Invisible Stroke

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Today’s Question: I’m trying to add a line around a photo using the Stroke feature, but it never actually appears in my image. I have even set the size very large, but it doesn’t show up. Do you have any idea what I’m doing wrong?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Under typical conditions, the most likely reason the Stroke effect isn’t showing up in your image is that the stroke is being added outside the image area, causing it to be beyond the visible canvas. You can use the “Inside” option for the Position setting, or use the “Reveal All” command to reveal a stroke that has been placed outside the image.

More Detail: To add a Stroke (or other effect) to an image layer in Photoshop, that layer first needs to be a “normal” layer rather than a Background layer. To convert a Background image layer to a normal layer you can simply double-click on the thumbnail for the Background image layer on the Layers panel, and then click OK in the New Layer dialog.

Next, click the “Add a Layer Style” button (the button with the “fx” icon on it) at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose “Stroke” from the popup menu. In the Layer Style dialog you can then adjust the settings for the appearance of the stroke.

I generally start out setting the color for the stroke, which in my case is most often black. You can select “Color” as the Fill Type for the stroke, and then click the color swatch labeled “Color” to bring up the Color Picker where you can select the color you want to use for the stroke effect.

Initially you can set the Opacity to 100% so you are better able to see the effect. You can always reduce the Opacity setting later. You can also change the Blend Mode if you want to use something other than “Normal”. And if you have reduce the Opacity setting, turning on the Overprint checkbox will cause the underlying image to show through the stroke, if applicable.

The Position is a key setting that can cause confusion. If the Position is set to Outside, and the current image layer extends all the way to the end of the canvas, you’ll never see the stroke effect. Instead, you can use the Inside option, in which case part of your image will be covered by the Stroke effect. Note that the Center option for Position will cause the Stroke effect to appear half inside and half outside the image.

If you don’t want to cover up any of your image, you can use the Outside setting for Position. You won’t see the actual stroke at this point if the image extends to the edge of the canvas. But after adding the stroke you can choose Image > Reveal All from the menu to enlarge the canvas so the entire stroke area is visible.