PHOTOSHOP ISN'T JUST ABOUT PHOTOS, OF COURSE. Some graphic designers spend entire days using Photoshop not as a digital darkroom, but as a digital box of art supplies, creating illustrations, ads, fine art, and Web graphics.
Years ago, one way for Photoshop gurus to demonstrate their prowess was to create amazing drop shadows, bevels, and other 3D effects using complex channel manipulation sequences or stacks of layers. Then Photoshop added layer stylespopular effects pre-packaged into a convenient, one-step dialog box. For example, in early versions of Photoshop, you built a drop shadow by getting the silhouette of a layer, making a blurred shadow, and blending the shadow with the original layer. If you edited the original layer and its outer edge changed, you had to rebuild the shadow from scratch. Also, sometimes many layers were needed to create an effect, making the Layers palette harder to manage.
Today, all you have to do is apply the Drop Shadow layer style and tell it how big, how dark, and how opaque you want the shadow. A layer style belongs to a specific layer, and you can apply multiple layer styles to a layer, so you can use complex styles without cluttering the Layers palette. In addition, like adjustment layers, layer styles are nondestructivelayer styles aren't applied to the original layer data until you save in a flattened format or print, so you can edit an effect at any time. Layer styles are also live, so that you can change the content of a layer, and the effect updates itself to match. If you frequently use shadows, glowing auras, textures, sculpted edges, or any other similar effects, layer styles can save you a lot of time.
I don't cover each individual layer style feature, because that would take up an entire book on its own. To follow this book's theme of efficiency, in this chapter I cut through the details and subtleties of layer styles and instead give you ways to recognize when layer styles save you time and suggest quick and easy-to-remember ways to perform the more common layer style tasks.