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Foundations of Adobe Photoshop CC

Lesson 23 of 36

Layer Styles Overview

Dave Cross

Foundations of Adobe Photoshop CC

Dave Cross

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Lesson Info

23. Layer Styles Overview

Lesson Info

Layer Styles Overview

So I'm gonna put the opacity back up to a hundred. So we can talk about an interesting function of Photoshop called layer styles. Anytime you have something on a layer, you have the option, if you wish, to change or enhance the way that your pixels on the layer look by adding something called a layer style, and you can find them at the bottom of the layers panel, the very first little icon, looks like an FX symbol, and when you pop that up it says, well you've got all these things that have different names on them. You can also do it just by double-clicking right off to the side here. I only mention this other way first 'cause if you forget about the double clicking or what some people do is they double-click a little too close and they actually change the name, which is okay too, but... Anyway, either way it opens up this dialogue box called Layer Style, and you'll see there's a list of functions on the left-hand side. Currently none of them are on because I double-clicked, that just ...

generally opens the dialogue box. So one of the things I want to talk about before I go too far in this dialogue box, and this is a really important principle of Photoshop as well, is I watch people sometimes that have opened a dialogue box they clearly haven't seen before, and they have this look of fear, and they're like, "I don't know what all these things do, "and I don't wanna experiment because "what if I wreck everything?" Well, see how there's a Preview checkbox, and more importantly a Cancel button? I like to think of those as permission to experiment, because I can move sliders and do all kinds of things and until I actually click OK, nothing's final, and even then, it's still an editable effect, so you should never have any fear of going, "I don't know if I should try this "'cause it might wreck everything." It's very unlikely that will happen, 'cause at worst, you'll go, "Whoa that was really bad, "let me quickly undo that and try something else." But I mention that 'cause it's a very common thing for brand new Photoshop users is just looking at a fairly overwhelming dialogue box like, "I don't know if I should move anything here "because it might go all to heck." Well, that's okay, because that's what it's for. So for example, I click on Bevel & Emboss, and as soon as I do that, now all the settings change, 'cause now these are the settings to do with this particular effect. One of the things that we have to throw into our thought process here, is the relative size of the image we're working on. So right now, just look over here at the very top, you'll see it says 12.1%. That means this is a fairly large image that's been scaled down considerably so I can have this fit in window view. So therefore, when I go to an option like Bevel & Emboss, and it gives me the default settings relative to the size of this photograph, those settings are so small I'm not seeing anything. Whereas in another photograph, I could exactly the same thing, but if it's a much smaller photo, these settings might be perfect. So one of the lessons here is, there's no formula that says, "You should always have "a size of 14 and a soften of X," 'cause it's gonna be dependent entirely on what the element is you're working with and the overall size of your image. So right now, we're hardly seeing any beveling happening because this image is so big. So if I change the size considerably larger, we start to see how it's starting to soften and give this little beveled edge on the edge of the graphic element there. Gonna make it a little bigger so you can see. See that? So this is an example of a layer style where just by clicking on a little button and then moving some sliders, I'm suddenly taking this little flat graphic element and giving it a little bit of fake dimension. For now, I'm just gonna click OK, and you'll see, again this non-destructive way of working in Photoshop, now underneath our layer it says Effects, and then Bevel & Emboss, and the reason there's both of those is Effects is showing us, you have one or more effects including this one. So as you'll see in a moment, I can also add another one, another one, there'll end up being a list of effects underneath where at, so they're called, here's the part that gets a little confusing, technically they're called Layer Styles, but it doesn't say that, it says Effects. That's just the way it goes, so you just have to be prepared, that's just, you know, wording. So if I decide I wanted something else, I double-click to get back to Layer Styles, and so I'd also like a drop shadow. And here's an example of where there's some interesting choices you have to make. So I went and I clicked on the checkbox for Drop Shadow, but we have to look a little closer here, because I'm still seeing the settings for Bevel & Emboss, because clicking on a checkbox just means okay I'm gonna add a shadow, but to see the settings, much like clicking on the layer to activate it, I have to actually click where it says Drop Shadow to see the drop shadow settings. And in here, in this dialogue box, you'll see it says like, Opacity, and Angle, et cetera. Now I personally am very happy that it gives me the angle, 'cause I always know, you know, mathematically what angle I want my shadows to be. (chuckles) I don't actually at all, 'cause I look at and go, "Ah it's 30, I don't know." So luckily, there's a much better way I think, instead of you having to figure it out, 'cause you can type in, I think it's 47 degrees and a distance of this, it doesn't matter, if you move your mouse over away from the Layer Style dialogue box, so it looks like I have my Move tool, but since I'm in this dialogue box, it won't move the layer, it'll move the shadow. So instead of you having to figure out the math, you just drag it and say, I'd like the shadow there, or I'd like it actually up here, and I was gonna say minus 23, but I wasn't sure, like minus 23, minus 30, I wasn't sure, but no, I had no idea. So you don't have to. And now look really closely when this is happening. I'm gonna move the shadow again, but this time if you can, watch the beveled edge. So I'm gonna drag the shadow. Do you see how the beveling is changing? And that's because Photoshop makes an assumption, which for the most part is a good one, that you want it to act as if there's a universal light source that's always coming from the same angle, which makes sense, I would say, most of the time. That's this little checkbox that says, "Use global light", which is on by default. And that usually makes sense, 'cause if you have several layers all with the same drop