Beginner’s Guide: What do Photoshop’s 10 layer styles do?

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In this tutorial, I’ll be walking you through each of the different layer styles available within Photoshop CS6, and show you how to tweak the values of these styles to create great effects.

I’ll start with a simple shape and apply new layer styles in order to show you what they’re capable of.

Bevel and Emboss

Applying the bevel and emboss style adds realism to your shape. You can make a simple circle seem three dimensional and stand out from the rest of your project. With this style you can fine-tune the details of your bevel.

01 Bevel and Emboss Style

01 Bevel and Emboss


The stroke adds a line around the shape. You can use this to make the shape stand out and to give the shape a clear boundary. With this layer style, you can make the stroke subtle or more obvious and changes it color and positioning.

02 Stroke Style

02 Stroke

Inner Shadow

An inner shadow makes your shape look as though it’s actually pressed into the canvas below the rest of the content. This is especially useful if you want to add more depth and realism to your work.

03 Inner Shadow Style

03 Inner Shadow

Inner Glow

Similar to the inner shadow, the inner glow gives the impression the shape is pressed into the canvas and adds more depth and realism to your work but it can also be used give a ‘fading’ effect to the shape.

04 Inner Glow Style

04 Inner Glow


Sating can be used to add realistic detail to your shapes and is one of the more obscure layer styles found in Photoshop. Satin can transform the text completely so it’s great if you’re looking for a somewhat quirky effect.

05 Satin Style

05 Satin

Color Overlay

Perhaps the most basic layer style, a color overlay does exactly what it says on the tin: applies a new color to your shape. You can also change the color’s opacity.

06 Color Overlay Style

06 Color Overlay

Gradient Overlay

This is a useful layer style and one I use a lot. Use this to layer a gradient onto your shape to give it depth, and remember to play with the opacity to strike the right balance.

07 Gradient Overlay Style

07 Gradient Overlay

Pattern Overlay

The pattern overlay style is a great way to apply textures to shapes. The pattern overlay really can be abused so using it only when necessary is vital if you’re going to achieve something that looks good. You can change the pattern’s scale, blend mode and opacity.

08 Pattern Overlay Style

08 Pattern Overlay

Outer Glow

This adds a glow to the outer edge of your shape. You can change the appearance of the glow and even use a gradient effect as part of it. You can also modify the color, fill and opacity.

09 Outer Glow Style

09 Outer Glow

Drop Shadow

Another useful style, this adds a shadow to your shape and gives the impression that the shape is raised on the canvas. You can modify the size of the shadow, the distance of the shadow from the shape, the color and the opacity.

10 Drop Shadow Style

10 Drop Shadow

The best way to get to know these layer styles is to experiment with them. Open up a new document and play with some shapes and effects!

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