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Graphic Thoughts: Using Photoshop Styles
Posted Feb 4, 2008 Print Version     Page 1of 2 next »

Style—it defines how you dress, what you drive, and even the way you shoot video, but in the Photoshop world, it connotes one of the quickest ways to add sweet "looks" to your text or imagery with minimal effort. Adobe Photoshop version 6.0 changed the way that everyone used Photoshop with the introduction of "styles." For years, that feature alone was the reason I’d tell people, "If you’re using anything less than the full version 6.0 of Adobe Photoshop, then get rid of it, or upgrade!" So what exactly are styles and why are they so important?

A Photoshop style is a saved configuration of settings that you’ve applied to a layer—regardless of whether that layer is an object, text, or photo. With a style saved, you can instantly apply it to another object without having to reconfigure your settings each time you want to use it.

For instance, maybe you’ve created some metallic text with shiny Web 2.0 glossy bevels, drop shadows, inner glows, and color gradients. It would be a shame to have to re-create this every time you want the same look on another piece of text. The beauty of styles is that you can open up the Styles palette with your text layer selected. When you click on a style, you’ll instantly see the text inherit those settings. Don’t like the one you’ve chosen? Click another, or make adjustments to the existing style. It’s all very cool. Now for a quick walk through of what’s possible.

(Please note that I’m using Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended, so some details may differ if you are using an older version.)

Step 1: Type Some Text Into the Layers Palette
First let’s create a new document (File > New). Select the text tool (T) and type "2008" using the font and color of your choice. Now for the fun part: Make sure the "2008" layer is selected and open the Layer Styles palette (Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options), as shown in Figure 1, below.

figure 1

You can also get there by double-clicking just to the right of the "2008" text in your Layers palette. A third option is to select the FX symbol at the bottom of your Layers palette.

Step 2: Experiment With Your Options
Once you’ve opened the Layers palette, you’ll see a list of options such as Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, Outer Glow, Inner Glow, Bevel, etc. Clicking to the right of each name will open up the menu to make a variety of changes to your object. In all honesty, my suggestion is to experiment! I see so much dull text that it seems the vast majority of Photoshop users go with the defaults, never realizing that they can move some sliders around. There is a limitless array of choices, and often I’ve found that the best creations come from just clicking something I had not clicked in the past. So go ahead, move some sliders around and see what happens.

figure 1

In my example, I’ve created three versions of "2008" (Figure 2, above). All I’ve done to create these designs is move sliders around. One thing to note is that styles may look different depending on the size of an object. A style created for text at 72dpi will most likely need to be adjusted if you’re printing at 300dpi. Doing this is easy enough—just double-click your layer and make any needed adjustments.

Step 3: Name and Save Your Style
Once you’ve played around with each of the settings and you find something you like, it’s time to save it as a style. In the upper right area of the Layers palette you’ll see the New Style button (Figure 3, below). Clicking this button will give you the opportunity to name the style (I would also suggest checking the boxes labeled Include "Layer Effects" and "Blending Options").

figure 1

To access the styles you’ve created, choose Window > Styles from your Photoshop top menu. What you’ll see is a palette with lots of colorful squares. Each one of these represents a style, and by simply clicking any of the boxes (with your "2008" layer selected) you’ll see the text instantly change to the style you chose.

Step 4: Find and Load New Styles as Needed

Naturally, you can add or delete styles, but another great option is to click the drop-down menu in the upper right of the Styles palette to get access to more styles (Figure 4, below). In that window you also have the options to Reset, Load, Save, or Replace Styles. Lots of styles exist in cyberspace, so this panel is where you would go to load any new styles you might find.

figure 1

Additional Uses For Styles
One last thing: I used text in this example, but you can just as easily create a style for a photo such as one that gives you a photo border (stroke "inside" edge using the color white and add a Drop Shadow). Another handy option is colorizing a photo (use Color Overlay with blend mode set to Color). Having these styles available makes it quick and easy to "stylize" the objects in your Photoshop creations.

Lance Gray (lance at pixelpops.com) is the chief creative pixelmonkey at PixelPops Design, LLC. For questions, thoughts, or ideas simply email him.

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