Layer Effects & Styles in Adobe Photoshop

  • Thread starter CampFireJack
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May 9, 2021
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  • #1

It seems that as people hear about the power of Adobe Photoshop and become interested in learning how to use the application, one of the primary questions is “How do I make things look cool?” Basically, they’re asking how to use layers and layer effects and styles. Well, that’s not entirely true – there are tons more methods of creatively altering images so they “pop.” Layer effects and styles are only one of them. The thing is, working with layers in this manner is fairly basic, so it’s a good place to start.

In this post, I’m going to talk about how to apply various effects and styles to layers in Photoshop. I’ll show you how to create them, display and hide them and delete them if you don’t wish to include them in your working file any longer.

My Original Image​

I’ve already chosen a photograph to use for this post. I added two additional text layers with colors of white and green. I haven’t added any effects or styles to any layers yet.


I actually took this photo only a few evenings ago. I purchased a new All-Clad skillet and was having a grand ol’ time including it in one of my photo shoots. I must say, it photographs remarkably well.

Reviewing Layer Order​

It’s important to understand the concept of layer order when working inside Photoshop because a lot depends on it. If we take a look at my image, we can see that I’ve got four layers. The bottom layer is a background, the next one up is the photograph itself and the two top layers are text.


If I wanted to reorder the layers, all I would need to do is to click and drag them on top of and underneath each other.


If you look closely at the screenshot above, you’ll notice that the text layer “All-Clad” is no longer visible. That’s because I moved the photo layer on top of it. If you think of layers as pieces of paper laying on a table on top of each other, you’ll see why the text layer no longer appears. It’s covered by something else.

Opening the Layer Style Dialog Box​

This is where the fun starts. There are a few methods of opening the “Layer Style” dialog box. If you already know which effect you’d like to apply to the layer (such as a stroke), you can select the layer in question from the “Layers” panel, click the “Fx” icon from the bottom of that panel and then select the effect you’d like to apply.


If you’d like an alternative method (but still know which effect you’d like to apply), you can again select your layer, but this time, you’d head up and click into “Layer > Layer Style” from the top menu.


If you have no idea what type of effect you’d like to apply to your image and want to shop around a bit, all you need to do is double-click on the layer you’d like an effect applied to. This will merely open the “Layer Style” dialog box. All three methods will open this same box. The only difference is that the first two will apply a specific default effect. The last one won’t apply anything.


Applying Layer Styles​

I’m not going to go over how to apply every single layer effect in this post. It’s rather intuitive. All you need to do from here is to check off the effect you’d like to apply over in the left column and then adjust the specifics in the right column. The only thing I want to warn you of is that once you tick the check box in the left column, you also need to click on the effect name itself. If you want to reduce that to only one step, simply click on the effect name to begin with. You can actually click anywhere in the box the name resides, but I’m trying to be super clear here.


As you can see from the screenshot directly above, I clicked on the “Stroke” effect and then I clicked on the “Color” area (the small green box in the right column of the Layer Style dialog box). Once the “Color Picker” box opened up, I used my dropper (which automatically appears once I hover over my image) to select the same green as the “Skillet” has. That changed the color of my stroke to green as well. I clicked “OK” in the Color Picker box and then “OK” again in the Layer Style dialog box to apply the effect to that specific layer.

To become familiar with all effects and all effect options, go ahead and play around with them a bit. It’ll only take a few minutes until you feel experienced enough to comfortably include them in your editing arsenal.

Viewing & Editing Layer Effects From the Layer Panel​

Once layer effects are applied to a layer, they appear in the Layers panel under or “inside” the layer itself. Take a look at what I’m referring to in the screenshot below.


Now, these “effect” layers operate similarly to regular layers. To hide all effects, simply click on the small eye icon that’s to the left of the word “Effects.” To hide a specific effect, click the eye icon that’s to the left of that particular effect. To remove an effect, click and drag that effect from the Layers panel to the small garbage can at the bottom of the Layers panel and to edit an effect, simply double-click that effect and the Layer Styles dialog box will open directly to that effect.

