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Layer effects and styles

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Use Photoshop to apply effects and styles to your layer content and make non-destructive edits.

Topics in this article:

Layer effects and styles

Apply different effects, such as shadows, glows, and bevels, in Photoshop to change the appearance of a layer's contents in a non-destructive manner.

Layer effects are linked to the layer contents. When you move or edit the contents of the layer, the same effects are applied to the modified contents. Say, if you apply a drop shadow to a text layer and then add new text, the shadow is added automatically to the new text.

A layer style is one or more effects applied to a layer or layer group. You can apply any preset styles in Photoshop or create your custom style using the Layer Style dialog box.

Use the Layer Style dialog box to create a custom style in Photoshop
Use the Layer Style dialog box to create a custom style in Photoshop

The layer effects icon appears in the Layers panel to the right of the layer's name. You can expand the style in the Layers panel to view or edit the effects that compose the style.

You can apply multiple effects in a single-layer style. Also, more than one instance of some effects can comprise a layer style.

Layers panel showing layer with multiple effects applied in Photoshop
A. Layer effects icon B. Click to expand and show layer effects C. Layer effects

When you save a custom style, it becomes a preset style. Preset styles appear in the Styles panel and can be applied to a layer or group with a single click.

How to use the Presets panel

Learn all about applying Photoshop's new and improved Presets panels. Julieanne Kost explores everything from swatches to patterns, from gradients to styles and shapes.

Julieanne Kost

Apply preset styles

Styles panel in Photoshop
Styles panel in Photoshop

Go to Window > Styles to apply preset styles from the Styles panel.

The layer styles that come with Photoshop are grouped into libraries by function. So one library would contain styles to create web buttons, while another would contain styles for adding effects to text.

Load the appropriate library to access these styles.

For information on loading and saving styles, see Create and manage preset styles.

Note:

You cannot apply layer styles to a background, locked layer, or group.

Apply a preset style to a layer

Normally, applying a preset style replaces the current layer style. However, you can add the attributes of a second style to those of the current style.

Do any of the following: 

  • Select a style from the Styles panel to apply it to the currently selected layers.

  • Drag a style from the Styles panel onto a layer in the Layers panel.

  • Drag a style from the Styles panel to the document window.

    Note: Hold down the Shift key as you select or drag to add (rather than replace) the style to existing effects on the destination layer.

  • Choose Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options to navigate to the Layer Style dialog box and select Styles to select your preferred style and hit OK.

  • When using the Shape tool or Pen tool in shape layers mode, select a style from the pop‑up panel in the options bar before drawing the shape.

Note:

Some effects have a + icon, indicating that they can be applied more than once in a layer style.

Apply a style from another layer

Navigate to the Layers panel and do either of the following: 

  • Select Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (macOS)
  • Click-drag the style from a layer's effect list to move it to another layer

Change how preset styles are displayed

  1. Click the drop-down in the Styles panel, Layer Style dialog box, or Layer Style pop‑up panel in the options bar.

  2. Choose a display option from the panel menu:
    • Text Only to view the layer styles as a list

    • Small Thumbnail or Large Thumbnail to view the layer styles as thumbnails

    • Small List or Large List to view the layer styles as a list, with a thumbnail of the selected layer style

Layer Style dialog box

You can edit styles applied to a layer or create new styles using the Layer Style dialog box.

Layer Style dialog box. Select a checkbox to apply the current settings without displaying the effect's options. Select an effect name to display its options.
Layer Style dialog box. Select a checkbox to apply the current settings without displaying the effect's options. Select an effect name to display its options.

You can create custom styles using one or more of the following effects:

Drop Shadow Adds a shadow that falls behind the contents on the layer
Inner Shadow Adds a shadow that falls just inside the edges of the layer's content, giving the layer a recessed appearance
Outer Glow and Inner Glow
Add glows that emanate from the outside or inside edges of the layer's content
Bevel and Emboss
Add various combinations of highlights and shadows to a layer
Satin     Applies interior shading that creates a satiny finish
Color, Gradient, and Pattern Overlay
Fills the layer's content with a color, gradient, or pattern
Stroke
Outlines the object on the current layer using color, a gradient, or a pattern. It is particularly useful on hard-edged shapes such as type

Apply or edit a custom layer style

You can apply a layer style to a background layer by converting it into a regular layer.

Use the Layer Style dialog box to edit multiple effects. Select your desired effect from the left panel of the dialog box to choose from the displayed options.

Follow these steps to apply or edit a custom layer style. 

  1. Select a single layer from the Layers panel.

  2. Do one of the following:
    • Double-click the layer outside the layer name or thumbnail.

    • Click the Add A Layer Style icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose an effect from the list.

    • Choose an effect from the Layer > Layer Style submenu.