shadow, ideally you'd want them probably all to be exactly the same angle, which is what happens. However, if you're going for a special effect, where visually you've decided, no I actually want this shadow to be this way and this shadow that way, you can just uncheck that Use Global Light, and then they'll be independent, okay? So if I click OK to that, now you'll see I have two things in my Layers panel, it says Bevel & Emboss and Drop Shadow. And like a lot of things in Photoshop, anytime you see an eye icon, that means visibility. So in this case, let's get a little closer here, I could say I don't wanna see any effects at all, and you'll see automatically the other ones are hidden, or I could individually say, well I don't really want the bevel and emboss but I do want the drop shadow or vice versa. So this is part of the benefit of using these kind of things is that again, A, you're never finished, and B, it's very easy to go, well now that I've done that, let me kind of experiment and see what it looks like, do I want this on or this off, can always go and edit it. I'm looking at this right now, and I think, at least in the zoomed out view, let's get a little closer, that drop shadow seems a little hard to me, I'd like it to be a little softer. So I'm gonna go double-click on the drop shadow and change this size setting, so it just becomes kind of a little softer edge, and maybe even lower the opacity just a little bit more. Just again to demonstrate that we're never at a point we're going, well, I guess I have to live with that, that's just the way it is, okay? Now, there is a Preview box here, and I know (chuckles) It's a preview but it's not in the context of the photograph so I honestly could tell you I don't think I've ever really looked at that anymore, because especially if you can move your Layer Style panel enough to see the actual layer, that just to me makes better sense to make decisions, looking over here at the actual colors and everything else, than this little preview, which is just sort of generic and doesn't help that much. But what you can do at any point if you want to remind yourself, wait what did it look like before, turn off the preview, okay. So this is showing me the difference of when I started and the change I've made now. So you can always do that kind of thing. Now, let's say for a moment that you were doing a project where you knew that this look that you were creating, let's say for the sake of argument, is bevel emboss and a drop shadow, you need to use it on 27 different photographs. So you get a piece of paper, and you write down 41, no you don't do that at all, that would be the long way to do it. (chuckles) Instead, you see there's a little button right here says New Style. When you click that, it's gonna allow you to save this wonderful thing called a Preset, that you can name accordingly, and that way anytime you want to apply that to something else, you just click on one button instead of having to go back and add all these again. This is particularly useful if you create a style that ends up having two or three things like, bevel emboss, and a stroke, and a shadow, or something that will just take a lot of steps to recreate. So I'm gonna call this one Bevel Shadow so I know what it is, and I'm gonna not add it to my library for now, click OK. And then OK again. And just so you see how this works, I'll actually switch to a different document, 'cause clearly he could stand to have the same graphic on this photo 'cause it makes perfect sense. So when you see, again, when it comes in it's just a flat graphic again, but now I want it to look like the other one, instead of trying to remember everything, there is a panel up here called Styles, and we talked about navigating, previously a little bit, just remember if you see a collapsed panel like this, you just click on the name, it opens up to show you all these different options, and the very last one will be the one that I created, so I click on, you see there's the name, I click on it and just like that, one click, it's applied. Now, you may notice a slight difference here. Let me go back to this one. See how nice that bevel edge looks? On this one, it looks a little odd to me. That's because the scale of the two images were not the same. So when you apply a style like this by clicking on the button to say apply this style, it applies it at whatever settings it was recorded, meaning this distance, this much bevel emboss, and so on, but the great news about these presets is it's just a starting place. So it's very easy for me to go, well on this photo I think that bevel and emboss is a little too much, so I double-click and say, I think I'm gonna bring the size down, let me move this so I can see a little more, bring the size down a little bit. There we go. So again, the benefit of this whole layer way of working is that it's still saved me time, rather than me having to manually go add a bevel emboss, add a drop shadow. It allowed me to do it as a one-click kind of a thing, but at the same time, if it doesn't look quite right, you can certainly change it, because they're just more settings in the Layers panel. So again I could either take off the bevel and emboss, or not have the drop shadow, or edit either one of them. So again, very simple and quick to do to apply something from one to the other. I'm gonna click right on the word Effects and drag it to the trash can to say I want to take that off completely for a second to show you an important factor. The majority of the styles that you will see when you first open this panel are provided by Adobe, and, how should I say this? There are a few of them that are not bad. There's others that I find myself going, really, like really? Like let's just pick one here of the ones that Adobe gives us, like here we go. Yes. I can see using that as my logo, 'cause it's so, so nice. Yeah, so here's my take on this. My theory is that maybe what they were thinking is, if we just show some possibilities, then you can look and say, how did they do that? And so, oh there's a stroke and a pattern, and this and you know, and kinda break it down and then actually edit it to make it look good. But the point is that there's lots in there that you might use as a vague reference, I would say, as opposed to ooh, yes, let me click on that and apply that one. The nice thing is, you can try different ones and find all these really, oh that's one of my favorites, I like that a lot. (chuckles) Here's the weird part about this, and I've yet to get an answer for this one. Every panel in Photoshop has a little menu up the top right-hand corner called the flyout menu. If you go to the flyout menu here, you'll see there's all these other sets of styles, and some of these are actually really good. Why those aren't the ones that display by default I have no idea, 'cause my worry is, people see the default ones, and go, well