Using Layer Styles

Using Layer Styles

Layer styles are wonderful little extras that you can apply to layers to create drop shadows, bevel and emboss effects, apply color overlays, gradients, patterns and strokes, and more.

Applying a style

To apply a layer style (for example, the drop shadow style, one of the most popular effects) to an image, just follow these steps:

  1. Create a layer on any image.

    For example, you could create a text layer to see the affects of the layer styles.

  2. With the layer selected, click and hold on the Layer Style button at the bottom of the Layers palette. From the menu options, choose Drop Shadow.

    In the Layer Style dialog box that appears, you can choose to change the blending mode, color, distance spread, and size of a drop shadow. You should see it has already applied to your text. Position the cursor on the image area and drag to visually adjust the position of the drop shadow.

  3. When you’re happy with the drop shadow, click OK to apply it.


To apply another effect and change its options, click and hold on the Layer Style button in the Layers palette and choose the name of the layer style from the menu that appears — Bevel and Emboss, for instance. In the dialog box that appears, change the settings to customize the layer style and click OK to apply it to your image. For example, if you choose Bevel and Emboss from the Layer Styles menu, you can choose from several emboss styles and adjust the depth, size, and softness, as shown in Figure.

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Figure: Click the style to see available options.

Here are some consistent items that you see in the Layer Style dialog box, no matter what effect you choose:

  • Contour: Use contours to control the shape and appearance of an effect. Click on the arrow to open the Contour flyout menu to choose a contour preset, or click the contour preview to open the Contour Editor (shown in Figure) and create your own edge.

    Click To expand
    Figure: Create your own edge contour using the Contour Editor.

  • Angle: Drag the cross hair in the angle circle, or enter a value in the Angle text field to control where the light source comes from.

  • Global light: If you aren’t smart about lighting effects on multiple objects, global light will make it seem as though you are. Select the Use Global Light check box to keep the angle consistent from one layer style to another.

  • Color: Whenever you see a color box, you can click on it to select a color. This color could be for the drop shadow, highlight or shadow of an emboss, or for a color overlay.

Creating and saving a style

If you come up with a combination of attributes that you like, click the New Style button in the upper right of the Layer Style dialog box. Name the style, and it is now stored in the Styles palette. After you click OK, you can retrieve the style at any time by choosing Window®Styles. If it helps, click the palette menu button and choose Small or Large List to change the Styles palette to show only the name of the styles.

After you have applied a layer style to a layer, the style is listed in the Layers palette, as shown in Figure. You can turn off the visibility of the style by turning off the eye icon, or even throw away the layer style by dragging it to the Layers palette’s trash can icon.

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Figure: Layer styles are shown in the Layers palette.

Opacity versus fill

In the Layers palette, you have two transparency options, one for opacity and one for fill. Opacity affects the opacity of the entire layer, including effects. Fill, on the other hand, affects only the layer itself, but not layer styles. Figure shows what happens when the Bevel and Emboss style is applied to text and the fill is reduced to 0 percent. It looks like the text was embossed on to the image. You can do lots of neat stuff with the Layer Fill feature!

Click To expand
Figure: A text layer with layer styles ap-plied, and the fill reduced to 0 percent.

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