This mode causes the darkness of the shadow to mix with background colors, which more closely simulates a natural shadow.

  • Color: By default, the shadow is set to black. But shadows often pick up the color of the light source or background. To change the color of the shadow, click the color rectangle to load the Adobe Color Picker.

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    Type Effects

  • Opacity: Adjust the opacity to taste. Opacity is the opposite of transparency: the higher the number, the less you can see through the layer.

  • Angle: This sets the direction of the shadow.

  • Use Global Light: The Global Light option allows you to use a consistent light source for all layer effects. It's a good idea to leave the Global Light box checked so that your designs have realistic (and consistent) lighting.

  • Distance: The Distance option affects how far the shadow is cast. You can also click in the window and manually drag the shadow into position.

  • Spread: This affects how much the shadow disperses.

  • Size: This modifies the softness of the shadow.

  • Contour: Most users skip the Contour settings. This is a terrible mistake. The contour is essentially a curve; it is representative of how Photoshop fades transparency. There are several presets to try, and we'll explore this setting more later on.

  • Anti-aliased: The Anti-aliased box gives you a smoother onscreen appearance. This is important if you are creating titles for screen usage (such as Internet or video).

  • Noise: This option places noise in the shadow, which adds random dispersion to your style.

  • Layer Knocks Out Drop Shadow: This option is checked by default (and should probably stay that way). It ensures that the shadow does not bleed through partially transparent text.

Uncheck the Drop Shadow box to remove the shadow, and then click the Inner Shadow box.

Inner Shadow

The Inner Shadow effect casts a shadow in front of the layer. This effect can be used to create a "punched-out" or recessed look. It looks best when the shadow is set to a soft setting. Inner shadows look good when used in combination with other Layer Styles, but are distracting when overused. The controls of this effect are nearly identical to the Drop Shadow; the only new setting is Choke.

The Choke slider shrinks the boundaries of the Inner Shadow prior to blurring.

Uncheck the Inner Shadow box to remove the shadow, and then click the Outer Glow and Inner Glow boxes.

Outer Glow and Inner Glow

The Outer Glow and Inner Glow effects create a glow on the outside and inside edges. Both effects allow you to set the color, amount, and shape of the glow. If you choose a darker glow, you might need to change its blending mode to see it.

The key difference is that the Inner Glow lets you set where the glow emanates from, the edges of the layer or the center of the layer. Inner glows signify light coming from behind the layer. It is unlikely that you would need to apply a Drop Shadow and a glow simultaneously. Tweak the contour and quality for a variety of shapes to your glows.

  • Technique: You can choose to use Softer (which does not preserve as many details). Choose Precise if the source has hard edges (like text or a logo).

  • Source: An Inner Glow can emanate from the edges or the center of a layer.

  • Range: This helps target which portion of the glow is targeted by the contour.

  • Jitter: This will vary the application of the glow's gradient. It affects color and opacity.

Uncheck the Outer Glow and Inner Glow boxes to remove the glows, and then click the Bevel and Emboss box.

Bevel and Emboss

The Bevel and Emboss effect is very versatile, but you'll need to be careful not to overdo it. You can use bevels in combination with other effects to create realistic depth. This effect has five different kinds of edges:

  • Outer Bevel effect adds a three-dimensional beveled edge around the outside of a layer. This bevel is created by adding a clear edge.

  • Inner Bevel effect generates a similar effect inside the edge. Instead of a clear edge, it uses the layer's own pixels.

  • Emboss effect combines inner and outer bevels into one effect.

  • Pillow Emboss combines the inner and outer bevel effects, but it reverses the outer bevel. This causes the image to appear stamped into the layer.

  • Stroke Emboss must be used with the Stroke Layer Style. These two effects combine to create a colored, beveled edge along the outside of the layer.

The Bevel and Emboss effect allows significant control over the edges. You can change the lighting source and direction of the bevel, as well as the bevel's thickness, softness, and depth.

Tip: Bevel Overuse

Don't over-bevel. A subtle bevel helps a text or logo element lift off the page or screen and adds subtle depth. Overuse, however, looks amateurish.

  • Depth: This is how thick the bevel is.

  • Direction: The bevel can go up or down to change the look of the bevel.

  • Altitude: You can set the altitude of the light source between 0° and 90°. The higher the number, the more the bevel appears to go straight back.

  • Gloss Contour: This command creates a glossy, metallic appearance. The Gloss Contour is applied after shading the bevel or emboss.

The Flexible Power of Contour Settings

The least understood option of Layer Styles is the Contour setting. Most users leave Contour set to the default linear slope setting. The easiest way to grasp the Contour setting is to think of it as a cross-section of the bevel (it represents the shape of the bevel from a parallel point of view).

The basic linear contour reflects light with predictable results. However, irregularly shaped contours can generate metallic highlights or add rings to the bevel. The Contour setting is extremely powerful and unlocks many looks. Be sure to choose the Anti-aliased option for smoother results.