Collapsing Layer Effects​

Layer style effects can become quite cumbersome inside the Layers panel. Oftentimes, there will be dozens of them and having them all in view can become quite confusing. It’s oftentimes better to hide the effect layers. To do this, you simply need to click the small upward facing arrow that sits all the way to the right inside the actual layer. If you click the arrow, the layer will collapse, storing all effects neatly inside.


If you look inside the red circle in the screenshot above, you’ll see that the arrow has changed direction and the small “Fx” text remains. That indicates that there are effects applied to that layer. To view them, just click the arrow again.


May 10, 2021
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  • #2

How to Add Effects to Text Layers in Adobe Photoshop​

When it comes to text effects in Adobe Photoshop, the Layer Style dialog is where it’s at. The sheer volume of creative effects you’re able to apply to not only text, but to a wide array of other graphics, is overwhelming. It seems like this dialog has been available in this application forever and it’s one of the most popular places to go when you want to add pop and flavor to something. One of the most popular, that is, after you learn that it exists.

In today’s post, I’d like to introduce you to the Layer Style dialog in Photoshop. I’ll use a simple graphic with a few words in it to exemplify what I’d like to convey. I’ll demonstrate how I create the text and then I’ll show you how to access the dialog. Finally, I’ll show you how any applied layer effects affect the layer itself, in the Layers panel. This is an introductory post, but it should lead you down a path that can be very rewarding in the future. And by no means will this one post be all that I’ll share. There’s a lot more in the pipe when it comes to this topic.

Creating Some Text​

The first task I’d like to complete is to create some text. At this point, it doesn’t matter what the text says, just that some exists. I already created a file that uses the dimensions of 700×466. Next, I’ll click on the Horizontal Type Tool over in the left toolbar to activate that tool.


I think I’ll create something that says, “TEXT Layer Effects.” The TEXT part will be in one layer and the Layer Effects part will be in another. I’ll type those two parts out and then head towards the Character panel to fine tune what I’ve done.


Primarily, I focused on the font, font size and tracking for this project. Here’s the result.


If you’re brand new to Photoshop and have no idea how I did what I just did, don’t sweat it. As I said above, I will be writing about text until the cows come home. Trust me, there will be a lot more of this in the future. Photoshop is quite extensive (almost like a bottomless pit) when it comes to this particular area.

Adding Some Effects via the Layer Style Dialog​

The best part about using layer styles in Photoshop is that they’re non-destructive. I’ll talk more about this later on. For right now, I’d like to jazz up this boring text. For the TEXT layer, I think I’ll change the color of the word to white as opposed to black, add a stroke around the letters and then add a simple-drop shadow. To do this, I’ll double-click on this layer in the Layers panel. I have to make sure not to click the thumbnail or the name of the layer. I’ll need to click on an empty area. After I do this, the Layer Style dialog will appear.


First, I’ll visit the Stroke effect section via the menu item over to the left.


I’ll adjust the Size, Position and Color attributes until they meet my needs.

Next, I’ll visit the Color Overlay section by clicking on another menu item in the left column.


Here, I’ll make sure the Blend Mode is set to Normal and then I’ll click the color square and make sure to choose White (#FFFFFF) as the new color.

Finally, I’ll visit the Drop Shadow section. As a reminder, just clicking on the menu item in the left column activates the effect. If that wasn’t intended, you’ll need to uncheck the check box for that item to deactivate it.


In this area, I’ll simply click on the Reset to Default button underneath all the attributes because the default setting usually offers a fairly decent shadow effect. I’d like to again reiterate that this is merely an introduction post to give you an idea of what’s in this dialog as well well as how to access it. I’ll talk about the specifics of each area in future posts.

Once I’m finished with all that, I’ll click on the OK button and see what the result looks like. Also, if I were interested in seeing how things look in real time, I could check the Preview box that sits under the buttons in the upper right corner.


Here’s the result.


Now, I’ll add similar effects to the words beneath this one. I’ll also head back to the Character panel and enlarge everything. I think the original version was too small.


Ah, that’s better. I made everything bigger and by using almost the same instructions I gave above, I changed the color of the lower text, added a stroke to it and also added a drop shadow. I think that looks fabulous.

