Photoshop layer styles are a popular way to add effects, such as drop shadows and strokes, to layers in a non-destructive way. With the right knowledge and experience, you can achieve any effect you want.
To achieve these effects, however, you need to understand what each setting does and how they can be combined to achieve a certain look. In this series by John Shaver from Design Panoply, we will explain every aspect of Photoshop's layer styles to show you how to make text glow in Photoshop.
In this article, Part 4: Photoshop Layer Styles Outer Glow, we will explain the settings behind the Outer Glow and how you can use it to make text glow in Photoshop. Let's take a look!
Or, to learn how to create a similar neon light text effect, try this tutorial:
The Uses for an Outer Glow
When you hear the name "Outer Glow", you automatically assume that this glow effect is limited to just that, an Outer Glow. The truth is that there is much more you can do with it than a simple glowing effect.
On top of creating a glowing effect, Outer Glow can also be used to create faux drop shadows, as well as adding outer strokes to your designs.
Below, you will see an example of how an Outer Glow can not only make an object look as if it is emitting light, but also create a shadow effect. Keep in mind that only the Outer Glow settings were changed between the two different looks.
The Layer Styles Inner Shadow Dialog Box
If you want to learn how to add glow to text in Photoshop, we'll start with the Layer Style dialog box. The Outer Glow dialog box is shown below. A few new settings are displayed here that we have not seen before, like Technique, Range, and Jitter.
Outer Glow: Blend Mode Setting
The Blend Mode allows you to set the blending mode for your Outer Glow. If you are looking to create a glow effect, Linear Dodge (Add) or Screen are good modes to use. If you want to create an "outer shadow" type effect, Linear Burn or Multiply work well. If you are trying to create an outer stroke (which we will get into in more detail below) then Normal is fine.
If you are unfamiliar with how all the different Blending Modes work, I highly recommend checking out the Blending Is Fun Basix tutorial.
In the following example, you can see that Linear Dodge (Add) will create a more extreme glowing effect, while Screen will affect the Outer Glow in a slightly subtler way.
Outer Glow: Opacity Setting
The Opacity slider allows you to specify how transparent your Outer Glow will be. A setting of 0% is completely see-through, while 100% is completely opaque.
In the following Photoshop glow example, you can see that text on the left has a subtle glowing effect, while the one on the right is much more pronounced.
Outer Glow: Noise Setting
The Noise slider is the same within Outer Glow as in Drop Shadow and Inner Shadow. Increasing the Noise slider will add a bit of noise to your Outer Glow, allowing you to create a type of "glowing dust" effect.
In the following outer glow Photoshop example, increasing the amount of Noise takes us from a smooth Outer Glow to a "glowing particle" effect.
Outer Glow: Color and Gradient Settings
Wondering how to change the color of an outer glow in Photoshop? When the corresponding radio button is selected, the Color block allows us to change the color of the Outer Glow, while the same goes for the Gradient radio button. With Gradient selected, you are not limited to a single color, which can help you create very intricate and abstract glowing effects.
In the following example, setting a single color will give a predictable Outer Glow, while experimenting with different gradients can help us achieve unique effects, like the slight rainbow glow you might see in soap bubbles. That's how to change the color of an Outer Glow in Photoshop.
Outer Glow: Technique Setting
The Technique dropdown box gives us two different options to make text glow in Photoshop: Softer and Precise. Softer gives us an Outer Glow that is more organic and natural-looking, while Precise fits the shape of the glow more tightly to the original shape of the layer.
In the following Photoshop glow example, you can see the difference between the more organic-looking Softer setting and the Precise technique below.
Outer Glow: Spread Setting
The Spread slider changes the falloff of the Outer Glow in a linear fashion, or in other words, how gradually it fades out at the edges.
For a typical Outer Glow, you will normally want to leave this at 0%, but for more intense glows you should increase it, and for outer strokes with hard edges you can set it all the way to 100%.
In the following Photoshop glow example, increasing the spread percentage from 0% to 50% gives the Outer Glow and harder edge.
Outer Glow: Size Setting
The Size slider is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to increase the size of the Outer Glow in 1 px increments. The higher the Size value is, the bigger the Outer Glow becomes.
In the following outer glow Photoshop example, since the Size of the glow on the left is 2 px, it gives us a more contained glowing effect. Increasing the glow Size to 9 px makes the text seem more radioactive.
Outer Glow: Contour Setting
The Contour shapes allow you to change the falloff of the Outer Glow in a non-linear fashion. By choosing different curve profiles, you can get the glow to fade out in different ways.
This is really useful when you are trying to achieve special glow or abstract effects.
In addition, the "Anti-aliased" checkbox allows you to improve the quality of the shadow with a very slight drop in performance. The performance hit is negligible, so we recommend always keeping the box checked.
