Layer Styles: Bevels, Shadows, Glows, And More!

While many graphics are easy to read at print resolutions, they quickly become lost in the frame when keyed over moving video. In the print world, type is generally placed over a solid color (such as white paper). In the video space, we frequently mix type with motion, and this results in an issue referred to as type on pattern.

There are several strategies for assisting with readability in these situations. Common techniques include adding bevels, glows, or contrasting drop shadows. While there are many excellent Photoshop techniques and software products developed over the years, nothing is better suited for the video world than proper use of Layer Styles.

What are Layer Styles?

Imagine effects that never need rendering. Did I mention that they are infinitely customizable? Oh, and if you make a change on the layer, they instantly update. Photoshop offers several customizable effects that can be applied to a layer. The effects that are applied to a layer become the layer's custom style.

Layer Styles are the perfect tools for a video pro with deadlines. Layer Styles are fast. They can be embedded into the document or easily transported, eliminating the need for identical plug- ins and cross-platform issues. Better yet, there are thousands of Layer Styles available online for free. And best of all, the effects are "live" (much like After Effects), which gives you the ability to apply, stack, undo, or remove as many times as you (or the producer) wants.

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Styles aka Effects

Layer styles are often referred to as layer effects. Do not get confused if looking at articles or tutorials.

More Styles from the Mothership

Looking for more Layer Styles? Be sure to check out the incredible adobexchange.com site and you will find a generous community offering free Layer Styles.

Slending Options..

Drop Shadow... Inner Shadow... Outer Clow... Inner Glow... Bevel and Emboss. Satin...

Color Overlay-Gradient Overlay... Pattern Overlay... Stroke...

The best way to understand Layer Styles is to simply apply them. Of course, there are a few gotchas—it wouldn't be a computer application if there weren't. Layer Styles are designed to work inside of Photoshop, which means they aren't particularly friendly when you import layered files into a video application. They also don't work perfectly with alpha channels. However, both problems can be solved in 15 seconds, still leaving Layer Styles well ahead of the race against the clock. There are four major ways to apply styles:

• The Add a Layer Style pop-up menu at the bottom of the Layers palette

• The Style palette

• The Layer Style dialog box

• The Layer menu (Layer>Layer Style)

Each provides unique advantages, depending upon your situation. We will cover all four in this chapter, but let's start with the pop-up menu.

Step 1. Create a new document sized for video using the NTSC D1 preset.

Step 2. Place an element such as text on an empty layer. Choose a thick, sans serif font and type a short word.

Step 3. Go to the bottom of the Layers palette; click on the fx icon (older versions use a circular f). Choose the first effect, Drop Shadow.

Step 4. The Layer Style dialog box appears, and you have the chance to tweak your effect.

Shadows...Go Forth and Multiply

^ The most practical blending mode for shadows is Multiply. Th is causes the shadows to mix with the background on which they are lying and create a darkening effect.

Drop Shadow

The drop shadow is a straightforward effect that will serve well as an introduction to the other Layer Styles. Many of the options presented will reoccur in other Layer Styles.

Blend Mode: You can specify the blending mode for the shadow. Different colors and modes will produce very different results. Remember, shadows aren't always black; they often pick up the color of the light source or background on which they are cast. The Multiply blending mode is the most common for shadows.

Color: By default, the shadow is set to black. To change the color of the shadow, click on the colored rectangle to load the Adobe Color Picker. You can also pick a contrasting color to help offset your type or logo on a busy background. This allows the shadow to more realistically blend with lower layers.

Opacity: You will want to adjust the opacity to taste. Opacity is the opposite of transparency; the higher the number, the less you can see through the layer.

Angle: This setting affects the direction of the shadow.

Use Global Light: The Global Light option allows for a consistent light source for all layer effects. It's a good idea to leave the Global Light box checked so that your designs have realistic lighting. You can adjust the angle to modify all your effects.

Distance: The Distance option affects how far the shadow is cast. If numbers aren't your thing, you can simply click in the window and manually drag the shadow into a new position.

Spread: This affects how much the shadow disperses. Higher numbers create greater dispersal.

Size: This modifies the softness of the shadow. Higher numbers create softer edges.

Contour: While most users skip the Contour settings, you will not. The Contour is a curve; it represents how Photoshop fades transparency. We'll explore this powerful option later in this chapter.

Anti-aliased: Don't forget to check the Anti-aliased box. Antialiasing will give you smoother on-screen results, especially at video resolutions.

Noise: Noise can add random dispersion to your style. This can help make the effect look more natural as well as reduce banding on a video monitor.

Layer Knocks Out Drop Shadow: This option is checked by default (and should probably stay that way). It ensures that the shadow does not bleed through partially transparent text.

Uncheck the Drop Shadow box to remove the shadow, and then click on the Inner Shadow box.

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This first volume will guide you through the basics of Photoshop. Well start at the beginning and slowly be working our way through to the more advanced stuff but dont worry its all aimed at the total newbie.

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