Graphic Design / Interactive Design / Fine & Applied Arts / Parkland College

Graphic Design Exercises
Photoshop: Layer Styles (Colors)


To work with Photoshop's shape layers. To catalog Photoshop's layer styles by recreating art similar to the sample below:


Photoshop has always been a pixel-based program. However, with recent releases, Adobe has added layer shapes as a new feature. Since layer shapes are vector based, art can be resized without any loss of resolution or integrity. In this exercise, we'll make use of layer styles to modify the art on shape layers. Because layer styles are calculated effects, they will also scale well to any size.


creating the art in Illustrator

  1. download above JPF image (cmd+click: download image to disk)
  2. launch Illustrator
  3. file > new "": letter, portrait
  4. practice Adobe navigation keyboard shortcuts: space=hand; space+cmd=zoom in; space+cmd+opt=zoom out; cmd+zero=fit in window
  5. Illustrator > preferences > files & clipboard: AICB (preserve paths)
  6. file > place: "colors.jpg" (as template)
  7. type tool: type "COLORS" (Franklin Gothic Demi)
  8. type > create outlines, ungroup, match size of template
  9. view > outline (cmd Y)
  10. delete "O", recreate with circles (object > compound path > make)
  11. save

editing "smart objects" in Photoshop

  1. launch Photoshop
  2. file > new "colors.psd": RGB, 640x480, bg=white
  3. file > place "" (note smart object layer), resize (cmd+T)
  4. RMB > edit contents (you are now editing vector object in AI)
  5. change fill color to 50% gray (RGB=128)
  6. save, close window (to return to Photoshop)

creating the first layer style in Photoshop

  1. rename "background" layer as "sky"
  2. make foreground color a sky blue, make background white
  3. filter > render > clouds (cmd+F to re-render)
  4. duplicate "" layer, rename "drop shadow", hide others (except "sky")
  5. layer > style > color overlay, make color red, mode = normal
  6. layer > style > drop shadow, size= 7, position with mouse

duplicate "" layer as needed to create other layer styles:

  1. inner shadow: size=7 (color overlay=white)
  2. bevel & emboss > pillow emboss (color overlay=red)
  3. bevel & emboss > outer bevel (color overlay=blue)
  4. bevel & emboss > emboss (blend mode=overlay, color overlay=off)
  5. outer glow: glow color=white, spread=?, size=? (blend mode=overlay, color overlay=off)

copying layer styles

  1. hide all layers (except "sky"); choose default colors
  2. using the type tool, type your name, choose font, adjust size, position
  3. go to "drop shadow" layer
  4. layer > layer style > copy layer style (or RMB); hide layer
  5. go to layer with your name
  6. layer > layer style > paste layer style (or RMB)
  7. layer > layer style > clear layer style (or RMB)
  8. choose your favorite layer style to apply to your name


  1. file > save for web: preset=JPEG high
  2. publish JPEG as a link from your projects page
  3. submit a b&w laser proof with your name on it for grading
  4. file graded proof in your 3-ring binder for individual review

Last updated: 3/2/17 ■ Webmaster: Paul Young