Unlimited Layer Styles & Typography Basics

Tutorial by Orion Williams



I'm going to start by just grabbing the Type tool and entering some text.


Keeping it simple with just the word 'type' so you get the idea of creating layer styles and seeing what they look like.


I'm going to make it larger by using the scrubby bar on the tooldock; clicking and dragging to the right to

increase the size of our font with the type area highlighted

Now I'm just going to choose a unique font from my font's collection.  Great fonts should be in any great designer's toolkit.

Here is what we have so far.  This isn't difficult, it's just knowing what to do and how to do it.

You'll often be 'stuck' in the Type mode so actually switch tools so that you can get more freedom of movement.

Now here's where things start to get more fun.  Go to your fx popup window and bring up blending options.

Now we can just go start having fun with creating layer styles and trying different things out.  It's important to note that you actually have to click on the 'long bar' or 'title bar' to enter the options field.  If you just click the checkmark it doesn't necessarily take you to the editing options.  Even after a lot of experience you'll still find it kind of awkward, that's ok.  Here I'm just adding a basic bevel.

Then a drop shadow.  Remember to click on the longbar to edit the actual parameters of the effect.

This is where the unlimited creativity comes in: the under-rated Pattern Overlay.

In the Pattern Overlay editing field you can bring up your patterns.  Most beginners and probably experienced Photoshop users completely overlook Patterns - heck, U used to.

We just see the default patterns and it is already limiting our creativity.  However the secret is in creating your own Patterns (or using the download ones) which then start infinitely expanding your creative possibilities.  You can see I've got our dozens of latest patterns loaded.

I can click on any of the patterns and it will apply to the active layer.

If you're not satisfied right away, remember that you have blend modes as well to change how light interracts with the light beneath it on the layer.  This can darken or lighten your effect.

You can also play with the Scale option to increase or decrease the pattern's size itself.

Contour is another good option under Bevel & Emboss that is often overlooked.

But 'Texture' is the other great overlooked secret of creating unlimited Layer Styles!  You can choose a pattern to apply a 'texture' to the style effect.  It will take the texture (ie. ridges) and apply it as a feature on your layer style.

Now here's the key which not everyone knows.  Once you find fx that you like, just click the 'New Style' button.

Then give your layer style a name.  Layer
Styles are represented as the little icons which represents their effect and will be added to your Styles palette.

Yes, you can create your OWN layer styles and I recommend that you do so.  Layer styles are the 'one hit wonders' of Photoshop and can instantly add an effect to shapes, layers, or type.  Creating your own will help you have more creativity and pride in your customized Photoshop.

So in creating new layer styles, just switch up the effects or parameters.  Here I'm keeping the same other effects but changing the Texture to something else.  As long as it's different and unique from what I had before I'll go ahead and save it as a new Layer Style.

You can also try color overlay.

Over gradient overlay.

Don't forget the blend modes if you find the effect or color is too strong.  You also have the opacity fader.

Let's take a look at Stroke.

Normally you would stroke with a simple color (often used to help something stand out on a busy or cluttered background.  But you also have the Gradient and Pattern Fill options for your Stroke.

You can change the style of the gradient just like with our regular gradient tool to change how it applies itself.

Anytime you have something new that you like through tweaking the options, go ahead and save a new Layer Style.  I like naming mine off the tip of my tongue what I think it would be called.  This inspires more creativity as well as gives each layer style a little more independence and value itself.

Back on Pattern Overlay just trying out something new.

Look for different and cool effects even if they aren't fully your style.  Mix up your options.

And remember to utilize the Texture parameters.  These are especially great for making natural, earthy type layer styles.

Let's take a quick look at contour.  This will just give you a waveform of how the light applies to contouring your style.  After experience you'll get a feel for what each can do but if in doubt, just try different ones and go with what looks good.

We can either press cancel because we've saved the new layer styles automatically to the Styles palette or press OK to apply the latest style to the active layer.

You can click on the up arrow to hide the effects and shorten the layers palette.

Now let's get something a little thicker.  Go to the custom shape tool.

Now just choose a shape that is there.  We're just using it to see how layer styles will look as we create them.

Right now I'm on Shape Layer mode instead of Path or Fill Pixels.

Just drag across to make your shape which will fill with the current foreground color.  In most cases it doesn't matter what the color fill is because as we create layer styles we're working independently of fill color b/c we're making our own fills.  You can hold the Shift key while dragging to get a properly scaled version of the shape.

Bring up your fx window and you can go straight to a certain fx parameter such as Pattern Overlay.

You may want to create 'gem' like layer styles..I've done this before and with a specific goal in mind you can start bringing elements together that will lead to that result.  So I'm picking something kind of smooth or shiny.