What Effects Look Like in the Layers Panel​

Earlier in this post, I mentioned that everything that’s derived from the Layer Style dialog has a non-destructive effect on the layer itself. It’s true. Take a look at the layers in the Layers panel as evidence of this. The structure of these text layers sort of remind me of Smart Object layers.


In the above screenshot, you can see each text layer as well as all the effects applied to each as a list below. To hide an effect, simply click the eyeball that sits to the left of its name. To hide all the effects at once in a layer, click the eyeball that’s to the left of the word Effects. To hide (collapse) the list from view but to keep the effects active and visible, click the small arrow that’s to the right of the layer.


Most importantly, to remove an effect without returning to the Layer Style dialog, you can simply click and drag that effect from the layer in the Layers panel to the trash can down underneath it at the bottom of the panel. Drop it there and that effect will be gone forever. Well, until you replace it again.

Make Default & Reset to Default​

A really cool and very helpful feature of the Layer Style dialog is the fact that you can set certain attributes as the default as well as reset any existing attribute to the default. Basically, Photoshop has default positions and values for all of the settings in this area. When you make a change to one area to apply effects to a layer, you’re effectively changing those values. Photoshop remembers this. The next time you open the panel, those old values will be staring you in the face. To quickly reset your old settings to the Photoshop defaults, just click the Reset to Default button found at the bottom of each area.


If you’re a power user and find yourself consistently using the same or similar values over and over again, you can make those values the default, as opposed to the Photoshop ones. To accomplish this, just set each slider and drop-down and then click the Make Default button.


It’s that easy. Stay tuned because there’s much more to come.


I hope I clearly explained how to apply a layer style to a layer in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!


May 10, 2021
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  • #3

Separating Effects into Their Own Layers in Adobe Photoshop​

Have you ever applied a style to a piece of text in Adobe Photoshop? If you have, you know that you can do some pretty remarkable things. Personally, the effects I reach for most are strokes and shadows, but really, anything is at my fingertips. From bevels to glows and overlays to textures, the sky’s the limit.

In today’s post, I’d like to show you how you can apply various effects to text in Photoshop and then pull those affects apart from the text. Basically, when you type out the text, it gets applied to its own layer in the Layers panel. After you apply the effects, those effects are seamlessly attached to the text, in the same exact layer. It’s almost as if the text and the effects are one unit. The fact of the matter is that this isn’t true. The effects are actually separate from the text and with one simple command, they can be transferred to their own individual layers. It’s pretty remarkable and once you know that this type of thing is possible, the design world opens right up.

The Text​

For this post, I’ll be working with one simple word, which is “EFFECT.” I know, I know, I’m very boring. I hope my boringness helps you learn something though. I’ll type it out with the Impact font at 170pt. Also, I’ll set a tracking of 50. Here’s what the word looks like.


Applying Some Effects​

I’ve decided to go with a simple stroke and shadow for this text. I don’t want to go nuts here and both of these effects are very straightforward. To apply them, I’ll double-click in the gray area of the layer in the Layers panel and after doing that, the Layer Style Palette will appear.


From here, I’ll apply the effects in question and then I’ll click on the OK button finish up.

Layer Effects & Styles in Adobe Photoshop

How to Add Effects to Text Layers in Adobe Photoshop

This is the result of my efforts.


Pulling the Effects Away From the Text​

To split the effects from the original text is easy. All I need to do is right-click on the small Fx icon that sits to the right of the text layer and when the menu appears, click on the Create Layers option.


After I do that, I’ll see each effect (or style) in its own layer. Check it out.


And if I select each layer and move it around, I can do something like this.


For now though, I’ll keep things the way they are.

So What?​

You may be asking why anyone might want to do something like this. Well, I’ll tell you that once the effects have been separated from the original text, we can get creative with each one. As a quick example, I’ll keep the stroke where it’s supposed to be, but I’ll transform the shadow. To do this, I’ll head up to the Edit > Transform > Distort menu and click.


And then I’ll distort things somewhat.


And then I’ll move the shadow and reduce the opacity slightly and I’ll have myself a graphic that looks entirely different than it originally looked. Even the mood is different.


I know this is very rudimentary, but I hope you get the idea.

