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Layer Styles in Photoshop

Effects can be added to individual layers in Photoshop that automatically change as a layer is modified. The combination of effects on any given layer is called its Layer Style. We’ll teach you how to use and make your own layer styles in this tutorial.

What are Layer Styles?

Note: If you’re trying to find out how to install layer styles, please see our tutorial on Installing Layer Styles in Photoshop.

Layer styles are special effects that can be quickly and easily applied to individual layers in Photoshop to drastically change the appearance of something in very little time. They can be preset, customized, or even saved and used for later.

One of the useful properties of Layer Styles are there relationship to the layer contents. Since the style is actually a separate entity that is just linked to the layer, it will continually update itself as a layers contents are edited or moved. Furthermore, the effects can easily be adjusted after applying them, making them non-destructive in nature.

Demonstration of layers with and without Layer Styles applied

Some shapes and text with and without layer styles applied.

Using Layer Style Presets

Layer Styles Palette

Photoshop comes packed with a good number of Layer Style Presets, all which are accessible through the Styles Palette (Window > Styles). To apply a Layer Style, select the Layer you’d like to work with in your document from the Layers Palette, and then select the Layer Style which you would like to apply.

Example of a Preset being applied to a layer

A Text Layer Before and After a Layer Style Preset is applied to it.

Applied Layer Effects

After applying a Layer Style, the effects in the layer can be seen, adjusted, disabled or reenabled from the Layers Palette. Layers with effects applied to them will have a small round icon with an ‘f‘ in it. To expand or collapse the effects applied to a layer, click the arrow to the right of this icon.

When a layers effects have been expanded, you can quickly disable specific effects within the layer style by clicking the eye icon next to the effect. Just like a layer, these effects can become visible again by clicking the blank area (where the eye would reside) when an effect is disabled.

Making Quick Changes

You can make quick changes to a layers style by double clicking the ‘f‘ icon to pull up the Layer Style Options. From here, you can completely customize your layers style.

Creating your own Effects and Styles

To add your own layer effects, and create your own styles, go to Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options, or Right Click your Layer, and select Blending Options. This will bring up the Layer Style Options.

Layer Style Options

A. Style PresetsList of the Style Presets.

B. EffectsThe various effects that can be used in a layer style. It’s important to note that by clicking on the name of any of the effects will enable that effect, and display the options for the individual effect.

C. Options / SettingsWhen the name for an effect is checked, it’s options will be shown here. When Blending Options is selected, settings such as Opacity, Fill, and other advanced options will be displayed.

D. Layer Style PreviewA preview of the Layer Style.

Effects (B) can be enabled by checking them, and likewise, disabled by unchecking them. To edit an effect, you need to click the name (rather than checkbox). The effects settings will be displayed in the Options area (C), where they can be easily adjusted. To apply a set of effects and options, simply press OK.

Layer Effects

Styles can be built with the following effects:

  • Drop Shadow – Creates a shadow behind the layers contents.
  • Inner Shadow – Creates a shadow on top of the layers contents.
  • Outer Glow - Creates a glow behind the layers contents. Cannot be distanced like the drop shadow.
  • Inner Glow – Creates a glow on top of the layers contents. Again, cannot be distanced like the inner shadow.
  • Bevel and Emboss - Used to create unique highlight and shadow effects on a layers contents.
  • Satin - Gives the layer contents a satin-like, glossy appearance.
  • Color Overlay - Fills the layer contents with a solid color.
  • Gradient Overlay - Fills the layer contents with a gradient.
  • Pattern Overlay - Fills the layer contents with a pattern.
  • Stroke - Creates an outline on layer contents using a solid color, gradient, or pattern.

Give it a Try!

Practice Layer StyleLet’s try it out to make sure we’ve got a clear understanding of all this. We’re going to test our abilities by creating a basic layer style for some text. Go ahead and create a new document in Photoshop, and use the Type Tool to add some large, black text.

Right Click the text layer, and Select Blending Options.

