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How to Apply an Outer Glow to Layer Styles in Photoshop

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Read Time: 11 min
This post is part of a series called Intro to Photoshop Layer Styles.
Understanding Inner Shadows in Photoshop
Understanding the Inner Glow Setting in Photoshop

Photoshop layer styles help you add effects (e.g. drop shadows and strokes) in a non-destructive way. To achieve them, you need to understand what each setting does and how you can combine them. To that end, read this complete tutorial to learn about the Outer Glow setting and how to use it to make text glow in Photoshop.

Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel, with this video by Monika Zagrobelna on how to make text glow in Photoshop:

Or to learn how to create a similar neon light text effect, try this tutorial:

What You'll Learn in This Photoshop Glow Tutorial

  • The uses for a Photoshop Outer Glow
  • How to use the Layer Styles Inner Shadow dialog box
  • Photoshop Outer Glow: Blend Mode setting
  • Photoshop Outer Glow: Opacity setting
  • Photoshop Outer Glow: Noise setting
  • Photoshop Outer Glow: Color and Gradient settings
  • Photoshop Outer Glow: Technique setting
  • Photoshop Outer Glow: Spread setting
  • Photoshop Outer Glow: Size setting
  • Photoshop Outer Glow: Contour setting
  • Photoshop Outer Glow: Range setting
  • Photoshop Outer Glow: Jitter setting
  • How to save and load the default settings

The Uses for a Photoshop Outer Glow

When you hear the name "Outer Glow", you might 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 Photoshop text glow.

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.

Photoshop glow: outer glow as shadowPhotoshop glow: outer glow as shadowPhotoshop glow: outer glow as shadow
Differences in results for a Photoshop text glow

How to Use the Layer Styles Inner Shadow Dialog Box

If you want to learn how to add glow to text with a Photoshop glow effect, 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.

layer style dialog boxlayer style dialog boxlayer style dialog box
Layer Style dialog box for Outer Glow in Photoshop

Photoshop 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 Photoshop glow effect, Linear Dodge (Add) and 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.

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Blend Mode Setting for a Photoshop glow

In the following example, you can see that Linear Dodge (Add) will create a more extreme Photoshop text glow, while Screen will affect the Outer Glow in a slightly subtler way.

blend mode differenceblend mode differenceblend mode difference
Different results for a glow in Photoshop

Photoshop 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% will help you create a completely opaque Photoshop text glow.

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Opacity Settings for a Photoshop text glow

In the following Photoshop glow effect example, you can see that text on the left has a subtle glowing effect, while the one on the right is much more pronounced. Check them out to see what Photoshop text glow you prefer.

opacity differenceopacity differenceopacity difference
Determine the intensity of your Photoshop text glow

Photoshop 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.

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Noise Setting dialog box for a Photoshop glow 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.

noise differencenoise differencenoise difference
Determine the amount of noise for the glow effect in Photoshop

Photoshop 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.

how to change color of outer glow in Photoshop how to change color of outer glow in Photoshop how to change color of outer glow in Photoshop
Color and Gradient Settings dialog box for the Outer Glow Photoshop effect

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.

color and gradient differencecolor and gradient differencecolor and gradient difference
Differences in colors and gradients with a Photoshop Outer Glow effect

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.

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Technique Setting dialog box for a Photoshop glow

In the following Photoshop glow effect example, you can see the difference between the more organic-looking Softer setting and the Precise technique below.

precise softer outer glow diffferenceprecise softer outer glow diffferenceprecise softer outer glow diffference
Differences in the setting for a glow in Photoshop

Photoshop 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%.

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Spread Setting dialog box for Outer Glow in Photoshop

In the following Photoshop glow effect example, increasing the spread percentage from 0% to 50% gives the Outer Glow and harder edge.

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Differences in the Spread Setting for a Photoshop text glow

Photoshop 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.

outer glow sizeouter glow sizeouter glow size
Size Setting dialog box for the Photoshop glow effect

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.

size glow differencesize glow differencesize glow difference
Difference in results for the Size Settings for a glow effect in Photoshop

Photoshop 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.

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Counter Settings dialog box for Outer Glow in Photoshop

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.

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Counter difference for Outer Glow in Photoshop

Photoshop 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.

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Range Setting dialog box for Photoshop Outer Glow

In the following outer glow Photoshop example, you can see how changing the Range affects the softness of the Outer Glow.

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Range difference in Photoshop Outer Glow

Photoshop 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.

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Jitter Setting dialog box for a Photoshop glow

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.

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Jitter difference for a Photoshop glow

How to Save and Load the Default Settings

You can save and load default settings for each effect in the Layer Styles dialog box. When you click Make Default, Photoshop will store whatever settings are currently active as the new default settings for that effect.

When you click 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.

saving outer glow settings as presetsaving outer glow settings as presetsaving outer glow settings as preset
Saving settings for a glow in Photoshop

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.

Download this free glow effect Photoshop action.Download this free glow effect Photoshop action.Download this free glow effect Photoshop action.
Download this free glow effect Photoshop file.

Congratulations! You Know How to Make Text Glow in Photoshop

We've explored all the layer style settings to learn how to make text glow with Photoshop Glow Effect. Now it's your turn to play with the layer styles to create amazing glow effect Photoshop designs!

Photoshop Glow Tutorial Final ResultPhotoshop Glow Tutorial Final ResultPhotoshop Glow Tutorial Final Result
Photoshop Glow Tutorial Final Result

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)

Glow in the Dark Photoshop ActionsGlow in the Dark Photoshop ActionsGlow in the Dark Photoshop Actions

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)

Fearless Photoshop ActionFearless Photoshop ActionFearless Photoshop Action

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)

Neon Layer StylesNeon Layer StylesNeon Layer Styles

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)

Sparklers Animation Photoshop ActionSparklers Animation Photoshop ActionSparklers Animation Photoshop Action

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)

Sparkle Photoshop ActionSparkle Photoshop ActionSparkle Photoshop Action

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.

Discover More Photoshop Tutorials and Resources

Now you know all about using Outer Glow Photoshop styles and how to make text glow in Photoshop! If you want to learn more about adding glow effects to your images, try these tutorials:

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