You have a few options available to modify a contour:

  • Click the drop-down menu and select a preset.

  • If you don't like the 12 included contours, you can load additional contours. Loading contours is similar to loading styles: just click the submenu triangle.

  • You can make your own contours by defining the shape of the curve. Click the curve and add points. If the Preview box is checked, the curve will update in near-real time. This is the best way to learn how the Contour controls work. You'll find Contour controls on glows, shadows, and bevels.

You'll find an extra set of contours called UAP contours.shc in the Chapter 13 folder.

  • Highlight Mode and Opacity: This specifies the blending mode and opacity of the highlight.

  • Shadow Mode and Opacity: This specifies the blending mode and opacity of the shadow.

  • Contour: The flexibility of the Contour controls is the bevel effect's best option. There are two Contour settings: the first affects the bevel's lighting, the specialized Contour pane alters the shape of the edge.

  • Texture: This option allows you to add texture to the bevel. You'll find several textures available in the Pattern Picker and additional ones can be added by loading them from the picker's submenu.

Uncheck the Bevel and Emboss boxes to remove the bevel, and then click the Satin box.


The Satin effect can be used to add irregular ripples or waves in your Layer Style. It can be used to create liquid effects and subtle highlights. This effect requires experimentation as its controls are very sensitive. To create different looks, experiment with different colors, contour settings, and blending modes. The Satin effect works very well in combination with other effects.

Uncheck the Satin box to remove the satin, and then click the Color Overlay box.

Note: Adding Soft Highlights

Satin is an underused effect that can add soft highlights to a layer.

Color Overlay

The Color Overlay style replaces the contents of your layer with new fill color. This can be a great timesaver and allows for fast design of text effects or Web buttons. Additionally, blending modes can be used to create tinting effects.

Tip: Change the Color of Several Layers at Once


Apply a Color Overlay Layer Style.


Copy the Layer Style by Ctrl-clicking (right-clicking) the small f icon and choose Copy Layer Style.


Select multiple layers that you want to change.


Ctrl-click (right-click) and choose Paste Layer Style.

Uncheck the Color Overlay box to remove the color, and then click the Gradient Overlay box.

Gradient Overlay

The Gradient Overlay allows you to overlay a gradient on top of the layer. You can harness the full power of the Gradient Editor. For more on gradients, see Chapter 6, "Painting and Drawing Tools."

Uncheck the Gradient Overlay box to remove the gradient, and then click the Pattern Overlay box.

Pattern Overlay

A Pattern Overlay uses photorealistic patterns or seamless tiles. To create more believable effects, combine patterns with blending modes. Photoshop ships with several seamless patterns and you can make more using the Patternmaker filter (see Chapter 11, "Repairing and Improving Photos").

Uncheck the Pattern Overlay box to remove the pattern, and then click the Stroke box.

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Photo Effects

Creating Duotones with Layer Styles

The Color, Gradient, and Pattern overlays are very useful when working with photos. If you're working with groups of historical sources or grayscale photos, you can use Layer Styles to create consistent tinting effects. Often, it is easier to strip all of the color data out of a historical photo before restoring it. You can then add the duotone or sepia tone effect back in as the last step.


Open the file Photo Styles Practice.tif from the Chapter 13 folder.


Load the Layer Styles set, UAP Photo-Styles.asl from the Chapter 13 folder as well.


Double-click the Background layer to float it. Name the layer photo.


Click the different styles to try them out.


Open the effect window and examine how blending modes and textures can be harnessed for powerful effects.


The Stroke effect places a colored border around the edge of a layer. This is a much better replacement for the Stroke command found under the Edit menu. You can choose from inner, outer, or center strokes, as well as advanced controls such blending modes, textures, and gradients. If you'd like to emboss the stroke, combine it with the Stroke Emboss effect.

Tip: Is There a Soft-Edged Stroke?

Sureit's called Outer Glow. Adjust the size and spread for a better appearance.

Layer Style Shortcuts

Adobe created a few useful shortcuts that will increase the efficiency of Layer Styles:

  • Double-click a layer in the Layers palette (except on the name), and the Layer Style dialog box opens.

  • To edit a specific effect, double-click its name in the Layers palette.

  • Turn an effect's visibility off by clicking the eye icon next to it.

  • Copy and paste Layer Styles by Ctrl-clicking or right-clicking the effect icon in the Layers palette and choosing Copy Layer Style. You can then Paste Layer Styles to other layers by Ctrl-clicking or right-clicking and choosing Paste Layer Style.

  • You can move a Layer Style from one layer to another by dragging it.

  • You can Option-drag (Alt-drag) a Layer Style from one layer to another to copy it.

Understanding. AdobeR PhotoshopR. Digital Imaging Concepts and Techniques
Understanding Adobe Photoshop: Digital Imaging Concepts and Techniques
ISBN: 0321368983
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 129 © 2008-2017.
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