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How to Install and Use Photoshop Layer Styles

Lesley Yarbrough March 31, 2021 · 5 min read
Howdy creatives! These past couple weeks we’ve shown you how to use & install Photoshop actions and also how to use & install Photoshop brushes. Well we’re back again to walk you through another fun and useful tool in Photoshop, layer styles. In this week’s guide we’ll talk about what exactly layer styles are, why they’re useful, and how to get you off and running utilizing them in your designs. Be sure to check out the video below, where you can follow along with one of the pros and learn how to use layer styles.

What are Photoshop layer styles?

Photoshop layer styles are just about what you would expect given the name. They are style effects that alter the appearance of a layer. Typically layer styles are used for text effects, but they can be used on images, backgrounds, and any other layer. You will probably be most familiar with these in the form of the preset layers available in Photoshop, such as Drop Shadow, Stroke, Inner Glow, etc.

Why are Photoshop layer styles useful?

Photoshop layer styles make it incredibly simple to apply one or many different effects to your designs. When applied, a layer style are linked to all the contents of a layer — so when you move or edit that particular layer, your styles are still applied to the modified contents. The versatility of such a tool allows for tons of experimentation as you can easily switch between styles, apply different styles to different layers, and shift all of your contents around without affecting the styles. Basically this tool is just a lot of fun.

Installing Layer Styles

If you remember how easy it was to install both Actions and Brushes, then you should have no problem installing Styles. There’s actually a couple different methods that you can use to install layer styles, but each one takes only a couple of steps: 1. If you don’t have any layer styles to play with, you can grab a set from the great selection available on Creative Market. 2. Download the zip file containing your styles and unpack the contents of the file. This will reveal a new folder containing a few other files, one of which is an .ASL file.

Style Files

3. The quickest way to install your layer styles is to just drag this .ASL file directly into your Photoshop window. Or you can also use one of the following methods: In your menu bar, go to Edit > Presets > Preset Manager, select Styles from the dropdown menu, and then add your styles using the “Load” button and selecting your .ASL file.

Preset Manager

Load Styles

You can also load your styles directly from the Styles Palette on the right side of Photoshop, using the dropdown menu.

Load Styles 2

And that’s really all you have to do! Now your styles are loaded into Photoshop and ready to use.

Using Layer Styles

Now that you’ve got your layer styles loaded into Photoshop, all that’s left is for you to start experimenting. To apply a layer style, simply select the layer that you would like to modify to and then find the style you’d like to use in your Style Palette, then when you click the style it will be immediately applied to your layer. If you glance at your layers palette, you will see the effects have been added to your layer. The more complicated the style, the more effects you will see listed under your layer.

Style Layer

As mentioned earlier, you’re free to modify the contents of your layer after the styles have been added, so you can move elements around your design and change fonts without losing the style making it really easy to experiment with new looks. You can also switch between different styles with ease by clicking around in your palette.

Styles are fun!

Important tips: You cannot apply a style to a layer that is locked. If you find that your style is not working, check to make sure the layer is not locked. Layer styles tend to look best on bold fonts & large sizes. If you find that your styles aren’t looking quite right, you might try a different font.
For you visual learners out there, John Shaver of Design Panoply and Photoshop Video Tutorials was kind enough to put a video together that walks you through the steps. To follow along with John, you can download the demo content here.

Pretty cool, right? With those basics in mind, the fun is really just beginning. If you have a few handy style packs in your designer utility belt, you’re well on your way to adding a layer of depth and professionalism to your designs. There are some amazing products available in the marketplace to help you get started using layer styles:
Keep an eye out for more How-To’s to come and happy creating!
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About the Author
Lesley Yarbrough

Tinkerer. Maker of quirky fonts with a sprouty disposition.

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  • What can I say, I LOVE STYLES! 9 years ago
  • Styles are super, I agree. They are also incredibly helpful and time-saving in Illustrator and InDesign. Thanks for the video, @John Shaver! 9 years ago
  • I haven't used styles near as much as I should, but now I'm totally hooked. :) Thanks for the great videos in this series @John Shaver! 9 years ago
  • Thanks for the great tutorial John. 9 years ago
  • wow nice post. Thanks 9 years ago
  • Nice information. Learned a lot from it. Thanks bro. Expecting more article from you. 9 years ago
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  • Does anyone know if its possible to Edit a pattern from a layer style? I want to tweak the pattern on a style I purchased. Any ideas? Thank you. :) 8 years ago
  • Excellent tutorial for graphic designer who want to learn about layer style in photoshop also helpful for me. 7 years ago
  • Hi, I followed this to install a bunch of styles I bought, which then showed in the styles panel, but next time I opened photoshop, they had all disappeared. The same with all my brushes that I had installed. When I click on the styles / load styles, it takes me to a roaming user location, which is of course blank because I didn't install them there, and that's not where photoshop took me to install them last time. I manually added them to that folder, just in case, but they are still not visible there, either. Please help! 7 years ago
  • Hi I purchased this and I am only using PSE7 - it is saying I need a metamark file - can you help please 6 years ago
  • It is a very handy tutorial, I agree, BUT what do you do when you have Photoshop Elements 9??? There is nothing called "Styles" - only "Swatches" - and I am about to pull my hair out as there is NOTHING to find abut this when you own a Mac, not Windows. (Not trying to be rude, but for someone like me who is very new at this? It's frustrating when you can't find the help that you need.) 6 years ago
  • Valuable information and excellent design about you got here! 6 years ago
  • Hi there any tips on how to fix the issue of ASL files not opening on macOS Sierra? (10.12.3) with Adobe Photoshop CC 2017. I'd really appreciate some help, quite a few things I purchases came with ASL files and I followed the instructions, but nothing works. 5 years ago
  • I also cannot get the ASL file to open on my Mac. HELP please! 5 years ago
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    Thank you writer to give us such fantastic things. :) Your presentation is good. 5 years ago
  • I have a question. Im super duper new to this stuff. So I got a "styles" pkg but I only received jpgs How would I turn those into the file you mentioned above. Or is there a way to convert a jpg into a style? 5 years ago
  • Nice information shared. thanks 3 years ago
  • That was a really easy to follow tutorial. Thanks! I got a few good tips from there. 2 years ago
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  • Anonymous
    Thank you writer to give us such fantastic things So I got a "styles" pkg but I only received jpgs How would I turn those into the file you mentioned above. Or is there a way to convert a jpg into a style? 1 year ago