I'll never, ever use these, and they miss the fact that there's some actually pretty decent ones in there. So some of them are really quite interesting, like Glass Buttons was kind of a style. So here's a dialogue box you'll see all the time in Photoshop. So, my style panel had the default styles already in there, and a few that I created recently. Because I went to that menu and said I'd also like these, it's asking me, would you like to replace them, and if I click OK, it means the only styles I'll see in this dialogue box are these new ones, or append, which means add to. So it's completely up to you. I typically use Append, because I don't want to lose anything that I did previously, but it just means eventually your panel gets fairly big. So if I click Append, you'll see now I suddenly have more styles, including ones that are, you know, kinda cool. And again, each one of these, if you look at it and say, well that's kinda close, but I think I need to make some changes, you can break it down and see how it was done, 'cause it has a bevel and emboss and an inner glow and a color overlay and a grade overlay. So if there's anything about this I want to edit, I can go in and start looking at the different settings to see how they did it, and/or edit it. So remember, whoever, sorry I'm gonna undo that, step backwards a little bit, so we get back to not that or that, but maybe that. When these styles were created, whoever did it was doing it based on some size of document which probably has nothing to do with our size of document. So you should not be surprised at all, in fact should be prepared for, when you first click on a style, it might not look right because the relative sizes are not the same. But that's okay, because as we've seen, we can go in an edit it. We'll talk just briefly for a moment about this idea of these presets, there's a bunch of presets in Photoshop, but let's just talk about this one since we're here for a second. Anytime you add something like this to a panel, like I created one myself, and I added some other ones, I'll use my favorite word again and say theoretically, every time I launch Photoshop, those same presets should be in there, that should happen. However, if you have a second machine, or you have a coworker that says, "Oh I love that style effect you did, can I have it?" Then the answer is yes, it's actually fairly easy to share presets like this in Photoshop. So one of the things you may have noticed is when I created this new style, it had a little checkbox says, "Include in your library". I chose not to in this case, but if you did that, that's an easier way sometimes to find it yourself and know that it won't go missing anywhere. But also, let's say I had created two or three of these presets for styles I want to share with a colleague. So under the Edit menu, there is something called Presets and then Preset Manager. Now I'm just gonna touch on this briefly, but it's important to know, be aware this is here. The Preset Manager serves a couple of very important functions. Any dialogue box that includes presets, like brushes, styles, et cetera, will appear in here. So let's change to the one called Styles since that's the one we're looking at, and you see it basically mirrors whatever's in this panel. So there's a couple of things you can do with the Preset Manager. If, and I'm not in any way suggesting you want to do this, but if you found there were certain presets that you thought, I am unlikely to ever use these, you could decide to select them all and then hit the Delete button. So that way the only presets you would see are the ones that you have chosen to. You can also change the order, so if for example, this one that I just created is so important I want it up here at the very top, I can just drag to position it, and then once I click Done, you'll see that this Styles panel looks that way. I'm choosing for the purpose of the demonstration not to delete the weird styles, 'cause I love showing how funny they are. You might decide, I don't really need all those ones in there 'cause I'll just never use them. But the other thing we could do is say, so I'm gonna say that, let's just pretend, these were the styles that I created, and I want to share them with someone else. So all I did, let me go back, I just clicked on the first one, held down the Shift key and clicked on the last of that set, so I've selected a few of these presets. And then over here, there's a button that says Save Set, and when I click on it, it asks me to name it something. And I'll just call it whatever. Now what you'll find is anytime you're saving presets like this, it's gonna prompt you to save it in a Photoshop folder, which is a nice kind of a backup plan so they'll be more accessible. And I would suggest that's not a bad idea at all to do, 'cause you don't want to go to the effort of making a whole bunch of presets and then something happens and they're gone and you can't, you have to recreate them. So, saving them into this promoted folder or suggested folder called Styles means it's saving it into the Photoshop Presets folder for styles. So I would probably go ahead and do that, but once I did it, I would go back a second time and save the presets again, but this time, put it somewhere else where I can find it, like out on my desktop or something, in a folder called My Presets, and you'll end up with a little file that's called dc-styles.asl for Adobe Styles, and that's something you can like email to someone, it's a little teeny tiny file, 'cause it's just instructions, so it's very easy to share that with someone. And that applies to anything, we'll talk later on about how you can make your own brush out of something like a signature, and you want to put it on different machines, so you just export it as this little preset file to move it around. Good news is, if you never want to share, or don't have share anything, it's not a necessary step, it's just an added bonus, but this Preset Manager will at the very least let you organize where things exist, the order they are, whether you want to delete some or not, et cetera. And you can also see that same menu to load more choices in through the Preset Manager, so what some people do is they'll add some in here, append, and then decide, oh I don't want that, yeah like that, and they're mine, and so on, okay? So once you hit Done, you'll see now my Styles panel has been changed with all these lovely, lovey choices. Now, I talked about that in the context of styles, well just so you know, you can do the same thing with brushes and color swatches and tool presets and there's a bunch of other things we're not gonna cover, but the same principle applies, as a preset is a simple way to save something so that you don't have to recreate it over again. So there's plenty of places in Photoshop where presets are very useful, this just happens to be one of them.