First we’re going to add a Drop Shadow. Check the Drow Shadow Effect, and click on it to bring up it’s options. Set things up as shown in the diagram below:

Add a Drop Shadow

As you’re making adjustments, you should be able to see changes being made in your actual document. Keeping an eye on your document while adding effects will allow you to better determine how to adjust settings.

You should be familiar with most of these sliders and types of settings from our Palettes Tutorial you may have read. The Angle setting may be a new one to you, but it’s very simple to work. You can either enter in a numeric value, or adjust the angle with your mouse by clicking on the wheel. Doing so will change the angle of your shadow.

Now let’s add a Bevel and Emboss. We’re going to create a bevel that is subtle, so that it doesn’t draw too much attention, but at the same time pops our text a bit. Again, mimic the settings shown in the diagram shown below.

Add a Bevel to your Text

Nothing really new here. You may want to experiment as I suggested earlier to have a better understanding of the different settings here, but most of them are pretty self-explanatory.

Now let’s add a Gradient Overlay.

Add a Gradient

By default, the Gradient Overlay will probably use a Foreground to Background gradient, which is not exactly what we are looking for (unless we’ve setup the Foreground and Background Colors in Photoshop specifically for this step). That’s OK though, because we can easily adjust the gradient from here.

Photoshop\'s Gradient Editor

Click on the gradient shown in the Gradient Picker (Black fading to White in the above diagram). This will bring up the Gradient Editor. From the Gradient Editor, you may choose a gradient preset, or create a new custom gradient of your own. Towards the bottom of the editor is the current gradient, with Opacity Stops (Determine how opaque the gradient is at a specific point) and Color Stops (Determine what colors are used in the Gradient). We can add, delete, and modify stops by clicking anywhere above or below the gradient, or by clicking on the stops themselves.

We only want to modify the current color stops. Double Click the first color stop, and apply the color #50a2e7, and then apply the color #75cefc to the right most stop. Click OK to Apply the Gradient.

Click OK to apply the layer style you’ve created.

Final Layer Style

Congratulations! You’re now skilled in the art of layer effects and styles!


  1. Add point Subtract point
    Phil @ SEO Philippines (1 Point) February 25, 2011 at 2:23 am

    Cool! Love this tutorial. Easy to follow instructions.

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  2. Add point Subtract point
    Natasha Sheryl (9 Points) January 23, 2011 at 1:01 am

    You are a great teacher. method of explaining the layer effect is really help full for beginners. thanks for it

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  3. Add point Subtract point

    very nice tutorial for beginers

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  4. Add point Subtract point
    Designer (-5 Points) December 15, 2010 at 5:27 am

    Very gud tutorial.. It was gr8 help as I am new to Photshop

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  5. Add point Subtract point
    Evik James (-1 Points) November 25, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Thanks for the awesome help!

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  6. Add point Subtract point
    LaundryBasketcollapsible (0 Points) November 22, 2010 at 3:25 am

    it still useful for me

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  7. Add point Subtract point
    patagonia wetsuits (2 Points) November 12, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    love the tutorials, they are very easy to follow!

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  8. Add point Subtract point

    Easy and simple to follow instruction. Fantastic Website!!

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  9. Add point Subtract point
    rolla (-4 Points) October 24, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    thank u
    for all tutorial in this web

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  10. Add point Subtract point
    vinodh (-3 Points) August 14, 2010 at 8:41 am

    How to find the effects which were applied for a particular shape or layer from a psd file

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  11. Add point Subtract point
    Pedro (0 Points) August 13, 2010 at 5:30 am

    Thanks a lot! I always wanted to do this kind of stuff and everything I found before was too complicated… Your way of explaining is very easy to follow. Thumbs up! :)

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  12. Add point Subtract point
    Dave (-3 Points) July 30, 2010 at 12:28 am

    Just a quick thank you for your great tutorial!

