A guide on Photoshop layer styles

Barin Cristian Doru

Photoshop layer styles provide you with incredible versatility to achieve the look you’re going for and can be a real time saver. However, they can significantly slow down Photoshop’s performance if used improperly. Learn how to get the best out of them by following this simple guide.

You have 2 main options for using layer styles: create your own or use predetermined ones. Let’s start with the first option.

Create your own layer styles

For the first option, you simply need to have a layer selected that is not locked. Then click on the small FX symbol at the bottom of your layers panel and choose the effects you’re looking for.


You can of course add several layers styles by checking the box next to each effect or simply repeating the process.


Keep in mind, you can’t use them all at once without changing the blending mode. For example, you can’t have both Color Overlay and Gradient enabled because the first one will completely “cover” the second. Thus you will only see Color Overlay. If you want to combine them, then use a different blend mode for Color Overlay.

If you create a very nice style you might want to save it. You can do this by going to the Styles panel, where you’ll have a new cursor show up – a paint bucket.


If you click, a new dialog box will appear asking you for the name of the new style and if you want to include the blending options as well. A great feature for your workflow!


Preset styles

To use the preset layer options, you can go to Window > Styles and a new panel will appear on your interface. I recommend you dock it next to your paths panel in order to gain a better perspective on them. Do this by simply holding and dragging on the tab title.


How to get more preset styles

To load more styles, simply search the web, download them, and double click on .asl files. This will make Photoshop immediately load your new styles in your panel.


As an alternative, you can click on the small menu icon in the top right of the panel to open up its specific menu. Here you can load new styles by selecting the .asl files you just downloaded. You can save your set, you can replace them with another set or you can simply reset to the default ones.


Replace or append?

When using Photoshop’s preset styles, you’ll most likely have the below message show up. Append simply means you’ll be adding new styles to your current gallery. If you click OK this will clear all previous layer styles leaving you only with that new set.


Cleaning up your layer styles

To delete a style is quite easy: you simply hold down the Alt key and your cursor will transform into a pair of scissors. Then click on the ones you want removed and you’re done. Keep in mind that loading too many styles will cause Photoshop to slow down, so always keep your styles panel curated.


Speed up your workflow

After you’ve added layer styles to your objects, you can copy-paste them onto other layers. Keep in mind you can copy a layer style only if you have one layer selected. If you have multiple ones selected, you won’t have that option available.


Layer styles work on groups too. The exact same principles apply as with individual layer styles and these groups can save you quite a bit of time. A great tip to further increase your speed in copy-pasting your layer styles is to hold down the Alt key while dragging your layer styles from one group to another. This works only if the receiving layer or group doesn’t have any styles applied.


Compressing Your Layers Panel List

Sometimes you may use lots of effects on several layers and this can cause quite a mess in your layers panel. Compress your list by selecting all your layers with effects applied to them and clicking on the arrow in the right side of them. This works both ways: you can expand all effects or you can hide them, all with one click!



And that’s all there is to layer styles in Photoshop. Make sure you use them to speed up your workflow but try not to rely on them too much, as they can make you rather lazy.

Do you have any tips regarding layer styles?

The author

Barin Cristian Doru
Barin Cristian Doru

Barin Cristian Doru aka 'thislooksgreat' is an experienced web designer and proud member of the 99designs community: http://99designs.com/people/thislooksgreat Besides creating awesome website designs, he is also an entrepreneur, an Android App Developer and a content creator. His work ranges from freebie PSD files to small tips & tricks in Photoshop, all the way to a premium 16 hour long course on how to succeed on 99designs.

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