Get in the habit of checking out layer styles before building an effect manually, in case the effect is already available as a layer style. If your design will use any combination of the following effects (Figure 12.1), consider using a layer style:
Figure 12.1. From left to right: Starting from a shape layer, I used layer styles to add the Drop Shadow, the Color Overlay effect, and the Stroke effect.
Layer styles contain those attributes as building blocks which you can combine in many ways to create the effects you're looking for. Layer styles help you:
Some layer styles duplicate or resemble the effects available in the Filter menu, but layer styles can sometimes be a better solution than a filter effect. Once you apply a filter to a layer, it's permanent. Layer styles are reversible, editable, and can be saved as layer style presets, making them more flexible and efficient. Although layer styles alter the edges and surface of a layer, layer styles don't alter the pixels themselves, so applying a filter may be a better solution when you want to process the pixels themselves. For example, if you want to emboss or add a texture, applying a layer style gives you more flexibility, but if you want to blur, sharpen, or add a brush stroke effect, you'll need to apply a filter.
Layer styles work just fine on bitmap layers, but shapes and layer styles are a powerful combination because you can edit both the shape and the layer style as many times as you want without lowering the quality of the effect or the layer (Figure 12.2). As you edit the shape, the layer style reshapes itself to match, so experimenting is painless. Type is made up of vector shapes, so you can edit type and the layer style updates accordingly (Figure 12.3).
Figure 12.2. Starting from a shape layer (left), I applied a layer style that applied the Bevel and Emboss and Gradient Overlay effects (center). When I used the direct selection and pen tools to edit the shape, the layer style adjusted automatically (right).
Figure 12.3. For this Web page button, I applied the Outer Glow effect to the text (left). If I edit the text, the layer style automatically adjusts, because it applies to the entire type layer.