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  13. Add point Subtract point
    Zaid Mansoori (-3 Points) July 19, 2010 at 12:44 am

    I have a much simple and easier understanding of blending options now. Thanks

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  14. Add point Subtract point
    genesis (-8 Points) July 1, 2010 at 1:18 am

    thank you very much for helping us .. its a good info for my report .. arigatou ne ^^

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  15. Add point Subtract point
    Diana (1 Point) June 30, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Thank you for this Tutorial. I was wondering if it is possible to make a style that is an old newspaper?

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  16. Add point Subtract point
    Enver (-3 Points) June 10, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Very informative… thank you..

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  17. Add point Subtract point
    Stephanie (-3 Points) May 21, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    I love this! I have been digital scrapbooking but I could never find a simple explanation of styles so I have been changing colors by other means. My question tho is this used mostly for text or can you use it else where? (lol newbie when it comes to all the gadgets in Photoshop yet)

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  18. Add point Subtract point
    Web Design (-5 Points) April 26, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Wonderful article thanks for sharing.

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  19. Add point Subtract point
    pawan kumar (-2 Points) April 20, 2010 at 4:37 am

    Hi this is my favrouity site in photoshop

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  20. Add point Subtract point

    Your tutorials are awesome,waiting for the next one!

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  21. Add point Subtract point
    7oda (-3 Points) April 2, 2010 at 7:21 am

    really really , good tutorial

    we wait the next tut

    i like this site

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  22. Add point Subtract point

    really good tutorial. Thank you.

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  23. Add point Subtract point
    Qatar Lady (-3 Points) February 13, 2010 at 10:17 am

    David Leggett
    really really I benefited a lot from your amazing and perfect work. Always i refer to your work to learn from them and to teach my students .
    big thanx 4 you

    red rose with my Greetings


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  24. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks for your post , Great post.22

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  25. Add point Subtract point
    ดาวน์โหลดเพลงฟรี (1 Point) January 28, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Great article.Thank you.

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  26. Add point Subtract point

    I have started learning photoshop for a little time. Your tutorials are very helpful for me. I wonder that how many grades in total? I’m looking forward to them~

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  27. Add point Subtract point
    Quick Link Now (-1 Points) November 14, 2009 at 6:15 am

    the tutorial is too good …

    i have added it to book mark

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  28. Add point Subtract point

    First of all thanks for the informative and wonderful tutorials. When will get to graduate from grade 9? When is grade 10 coming???


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  29. Add point Subtract point
    REHMAT HADI (2 Points) November 7, 2009 at 10:28 am

    thanks for providing so great tutorial having so information for new intrested people but one thing that is very important that how to creat our own style for photoshop

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  30. Add point Subtract point

    thanks for tutorial.. very useful!!!

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  31. Add point Subtract point
    Bryan Grajales (2 Points) September 29, 2009 at 8:36 am

    I love the School of Photoshop but Oh man, I’m still waiting for more classes. ;)

    Thanks for everything.

    -Bryan G.

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  32. Add point Subtract point

    heyyyyy this was an awesome tutorial thanks dave

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  33. Add point Subtract point

    thanks this was a bundle of help! =)))))))

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  34. Add point Subtract point

    thanks this was a bundle of help! =)))))))

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  35. Add point Subtract point

    Very nice tutorial. But I have a question: What kind of font is it that you used in the word Tutorial? Please write back to me and give me an answer. Is is very important.
    Thank you, Judith

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  36. Add point Subtract point
    Bill Rob (1 Point) September 13, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Nice job on the tutorials. Extremely easy to understand and without useless fluff and jargon. Each one is a gem for any beginner I,m looking forward to more. Thanks much!

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  37. Add point Subtract point
    Striker (1 Point) August 14, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Man, i really like this site…i´m learning photoshop, and really like this.

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  38. Add point Subtract point
    Monica (1 Point) June 2, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Hello – I’m new to Photoshop and have to admit that I don’t entirely understand the difference between filters and layers styles. Could you help?
    Btw – thanks for such a great tutorial!