    • To edit an existing style, double-click an effect given following the layer name in the Layers panel. Select the downward arrow next to the Add A Layer Style icon to display the effects contained in the style.

  3. Set effect options in the Layer Style dialog box. See Layer style options.

  4. Add other effects to the style, if desired. In the Layer Style dialog box, select the checkbox to the left of the effect name to add the effect.

Change style defaults to custom values

  1. In the Layer Style dialog box, customize settings as desired.

  2. Select Make Default.

    When you next open the dialog box, your custom defaults are automatically applied. If you adjust settings and want to return to your custom defaults, select Reset To Default.

Layer style options

Altitude For the Bevel and Emboss effect, set the height of the light source (0 is ground level and 90 is directly above the layer)
Angle Determines the lighting angle at which the effect is applied to the layer. You can drag in the document window to adjust the angle of a Pattern Overlay, Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, or Satin effect
Anti-alias Blends the edge pixels of a contour or gloss contour. This option is most useful on small shadows with complicated contours
Blend Mode Determines how the layer style blends with the underlying layers, which may or may not include the active layer. For example, an inner shadow blends with the active layer because the effect is drawn on top of that layer, but a drop shadow blends only with the layers beneath the active layer. In most cases, the default mode for each effect produces the best results. See Blending modes
Choke Shrinks the boundaries of the matte of an Inner Shadow or Inner Glow prior to blurring
Color Specifies the color of a shadow, glow, or highlight. You can click the color box and choose a color
Contour With solid‑color glows, Contour allows you to create rings of transparency. With gradient-filled glows, Contour allows you to create variations in the repetition of the gradient color and opacity. In beveling and embossing, Contour allows you to sculpt the ridges, valleys, and bumps that are shaded in the embossing process. With shadows, Contour allows you to specify the fade. For more information, see Modify layer effects with contours
Distance Specifies the offset distance for a shadow or satin effect. You can drag in the document window to adjust the offset distance
Depth Specifies the depth of a bevel. It also specifies the depth of a pattern
Use Global Light This setting allows you to set one master lighting angle that is then available in all the layer effects that use shading: Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, and Bevel and Emboss. In any of these effects, if Use Global Light is selected and you set a lighting angle, that angle becomes the global lighting angle. Any other effect that has Use Global Light selected automatically inherits the same angle setting. If Use Global Light is deselected, the lighting angle you set is local and applies only to that effect. You can also set the global lighting angle by choosing Layer Style > Global Light
Gloss Contour Creates a glossy, metallic appearance. Gloss Contour is applied after shading a bevel or emboss
Gradient Specifies the gradient of a layer effect. Select the gradient to display the Gradient Editor or the inverted arrow and choose a gradient from the pop‑up panel. You can edit a gradient or create a new gradient using the Gradient Editor. You can edit the color or opacity in the Gradient Overlay panel the same way you edit them in the Gradient Editor. For some effects, you can specify additional gradient options. Reverse flips the orientation of the gradient, Align With Layer uses the bounding box of the layer to calculate the gradient fill, and Scale scales the application of the gradient. You can also move the center of the gradient by clicking and dragging in the image window. Style specifies the shape of the gradient
Highlight or Shadow Mode
Specifies the blending mode of a bevel or emboss highlight or shadow
Jitter Varies the application of a gradient's color and opacity
Layer Knocks Out Drop Shadow
Controls the drop shadow's visibility in a semitransparent layer
Noise Specifies the number of random elements in the opacity of a glow or shadow. Enter a value or drag the slider
Opacity Sets the opacity of the layer effect. Enter a value or drag the slider
Pattern Specifies the pattern of a layer effect. Select the pop‑up panel and choose a pattern. Set the Angle selector at a certain degree or manually type in an angle value to rotate your pattern at the desired angle. Hit the New Preset button to create a new preset pattern based on the current settings. Hit Snap To Origin to make the origin of the pattern the same as the origin of the document (when Link With Layer is selected), or to place the origin at the upper-left corner of the layer (if Link With Layer is deselected). Select Link With Layer if you want the pattern to move along with the layer as the layer moves. Drag the Scale slider or enter a value to specify the size of the pattern. Drag a pattern to position it in the layer; reset the position by using the Snap To Origin button. The Pattern option is not available if no patterns are loaded
Position Specifies the position of a stroke effect as Outside, Inside, or Center
Range Controls which portion or range of the glow is targeted for the contour
Size Specifies the radius and size of blur or the size of the shadow
Soften Blurs the results of shading to reduce unwanted artifacts
Source Specifies the source for an inner glow. Choose Center to apply a glow that emanates from the center of the layer's content, or Edge to apply a glow that emanates from the inside edges of the layer's content
Spread Expands the boundaries of the matte prior to blurring
Style

Specifies the style of a bevel:

Inner Bevel creates a bevel on the inside edges of the layer contents

Outer Bevel creates a bevel on the outside edges of the layer contents

Emboss simulates the effect of embossing the layer contents against the underlying layers

Pillow Emboss simulates the effect of stamping the edges of the layer contents into the underlying layers

Stroke Emboss confines embossing to the boundaries of a stroke effect applied to the layer. (The Stroke Emboss effect is not visible if no stroke is applied to the layer.)