And changing the scale.

Now I'm on Contour and experimenting with the different light options.

But texture is so close that I'm going to add a texture by choosing a different pattern and get to the smoothness later.

When you find something you like, go ahead and capture it as a new style otherwise you will probably forget what settings you had.

Now I'm choosing a purple color overlay.

If I turn off the texture option, now we're at the smoothness.

In the main Bevel & Emboss field you have shading options.  Experiment with these to see how the contours affect the shading.

You can change the direction of the Bevel as well as the size.

Here I'll save a new style.


..and press OK to apply this layer style to the shape layer.

Here you see the applied layer style and in the layers palette our newly created layer styles.

I'm hiding the shape layer and making the Type layer active.

Now I can just simply click on a different layer style to instantly apply it to the active layer.

And trying a different layer style on the shape layer.

You can also apply layer styles to regular fill layers.  High light the background layer which is locked by default.

Double click it and press ok to rename it as Layer 0.

This will unlock the layer.

Now you can click on layer styles to apply to this white filled layer acting as your background.

Press Ctrl/Cmd Click on the New Layer Icon to create a new layer beneath your currently active layer.

This is a great shortcut to know instead of moving layers around like I used to do.

Here's another great trick, whether you fill that layer or not you can merge layer styles into layers themselves.

Just highlight both of the layers with Ctrl/Cmd keys; both the new/blank layer and the layer styled layer.

Now press Ctrl/Cmd E or go to the Layers menu and choose 'Merge Layers'.  This will merge the layer styled layer into a rasterized layer.

Now you can rename it if you want by clicking on the text field.  Doing this makes things simpler; you're 'applying' the layer style and making it into a 'background' instead of having the changeable attributes of layer styles still there.

So we can do the process again by creating a new layer.

Press Alt/Opt Backspace or Edit: Fill to fill the blank layer with the foreground color.

as such..

And then we can click on a different layer style to temporarily apply it to the layer.

Ctrl/Cmd Click on the new layer icon to create a blank layer beneath the active layer.


Now highlight both of the layer with the layer style and the new layer..

Press Ctrl/Cmd E to Merge them together into a rasterized layer and rename that layer as your new background.


We can also highlight the Type layer..

And change the font to see how it will look with the same layer style because the font is still editable.

If you're going to do something drastic I recommend to keep a copy of your active type layer and duplicate the layer by dragging it to the new layer icon.

Now on the duplicate we can right click the longbar and choose Rasterize Type.  This won't allow us to traditionally edit the type layer but it gives us other advantages and control over it.

Note: Even though the text is rasterized you can still apply different layer styles to it.

And if we want to make a layer style permanent we can use the same merge technique.


Create your new layer, highlight them both and Ctrl/Cmd E to apply the layer style to the now rasterized text.

If we cant, we can also apply Filters to the text because it is rasterized.  Here I'm going to Cutout Filter.

Note that this filter is applying 'on top of' our already layer styled layer, but that's ok.

This is just to teach you some of the things you can do to be more creative.  So now we have this rasterized special layer and we can cut it apart.

Note that I usually retain a copy of the original to come back to.

Go to your Marquee Selection tool and you can highlight part of the rasterized text layer.

As such:

Now go to Layer: New: Layer via Cut or use the shortcut

This will place those pixels onto it's own separate, independent layer.

Go to the move tool and

..then you can reposition this new layer wherever you'd likie.

You can also Transform it.

Here I'm going to a rotation.  I always use Ctrl/Cmd T to get right to free transform and take it from there.

You can also use the regular Lasso tool to get a selection which just encompasses the area that you want to isolate.

As such:

Do the same thing: Layer Via Cut to put it on it's own layer.

Now you can move it around with the MoVe tool.  Note that it appears on 'top' of the layer layers because of it's higher order in the Layers Palette.

Then you can add more 'T'ype.

Click on a Layer Style.

See it applied and drag that layer to the new layer icon to duplicate it.

Double click on the T icon to highlight the text editing field and you can change the lettering or numbering to something else while the layer style is actively applied.  This is a neat thing to do: type in text that is already layer styled on a cool, large font.  Try it yourself.

Anyways, having cool fonts really helps...I'm just showing you stuff here.

Since I'm keeping these as independent layers, it gives me more freedom in the overall design to make custom placements.

That's just some basic learning fun with styles and typography right there!  It should help you be more actively creative within Photoshop.


Orion Williams has produced Photoshop tutorials online for 100,000's of Photoshop users worldwide since 2004.  Copyright Dreamcore Productions, Ltd. U.S.A. 2007

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