In the following Photoshop glow example, changing the Contour to a "sine wave" shape results in an Outer Glow with more character, which allows us to add special effects to our images.
Outer Glow: Range Setting
Adjusting the Range is similar to changing the Spread. It allows you to control the falloff of your Outer Glow in almost the same way.
A lower setting gives us a harder glow, while a higher setting gives us a softer one.
In the following outer glow Photoshop example, you can see how changing the Range affects the softness of the Outer Glow.
Outer Glow: Jitter Setting
While Range is similar to Spread, Jitter is similar to Noise. Noise creates transparency of adjacent pixels using a Normal blend mode, while Jitter adds noise by adjusting the lightness of adjacent pixels in a way that is similar to Overlay.
It is easier to see the difference in action.
In the following example, the effect on the left is achieved using the Noise slider, while the one on the right uses the Jitter slider. If you don't see a difference, don't worry. The difference is very subtle most of the time, often so much so that it doesn't matter which you use.
Saving and Loading Default Settings
You can save and load default settings for each effect in the Layer Styles dialog box. By clicking "Make Default", Photoshop will store whatever settings are currently active as the new default settings for that effect.
By clicking "Reset to Default", Photoshop will then load whatever settings were last saved. This allows you to experiment and simply reload the custom default settings if you want to start over.
Grab a Free Glow Effect Photoshop Layer Style
Until next time, this free, exclusive layer style and accompanying PSD file will keep the flame of love for layer styles burning bright and help you get better acquainted with Outer Glow.
Congratulations! You Know How to Make Text Glow in Photoshop
We've explored all the layer style settings to learn how to add glow to text in Photoshop. Now it's your turn to play with the layer styles to create amazing glow effect Photoshop designs!
5 Top Glow Effect Photoshop Actions
Now you're an expert using the outer glow Photoshop settings. But if you want to save some time and play with professional add-ons, here are some premium glow effect Photoshop add-ons available on Envato Elements to create professional-looking glow effects quickly and easily:
1. Glow in the Dark Photoshop Actions (ATN)
Add stunning glow-in-the-dark effects to your photo using these Photoshop actions. The effects are non-destructive, easy to apply, and fully adjustable. They work on PC and Mac and include full instructions.
2. Fearless Photoshop Action (ATN)
How does the Fearless Photoshop Action work? You simply fill in your subject with a color and play the action! There's even a full video tutorial to help you. The action has been tested and works on Photoshop CS4, CS5, CS6, CC, CC 2015.5, and CC 2017+.
3. Neon Layer Styles (ASL, PSD)
This set contains over 70 layer styles in five categories (Regular, Bright, Soft, Colored, Colored Bright), as well as six sample scenes and 15 backgrounds. Use them for a professional and realistic look of a neon glow!
4. Sparklers Animation Photoshop Action (ABR, ATN)
Did you know that it's possible to create an animated glow in Photoshop? This action will add magical sparkles to any lines you draw. You can save the effect as a still image or as a GIF animation.
5. Sparkle Photoshop Action (ATN)
How does the Sparkle Photoshop Action work? You simply brush over the area you want to turn into sparkles and play the Action! The color that you brush will become the color of the sparkles.
Now you know all about using Outer Glow Photoshop styles! If you want to learn more about adding glow effects to your images, try these tutorials:
- Text EffectsHow to Create a Neon Glow in the Dark Text Effect in Adobe PhotoshopLaura Keung
- Photoshop ActionsHow to Add a Glowing Photo Effect to a Portrait in PhotoshopMonika Zagrobelna
- Photo ManipulationHow to Create a Glowing Winter Night Photo Manipulation in Adobe PhotoshopJenny Le
- Text EffectsHow to Create a Realistic Neon Light Text Effect in Adobe PhotoshopRose
- Photo ManipulationHow to Create a Glowing Fireflies Photo Manipulation in Adobe PhotoshopMelody Nieves
- Photo ManipulationHow to Create a Dreamy Glow Effect Photo Manipulation in PhotoshopMonika Zagrobelna
- Photoshop ActionsHow to Create a Dreamy Glow Effect Photoshop ActionMonika Zagrobelna
- Adobe Photoshop26 Best Glow Effects in Photoshop (Actions and Text Effects)Melody Nieves
- Adobe PhotoshopHow to Add a Glow Effect in PhotoshopAbbey Esparza
- Adobe Photoshop25+ Free Sparkle and Glitter Effect Tutorials (Text Effects, Overlays, Photo Effects!)Maria Villanueva
Editorial Note: This post has been updated with contributions from Maria Villanueva. Maria is the Associate Editor of the Tuts+ Design channel.