Image Stroke Options


Today’s Question: In Photoshop, the Stroke option is available both under Edit on the menu and as a layer style. What is the difference between the two? When I add a Stroke as a layer style it does not always show up on my image even though it shows up on the Layers panel. What am I doing wrong?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Choosing Stroke from the Edit menu in Photoshop applies the stroke directly as pixels on the image, while using the layer style adds a non-destructive stroke that is editable. If a stroke isn’t appearing on the image, it is most likely because it was added outside the image area.

More Detail: A stroke is a border around the perimeter of an image (or image layer), which can be added in a couple of different ways in Photoshop.

The approach I recommend is to add a stroke as a layer style, so that you maintain greater flexibility. With this approach you can think of the stroke as being similar to an adjustment layer, in that the image layer is not altered directly. Instead, the stroke is applied as an effect to the applicable layer, and you can always double-click on that effect to bring up the dialog that enables you to change the settings for the stroke.

If you choose the Stroke command from the edit menu the stroke is applied as pixels directly to the current image layer. You aren’t able to modify the stroke after the fact, other than using the Undo command to remove the stroke and then add it again with different settings.

If you add a stroke and it doesn’t appear on the image, the most likely reason is that the Location/Position setting was set to Outside, which adds the stroke outside the current image layer. If that image layer fills the entire canvas, your stroke will be hidden from view. You can choose Image > Reveal All from the menu to expand the canvas to reveal the additional stroke, but you can also set the Location/Position option to Inside so that the stroke will be positioned within the image area. Just keep in mind that with the Inside setting the stroke will cover up pixels around the perimeter of the image.

It is also possible that you reduced the setting for Opacity or used an option for Blend Mode that makes it difficult or impossible to see the stroke effect. By adding the stroke effect as a layer style you’ll maintain the option to easily refine the settings for the stroke as needed. Note that you can add a stroke as a layer style by clicking the “fx” button at the bottom of the Layers panel or by going to the menu and choosing “Layer > Layer Style > Stroke.