Technique Smooth, Chisel Hard, and Chisel Soft are available for bevel and emboss effects; Softer and Precise apply to Inner Glow and Outer Glow effects
Smooth

Blurs the edges of a matte slightly and is useful for all types of mattes, whether their edges are soft or hard. It does not preserve detailed features at larger sizes. 

Chisel Hard uses a distance measurement technique and is primarily useful on hard-edged mattes from anti-aliased shapes such as type. It preserves detailed features better than the Smooth technique

Chisel Soft uses a modified distance measurement technique and, although not as accurate as Chisel Hard, is more useful on a larger range of mattes. It preserves features better than the Smooth technique

Softer applies a blur and is useful on all types of mattes, whether their edges are soft or hard. At larger sizes, Softer does not preserve detailed features

Precise uses a distance measurement technique to create a glow and is primarily useful on hard-edged mattes from anti-aliased shapes such as type. It preserves features better than the Softer technique

Texture

Applies a texture.

Use Scale to scale the size of the texture.

Select Link With Layer if you want the texture to move along with the layer as the layer moves. Invert inverts the texture. Depth varies the degree and direction (up/down) to which the texturing is applied.

Snap To Origin makes the origin of the pattern the same as the origin of the document (if Link With Layer is deselected) or places the origin in the upper-left corner of the layer (if Link With Layer is selected). Drag the texture to position it in the layer.

Note:

You can set an angle to rotate the pattern overlay and easily change its orientation.

Modify layer effects with contours

While creating custom layer styles, use contours to control the shape of Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, Inner Glow, Outer Glow, Bevel, and Emboss. Use a Linear contour on a Drop Shadow to make the opacity drop off in a linear transition and a Custom contour to create a unique shadow transition.

Select, reset, delete, or change the preview of contours in the Contour pop‑up panel and Preset Manager.

Detail of Layer Style dialog box for Drop Shadow effect
A. Click to display the Contour Editor dialog box. B. Click to display the pop-up panel.

Create a custom contour

  1. Select from the given options -- Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, Inner Glow, Outer Glow, Bevel and Emboss, Contour, or Satin effect -- in the Layer Style dialog box.

  2. Hit the contour thumbnail in the Layer Style dialog box and select the contour to add points or drag to adjust the contour. You can also enter values for input and output. 

  3. Select a point and hit Corner to create a sharp corner instead of a smooth curve.

  4. Hit Save and name the contour to save it to a file.

  5. Select New to store a contour as a preset.

  6. Select OK to add the new contour to the pop‑up panel.

Load a contour

To load a contour, select from the Layer Style dialog box and select Load from the Contour Editor dialog box. Navigate to the folder containing your preferred contour library and hit Open.

Delete a contour

To delete a contour, hit the inverted arrow next to the currently selected contour to view the pop-up panel. Press Alt (Win) or Option (macOS) and select the contour you need to delete. 

Set a global lighting angle for all layers

Use global light to give the appearance of a common light source shining on your image.

Do one of the following: 

  • Navigate to Layer > Layer Style > Global Light. In the Global Light dialog box, enter a value or drag the angle radius to set the angle and altitude and select OK.

    Or,

  • In the Layer Style dialog box for Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, or Bevel, select Use Global Light. For Angle, enter a value or drag the radius and select OK.

Global lighting applies to each layer effect that uses the global lighting angle.

Display or hide layer styles

When you apply style effects to a layer, the fx icon appears to the right of the layer's name in the Layers panel.

To hide or show all layer styles in an image, select Layer > Layer Style > Hide All Effects or Show All Effects.

Expand or collapse layer styles in the Layers panel

Do one of the following: 

  • Select the drop-down next to the Add A Layer Style icon to expand the list of layer effects applied to that layer.

    Or,

  • Select the triangle to collapse the layer effects.

    Or,

  • To expand or collapse all of the layer styles applied within a group, hold down Alt (Win) or Option (macOS) and select the triangle or inverted triangle for the group. The layer styles applied to all layers within the group will expand or collapse correspondingly.

Copy layer styles

Copy and paste styles to apply the same effects to multiple layers.

Between layers

  1. To select the preferred layer from the Layers panel whose style you want to copy, navigate to Layer > Layer Style > Copy Layer Style

  2. Select the destination layer from the panel and navigate to Layer > Layer Style > Paste Layer Style.

    The pasted layer style replaces the existing layer style on the destination layer or layers.