Class Description

Join Dave Cross in this beginner friendly class starting at the very basics with Adobe® Photoshop® CC. You’ll learn how to begin navigating the software and what the best practices and work habits are to approach different projects.

Dave will cover:

  • Working non destructively on your files
  • How to resize, crop, and straighten images
  • Using layers with basic layer examples
  • Adding text, color, and painting to images
  • How to retouch and adjust images using selections and masks
  • Learn how to use the tools you need to create the image you want. Dave will demonstrate using sample workflows that take you through projects from start to finish.

Don't have Adobe Photoshop yet? Get it now so you can follow along with the course!

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2017



I really like Dave's methodical teaching style. Step by step works best for my learning processes. He also has a lovely voice to listen to during his classes, that is important if you have to listen to someone talk for any length of time. I also like the "dance" he does by explaining what he is going to do, then does it, and then comes back to explaining the choices he made and why. Very, very easy to follow him in his straight forward explanations. He increased my understanding of so many tools I use and so many I have never used. Wow! Photoshop with Dave took away a lot of "fear"! (Wish I had a "happy face" to place here!) I bought this class today because I don't think I can get along without it!


A writer and an old person (over 60), I rarely use neat exaggerations like "great" or "fantastic," and never say "awesome" in the currently fashionable manner. However, I would call this class both great and excellently planned. Cross is well-spoken and a consummate teacher with a rarely non-irritating voice. It is information packed, clearly presented, well-organized, and extremely helpful. I wish I could afford his others.

Jim Bellomo

I was so lucky to get to attend this class in person here in Seattle. I have been a fan of Dave's for years and own a number of his courses from Creative Live. When this class was announced I almost decided to skip it since it was listed as a "beginners" class but decided that it "might" be worth it. One of the reasons I wanted to take it was that I am self-taught. I had started with Photoshop 5 (not CS5 but 5) about 15 years ago (at least). I figured it I took this class I might learn a little something that would help me in my work. Well, two days later I have 18 pages of handwritten notes, a whole new way to work and it has already paid off in a huge way in my daily workflow. I bill out my hours at around $100 an hour as a graphic designer and marketing person. That means in the two days that I spent 10 hours a day taking the class and commuting to it, it cost me about $2000 in working time. But it didn't. I can guarantee that I am way ahead on this one. I l learned so much. The real world things I learned will pay off for a very long time. Within one day after the class I had already started changing my workflow to be more non-destructive and faster. Dave is an awesome teacher and I can't say enough good things about this class. Even if you think you know Photoshop, you don't. I teach it in my small world but I learned so much.