This was written using Photoshop CC 2021. Most of the functions also work in older versions, but we will also touch on some new stuff here, as well.
First off, make sure your layer styles panel is open. Window > Styles
You can drag the panel around and place it within the workspace wherever you find convenient. I don’t want to get into how to set up a workspace here, so if you would like to know more about that, you can check this site.
Photoshop comes with some defaults. But… NEVER use those. Like ever… never ever ever… never. They look horrible, and every single seasoned Photoshop user will INSTANTLY know these. Nothing screams NOOB like using program defaults… just don’t. Delete them. Never bother with them again. Clear them all out! Just highlight and click the trashcan icon at the bottom of the panel.
Now that they are gone, you are left with nothing… *cry*
Not really. Just do a bit of googling to find some really amazing layer styles. Or you can make your own.
There are TONS of layer styles available on the internet. Some paid, some free. But what do you do if you see the perfect text style, and you want to use it?
This is all dependent on what format the designer has saved them. A lot of times, the style will come in an .asl file format. Sometimes, you will even get a .psd file with the layer style in use. These both require a very different method of opening.
Let’s start with the .asl file.
Download THIS file and unzip it.
In the top corner of the styles panel, you will see 4 horizontal lines. Click that and choose “Import Styles…”
Navigate to where you unzipped the style and open it.
Once you do that, it will add the style to your panel. To use it, simply type out some text, and then click on it in the panel. It will automatically apply the style to your layer.
Now, if you are using the latest version of Photoshop, it will add a folder to your panel. It works like the Layers panel. Click the arrow to expand the folder and you will see the style drop down.
The more styles you download, the more cluttered the panel will be. You can organize them yourself by creating sub-folders to house same type of styles. Or you can keep them all in their own folders. Or you can even drag them all outside of their folders to have the same layout as the older versions of Photoshop.
Ok… now onto .psd files.
Download THIS file and unzip it.
File > Open…
Navigate to the file you just unzipped and open it.
As you can see, it is just a word with some layer style added to it.
You can add this to your panel, but it takes another step or two.
Right click it in the layers panel. Open the Blending Options.
You don’t have to do anything to the panel. Simply click on the “New Style” button.
Now you can use it like above. Simply highlight a layer in your Layers panel and then click on the layer style from your Styles panel.
What about Layered Styles?
This is where it gets a little more complicated.
Open them in the same manner as above.
In the .asl file, you will see there are TWO styles included. The first one is the main style, and the second one is an “overlay” type style.
Type out some text and apply the first style by clicking on it in the Styles panel.
Duplicate the layer. Now click on the second style. You will see that it added a beveled type of overlay. This type of style only works by using two different layers.
If you open the .psd file, you will see that there are 2 layers in the Layers panel. Add the styles to the panel the same way as above.
These grouped type of styles are a bit more complex, so it is good to keep them in folders (if you are on a newer version of PS).
You don’t have to add every single style to your styles panel. There will be times you see a style, but you only ever use it once. However, you don’t really want to delete it. How to handle that??
You can save all of your styles as .psd format by applying the style and then saving the file under the name of the style. Then you can highlight it in your Styles panel and hit the trashcan at the bottom of the panel.
When you are ready to use that style again, open the file you saved. Right click the layer and “Copy Styles.” Then you can close the file and right click the layer you want to apply the style to. “Paste Styles” and you are good to go!
Now… Let’s edit the style!
Any style you download can be edited.
You still have one of those .psd files open? Great!
Right click on the main style layer. Choose “Blending Options.”
Over on the left, you will see all of the options with check marks. These are the options in use. You can change anything about them by highlighting one of them and playing with the settings.
For example, if you want to change the color, go to “Color Overlay” and click on the color box. You can choose another color from right there. How neat is that?
You can even change the pattern overlay to your favorite!
Oh wait. You don’t have any good patterns?
You can make just about any image into a pattern.
Open the image you want to use. Here is one you can use:
Right click the layer and “Convert to Smart Object.” This will preserve the actual image, just in case you want to change something.
Image > Canvas Size…
Do this exactly. Pay attention to the numbers. If you are using a different image, make sure the numbers in both match. Width to width, height to height. Your image may not be square, so pay attention.
Duplicate the layer in the layers panel.
Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.
Move this layer to the opposite side of your canvas.
Hightlight both layers in the layers panel.
Duplicate these layers. With both layers still highlighted in the layers panel, go to Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical.
Use the move tool to position these layers at the bottom of the canvas.
Now… your pattern is finished.
Edit > Define Pattern…
Give it a name!
Now, back to your layer style you were working with. Open the blending options again. Go to the Pattern Overlay and click on the box that contains the pattern. You can now see your newly saved pattern in the box! Click on it and it will add your pattern to the style.
Now, before you click OK, hover over your canvas. You can see that your cursor turns into a move tool. You can position the pattern exactly where you want it to go!
So, in closing, layer styles are very versatile tools for you to take advantage of. Everything from Text styling to element shadowing. Use them! That is what they are for.
Enjoy your new plaything