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  39. Add point Subtract point
    AztKfullHD89 (-2 Points) May 6, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Us n00bs really need more grades XD

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  40. Add point Subtract point
    huwaw69 (0 Points) May 3, 2009 at 4:03 am

    Great guide my friend, very informative

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  41. Add point Subtract point

    Nice tutorial!!

    Your first sentence: “Effects can be added to individual layers in Photoshop” – How do you do this??

    I’ve done it before but now i forgets! ):


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  42. Add point Subtract point
    Akiko (0 Points) March 25, 2009 at 2:29 am

    Thank you so much, these lessons are so priceless that I can’t wait for the next one XD
    This is the best site ever !

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  43. Add point Subtract point
    Bianca (0 Points) March 11, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    I just finished all the lessons in your School of Photoshop series (can’t wait for grades 10-12), and can’t thank you enough! I’ve just starting learning Photoshop on my own, and looked everywhere (seriously) on the web for some good beginner tutorials. I was so excited when I came across your site. You made all the tutorials so complete, comprehensive, & easy to follow. I felt like I was actually taking a class in school! I can’t wait to go on to some of your more advanced tutorials and see where my 9th grade education can take me :) Thank you again for such an amazing site!!!

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  44. Add point Subtract point
    Gerri (0 Points) March 10, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Thanks again David, I really enjoy your lessons.

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  45. Add point Subtract point
    rollson lasrado (0 Points) November 16, 2008 at 12:56 am

    i cant thank you enough for these priceless tutorials.. the best part about it is its simplicity.. make me wonder how i could miss such simple things.. i’ve been tryin to figure it out for a year now.. n thanx to u i’ve resolved all my doubts in less than a day.. wat seperates a great teacher from a good one is his ability to hit the nail on its head.. n u’ve hammered all of mine in place.. n the fact that u expect nothin in return, jus a few words perhaps, make u nothin less than a martyr in my eyes.. keep up the great work.. kudos n cheers..

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  46. Add point Subtract point
    Scott Edwards (-1 Points) September 16, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Fantastic work!

    I came here to help me fix a few photo’s to use in a book as a gift to my old man. Mostly pictures of his kit car which I wanted to blur the background of and remove imperfections etc.

    I am amazed at how easy you made this! It’s inspired me to do more than just fix a few photos, I have been cleaning up our company logo’s and newsletters, creating graphics for a blog and alot more.

    Its quite shocking that a few subtle changes can change a photo from average to great :)

    Many Thanks for your work.

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  47. Add point Subtract point
    Hermes Arawiran (0 Points) September 10, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    I am an experienced photoshop user and i should say that your tutorials is so far the most comprehensive and easy to follow guide in the net. In fact I am making this as a reference for my students…Thanks and keep up the good work!!!

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  48. Add point Subtract point

    No problem Felix! I love hearing things like that, cause it means we’re doing something right!

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  49. Add point Subtract point
    Felix Groenewald (0 Points) August 6, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    I have to say that it is the most descriptive tutorial for basic Photoshop users I have come across thus far. Thank you for the info.

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  50. Add point Subtract point
    Mark Heise (0 Points) June 24, 2008 at 9:56 am

    How can you curve the text?

    Thank You

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  51. Add point Subtract point
    Cale (0 Points) June 23, 2008 at 6:41 am

    Works a treat, thanks mate :)

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  52. Add point Subtract point
    FrEdHY (-1 Points) June 17, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Che, de 10 Gracias che.. Very Nice!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;-)

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  53. Add point Subtract point
    Mothership (0 Points) June 15, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Very helpful. I had used the gradient tool with text before, but definitely in a hit and miss fashion. It’s good to have some structure and understanding of how colour and gradient stops actually work.

    Thanks David.

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  54. Add point Subtract point
    RUGRLN (0 Points) June 8, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Nice stuff, though very simple, I guess I explored a bit too much myself and got the hag of it pretty well thanks to your preschool stuff! Keep up the work!

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  55. Add point Subtract point
    Photoshop Tutorials (0 Points) June 7, 2008 at 12:00 am

    Nice intro to the Layer Styles. Your tutorial was added to t2t :)

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