Photoshop Essentials: Layer Styles

Welcome to the third part from the Adobe Photoshop Essentials series, in this tutorial we are going to work with Layer Styles. Besides just talking about layer styles theoretically we are also going to create one small poster.

Layer Styles

Special predefined styles that could be applied on a layer or a group are called layer styles. Unlike the filter that alter the layer itself the layer styles are in essence separate entity that is attached on the layer, but is not the layer itself. In practice if you add stroke effect on a text layer, the layer would still be text not a raster, and you can easily turn it off if you are not satisfied by the result.

In order to apply a style on a layer, you first need to select a layer and either press the fx icon on the layer palette, or right-click on the layer and chose Blending Options.

Layer Style Menu

Layer Effects

The image above represents the Layer Styles menu, from where you can select and modify a desired style. From the layer styles menu you have access to the following styles:

  • Drop Shadow – It will create a shadow behind the content of the layer.
  • Inner Shadow – It will create a shadow on top of the content of the layer.
  • Outer Glow – It will create a glow behind the content of the layer.
  • Inner Glow – It will create a glow on top of the content of the layer.
  • Bevel and Emboss – Creates combinations of highlight and shadow on the content of the layer.
  • Satin – Applies interior shading, which will create satiny look.
  • Color Overlay – It will overlay the content of the layer with a solid color.
  • Gradient Overlay – It will overlay the content of the layer with a gradient.
  • Pattern Overlay – It will overlay the content of the layer with pattern.
  • Stroke – It will create a solid outline with a color, gradient or a pattern.

Effects Stacking Order

You may notice that sometimes, an effect might not be visible because another effect is hiding it. Simple example would be, you can not have a Color Overlay and Gradient Overlay, because the Color would overlay the Gradient. Unlike the layers palette where you can rearrange the stacking order of the layers, here you are not given that option.

Interior Effects Stacking Order:

  • Stroke
  • Bevel and Emboss
  • Inner Shadow
  • Inner Glow
  • Satin
  • Color Overlay
  • Gradient Overlay
  • Pattern Overlay

Exterior Effects Stacking Order:

  • Stroke
  • Outer Glow
  • Drop Shadow

Scaling Effects

Lets say you have created a layer style for 500px by 500px layer, then you want to use the same layer style on a 5px by 5px layer. When you apply the style on the smaller layer, the effect seem out-of-place and distorted. This happens because the layer style hasn’t scaled to the size of the new layer. You can easily fix this problem by simply choosing Layer → Layer Style → Scale Effects then input the percentage you think is appropriate.

Using Layer Styles


Now we are going to recreate the wallpaper presented above, and in the process try most of the things we discussed in the past two lessons. To download the Psd file for the Pac-Man wallpaper click here.

Step 1

First create a new document with size 570px by 400px, then chose the Paint Bucket Tool and with it paint the background layer with the following color #212121.

Note: To create a new document go to File / New… in the menu bar.

Step 2

First for foreground color chose #e4ca3c, then select the Ellipse Tool, and create one perfect circle.(shift + click)  Then from the layers palette select the Shape 1 layer, and add a Layer Mask on it, by clicking on the layer mask icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette.

Select the Layers Mask from the Layers Palette by clicking once on it, then chose the Marquee Tool.  Now with the marquee tool, make a selection that’s roughly a quarter in size of the circle shape, in other words make the Pac-Man shape. With the selection present, chose the Paint Brush Tool and paint the inside of the selection black.

Finally from the Filter menu in the menu bar chose Convert for Smart Filters. After that go once again in the filter menu and chose Noise / Add Noise, then amount 0.6%  and distribution Uniform.

What we just did is, with the help from the layer mask, we have hidden quarter from the circle shape without modifying the circle shape itself. Also by converting the layer for smart filter, we are able to add noise on the layer without modifying the layer.

Note: The layer mask is presented as the middle square on the Shape 1 layer inside the layers palette, if the layer mask is not selected Photoshop wont let you use the Paint Brush Tool.

Step 3

Again use the Ellipse Tool like in the previous step to make one small dot but before you do it change your foreground color to white, then duplicate the layer 5  times. (ctrl + j) After that write the text with the Type Tool, the font used in the poster is Anivers.

Step 4

Define Pattern

Now are going to make the pattern which we are going to use for the background. First make a New Document, but this time make it 10px by 10px. Then double-click on the Background Layer in order to unlock it, after that erase the white background.

With the Rectangular Marquee Tool make a 1px vertical selection on the right edge and paint it white, then make 1px horizontal selection on the bottom and paint it white again.

Now in the Menu Bar chose Image then Image Size, and from the drop down menu at the bottom chose Nearest Neighbor (preserve hard edges). Go once again in the menu bar and chose Edit then Define Pattern, after that name your pattern and close this document.

Step 5

Double click on the background layer in-order to unlock it, then right-click on it and chose Blending Options, from the blending options chose the Pattern Overlay. From the pattern drop down menu chose your newly created pattern, then for Blending Mode chose Overlay and set the Opacity at 10.

Pattern Layer Style

Now enter the blending option of the Pac-Man Layer and apply the following settings: 

Layer Style Drop Shadow

Layer Style Bevel

Layer Style Inner Glow

This brings us to the end of part three of Adobe Photoshop Essentials series. In the mean time while you wait for part four, i suggest you continue experimenting with the layer styles, since the best way to learn Photoshop is with practice.