How to Customize Stroke Effects in Photoshop

By Techwalla Computers Editor

Believe it or not, there is an art to working with strokes and Photoshop selections. You can add multiple strokes, dotted strokes, gradient and even pattern strokes. Stroke effects may take a little more effort than strokes in programs like Illustrator, but with a little creative thinking you can customize your stroke in any number of ways.

Step 1

Select the object you want to stroke. If you're selecting from an image area, hold down the "Command" and "J" keys to copy it to a new layer. This will allow you to isolate the stroke effects from the rest of the image layer and also use layer styles with your selection.

Step 2

Find the "Stroke" layer effect in the Layer Styles section of the Layers menu. Click "Preview" to see your changes live in the document. Make the basic settings such as stroke size (start with a large stroke, 12 to 14 pixels, to see effects better), stroke color and position (inside, outside or center). Now you're ready to see the real power of Photoshop.

Step 3

Choose "Gradient" as the Fill Type. Click on the Gradient preview to select one of the many Photoshop gradient presets. Choose "Radial" if you want the gradient to flow from the object to the background, and "Linear" if you want the gradient to follow the selection outline. Scale affects the distribution of colors along the stroke path.

Step 4

Change the blend mode to blend the stroke with the colors underneath. If the stroke is inside the circle it will blend with the circle; outside the circle will blend with the underlying layers. Blend effects differ, but start with "Multiply" to mix the darker shades and "Screen" to bring out the lighter shades. Close the dialog to apply the settings.

Step 5

Duplicate the layer and set the new layer's fill opacity to 0 percent (this will make the stroke visible but nothing else). Double click on the layer style in the layers palette and change the stroke settings. Make sure the stroke size is narrower than the size of the stroke on the layer underneath. You can add as many new stroke effects as you want this way.

Step 6

Add a dotted or dashed stroke by opening a hard-edged brush in the brushes palette and setting the brush tip shape spacing above 100 percent (the larger the percentage the more space between the dots). Hold down the "Command" key and click on the layer thumbnail to create a selection in the shape of the layer contents and clicking "Make Work Path From Selection" in the Paths palette. Create a new empty layer then click the "Stroke Path With Brush" button in the layers palette.

Step 7

Select all of the stroke effect layers in the Layers palette. Choose "Merge Layers" from the Layers menu to convert the layers to a single stroked object. If you want to keep the stroke effects editable, choose "Group From Layers" from the Layers menu New submenu. This will move all of the layers into one group that you can move or hide as a single unit.

Tips & Warnings

  • Add texture to your stroke by switching to a "Pattern" fill type. By applying different blend modes, you can make the pattern appear to be a texture using the layer's colors.