Between layers by dragging

Do one of the following:

  • In the Layers panel, Alt-drag (Win) or Option-drag (macOS) a single layer effect from one layer to another to duplicate the layer effect or drag the Effects bar from one layer to another to duplicate the layer style.
  • Drag one or more layer effects from the Layers panel to the image to apply the resulting layer style to the highest layer in the Layers panel that contains pixels at the drop point.

Scale a layer effect

A layer style may have been fine-tuned for a target resolution and features of a given size.

Use Scale Effects to scale the effects in the layer style without scaling the object to which the layer style is applied.

  1. Select the preferred layer in the Layers panel.

  2. Navigate to Layer > Layer Style > Scale Effects.

  3. Enter a percentage or drag the slider.
  4. Select Preview to preview the changes in the image and hit OK.

Remove layer effects

Remove an individual effect from a style applied to a layer or the entire style from the layer.

Follow these steps to remove an effect from a style:

  1. In the Layers panel, expand the layer style to view its effects.

  2. Drag the effect to the delete () icon.

To remove a style from a layer, select the layer containing the style you want to remove from the Layers panel. And then do one of the following: 

  • Drag the Effects bar to the delete () icon. 

Or,

  • Navigate to Layer > Layer Style > Clear Layer Style, select the layer, and select the Clear Style button in the Styles panel.

Convert a layer style to image layers

Convert layer styles to regular image layers for customizing or improving the appearance of layer styles. 

After doing so, you can enhance the result by painting or applying commands and filters. But you won't be able to edit the layer style on the original layer, and the layer style no longer updates as you change the original image layer.

Note:

The layers produced by this process may not result in artwork that exactly matches the version using layer styles. You may see an alert when you create the new layers.

  1. In the Layers panel, select the layer containing the layer style that you want to convert.

  2. Navigate to Layer > Layer Style > Create Layers. You can now modify and restack the new layers in the same way as regular layers, and convert some effects, such as Inner Glow to layers within a clipping mask.

Create and manage preset styles

Create a custom style and save it as a preset, which you can access from the Styles panel.

Save preset styles in a library and load or remove them from the Styles panel as you need them.

Create a new preset style

  1. From the Layers panel, select the layer style you want to save as a preset.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • Select an empty area of the Styles panel.

    Or,

    • Select the Create New Style button in the Styles panel.

    Or,

    • Choose New Style from the Styles panel menu.

    Or,

    • Navigate to Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options and select New Style in the Layer Style dialog box.

  3. Set a name for the preset style, choose style options, and hit OK.

Rename a preset style

Do any one of the following:

  • Double-click a style in the Styles panel. If the Styles panel is set to display styles as thumbnails, enter a new name in the dialog box and select OK. Otherwise, enter a new name directly in the Styles panel and press Enter (Win) or Return (macOS).

Or,

  • Select a style in the Styles area of the Layer Style dialog box. Then choose Rename Style from the pop‑up menu, enter a new name, and select OK.

Or,

  • When using the Shape or Pen tool, select a style from the Style pop‑up panel in the options bar. Then choose Rename Style from the pop‑up panel menu.

Delete a preset style

Do one of the following:

  • Drag a style to the delete icon () in the Styles panel.

Or,

  • Press Alt (Win) or Option (macOS) and select the layer style in the Styles panel.

Or,

  • Select a style in the Styles area of the Layer Style dialog box. and then choose Delete Style from the pop-up menu. For more information, see Apply preset styles

Or,

  • When using the Shape or Pen tool, select a style from the Layer Style pop‑up panel in the options bar. Then choose Delete Style from the pop‑up panel menu.

Save a set of preset styles as a library

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Save Styles from the Styles panel menu.

    Or,

    • Select Styles in the Layer Style dialog box. Then choose Save Styles from the pop‑up menu.

    Or,

    • When using the Shape or Pen tool, select the layer style thumbnail in the options bar and then choose Save Styles from the pop‑up panel menu.
  2. Choose a location for the style library, enter a file name, and select Save.

    Although you can save the library anywhere, if you place the library file in the Presets/Styles folder in the default presets location, the library name will appear in the Styles panel menu when you restart the application.

    Note:

    Use the Preset Manager to rename, delete, and save libraries of preset styles.

Load a library of preset styles

  1. Click the triangle in the Styles panel, Layer Style dialog box, or Layer Style pop‑up panel in the options bar.

  2. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Load Styles to add a library to the current list. Then choose the preferred library file and select Load.

    Or, 

    • Choose Replace Styles to replace the current list with a different library. Then choose the preferred library file and select Load.

    Or, 

    • Choose a library file and select OK to replace the current list or Append to append the current list.
  3. To return to the default library of preset styles, choose Reset Styles. You can either replace the current list or append the default library to the current list.

    Note:

    You can also use the Preset Manager to load and reset style libraries. See Work with the Preset Manager.

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