How to Use the Free Transform Tool in Adobe Photoshop

Using the Transform & Free Transform Tools in Adobe Photoshop

And that is how you separate out effects from original text in Photoshop.


I hope I clearly explained how to convert layer effects into their own layers in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions regarding this post, please leave them for me in the comment section down below. Thanks for reading!


May 9, 2021
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  • #4

Quick Tips For Managing Layer Effects in Adobe Photoshop​

As I’ve said a number of times, working in the Layers panel can sometimes get confusing. I know that in some of the examples I give, there aren’t many layers at all. In real projects though, there can be an enormous number of them. I mean hundreds. They’re tucked in areas every which way. And when there’s that many layers, things can get confusing – quick. Also, working in the panel with this much volume can become cumbersome, so anything that can be done to help out is certainly welcome.

In my last post about Adobe Photoshop, I talked about some pretty neat keyboard shortcuts that have to do with the Layers panel. In today’s post, I’d like to continue on that path, but switch gears a bit and discuss some tricks that can help out when dealing with layer effects. I don’t want to cover too much here, so this post will be quick. I merely want to show you a few tips you might not know exist.

Demo Photo​

I probably used this photo already, but I don’t mind. It’s got some nice room up top for me to place some text in, so I think this will work out just fine.


Adding Effects​

To prepare for the tips I’d like to share, I’ll need to add a few more layers and then add some effects to each one. I think I’ll type out “The Open Road” (each word on its own layer) and then add some strokes and drop shadows to each text layer. Actually, let me just start off by adding those effects to the word “The” because that will give me a chance to show you something in just a moment.

After adding the layers and the effects, this is what the Layers panel will look like.


And this is the image so far.


Copying Layer Effects From One Layer to Another​

Okay, here goes. I’d like to now copy the effects I applied to the word “The” to the remaining words. How can I do that? Well, if I simply hold down the Alt key (Option on Mac) on my keyboard and drag those effects down to any layer I’d like to apply them to and then drop, I’ll basically be copy/pasting. I’ll do that right now.


I placed a red arrow in the above screenshot. That’s to show you that I didn’t click and drag the entire layer down to the other layers, I actually clicked and dragged the effects down to the other layers. That arrow is pointing to where I clicked.

Replacing One Layer’s Effects with Another Layer’s Effects​

This tip is very similar to the last one. Now that I have all three type layers with the same exact effects, what if I wanted to adjust one because I just don’t think it looks right? I’ll go into to the Layer Style palette and make the Drop Shadow a bit larger for the word “Open” and I think I’ll make the Stroke a hair thicker as well. It will look like this when I’m finished. You can compare the word “Open” with the other words and see the difference in effects applied to all those words.


See the difference? Now I’d like to apply those same changes to the word “Road,” but I don’t want to have to open the Layer Style palette again and do all that work. I wonder if there’s a way to copy those changes over from one layer to another, where the other layer already has similar effects. Basically, I’d like to replace some existing layer effects with some others.

To replace layer effects with existing ones, all I have to use is the same exact command I just used above. If I hold down the Alt key on my keyboard and drag the effects from one layer to another, that target layer’s effects will be updated with the source’s effects.

Collapsing Layer Effects in the Layers Panel​

If I was interested in hiding the layer effects in the Layers panel, I could click on the small upward facing arrow that’s located at the right side of each layer that has effects applied to it. Take a look at what I’m referring to.


When I say “hide,” I don’t mean make the layer styles hidden in the actual image. I mean to just hide the effects in the Layers panel itself. The words.

Okay, clicking on that arrow is how you collapse one set of effects at a time. If I wanted to collapse all of the layer effect areas at once, I can hold down the Alt key again and click on any one of those arrows in any layer I wish. Doing so would collapse all of the effect areas simultaneously, effectively hiding them from view. Imagine how helpful something like this can be if you had hundreds of layers.

Hiding an Actually Effect From View​

I know you already know this, but I’ll just repeat it here anyway. To hide an actual effect from view in the image itself, to make it as if it were never applied, simply click on the small eye icon that sits to the left of that effect in the Layers panel. Here, I’ll circle on of those eyes in this next screenshot.


I hope I clearly explained how to use some layer effect keyboard shortcuts in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!