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Understanding the Inner Glow Setting in Photoshop

This post is part of a series called Intro to Photoshop Layer Styles.
How to Apply Outer Glow to Layer Styles in Photoshop
The Comprehensive Guide to Bevel and Emboss

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, any effect can be achieved. 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 feature and show you how to unlock their potential.

In this article, Part 5: Photoshop Layer Styles Inner Glow, we will explain the settings behind the Inner Glow and how it can be used. Let's take a look!

The Uses For An Inner Glow

Inner Glow is one of the lesser-used effects within Photoshop layer styles, but that doesn't mean it isn't as useful.

On top of creating a glowing effect, Inner Glow can also be used to simulate an embossed or cut out effect, create some depth within your styles, as well as add an inner stroke to your design.

Below you will see an example of how an Inner Glow can be used to simulate a shadow behind a cut out shape, and create an icy type effect. One tool, two very different uses.

The Layer Styles Inner Glow Dialog Box

The Inner Glow dialog box is shown below. Not much different than Outer Glow, but you will notice a new Source radio button selection area with Center and Edge as the options.

Blend Mode

The Blend Mode dropdown allows you to set the blending mode for your Inner Glow. If you are looking to create a glowing affect, Linear Dodge (Add) or Screen are good modes to use, if you want to create an "inner shadow" type effect, Linear Burn or Multiply work well, and if you are trying to create an inner 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 Screen, on the left, will add the green Inner Glow in a more subtle way when compared to Linear Dodge (Add), on the right.


The Opacity slider allows you to specify how transparent your Inner Glow will be. A setting of 0% is completely transparent while 100% is completely opaque.

In the following example, you can see that text on the left has a more subtle burned effect, while the one on the right is more dramatic.


By now you should be familiar with the Noise slider. Increasing the Noise slider will add a bit of noise to your Inner Glow, allowing you to add some grit to your styles.

In the following example, you can see that adding a small amount of noise can go a long way in changing the overall look of our style.

Color and Gradient

When the corresponding radio button is selected, the Color block allows us to change the color of the Inner 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 Inner Glow, while experimenting with different gradients can help us achieve more unique effects, like the psychedelic slime effect below.


The Technique dropdown box gives us two different options for rendering our Inner Glow, Softer and Precise. Softer gives us an Inner Glow that is more organic and natural looking, while Precise fits the shape of the glow tighter to the original shape of the layer.

In the following example, you can see the difference between the more organic looking Softer setting, and the harder edges of the Precise technique on the right.


The Source radio buttons allow you to specify whether you want to Inner Glow to eliminate from the edges of your shape, or from the center of your shape.

In the following example, you can clearly see the difference in where the Inner Glow originates.


The Choke slider changes the falloff of the Inner Glow in a linear fashion, or in other words, how gradually it fades out at the edges.

For a typical Inner Glow, you will normally want to leave this at 0%, but for more intense glows you should increase it, and for inner strokes with hard edges you can set it all the way to 100%.

In the following example, increasing the spread percentage from 0% to 100% turns the Inner Glow into a hard-edged stroke.


The Size slider is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to increase the size of the Inner Glow in 1px increments. The higher the Size value is, the bigger the Inner Glow becomes.

In the following example, the Inner Glow on the left is less prominent while the one on the right stands out more and gives us a more velvety look.


The Contour shapes allow you to change the falloff of the Inner 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 is 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 example, changing the Contour to a "sine wave" shape results in an Inner Glow with a ripple-type effect, which is perfect for our wet style.


Adjusting the Range is similar to changing the Choke. It allows you to control the falloff of your Inner 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 example you can see how changing the Range affects the softness of the Inner Glow.


You need to choose a gradient for Jitter to have any effect. The option adds color and transparency noise across the gradient to produce an effect similar to Noise. The higher the Jitter value, the more pronounced the effect becomes. This option is useful to reduce gradient banding..

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 custom default settings if you want to start over.

One for the Road

Until next time, this free, exclusive layer style and accompanying .PSD will help you see how different glows can be used in conjunction with each other to achieve some beautiful subtle effects.

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