photoshop creative

5 of the best layer styles

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
September 5, 2014

Powerful tools that can transform flat layers in seconds

Layer styles are powerful tools that can transform flat layers in seconds. At first glance they seem just like a boring list, but their immensity soon becomes clearer when you apply them to layers.

They come in many shapes and sizes, from the basic Drop Shadow to the more complex Bevel & Emboss; here’s our pick of the five of the best.

Cast Shadows

The Drop Shadow layer style is number one for making an object or typeface look as though it’s in the third dimension. Shadows play a key role in dictating the direction of the lighting, and with one of these you can define the shape, size and direction of the shadow being cast.

Designer outlines

A Stroke layer style applies a coloured edge to a layer. This can be any colour and any style. Stroke styles can be used to make text look cartoony or can give a selected part of your image a border.

The 3D Effect

Subtlety is key when it comes to using Inner Shadow layer styles. These help to transform layers and make them appear stamped in or cut out of the canvas. Tick the Use Global Light box to make sure the shadow matches with other layer styles that use shadows.

Tangible layers

Pattern Overlays offer a fast way to add texture to part of an image or layer. Using the Pattern presets inside the menu, a texture or pattern can be applied to a layer to make it fit in with part of the composition. You can even step away from the preset ones and upload your own.


The Bevel & Emboss layer style is split into two – Contour and Texture. This particular layer style is designed for rounding off the corners of objects or letters, and will help make them appear more chiselled. This is another layer style that is most effective when used in small doses.