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A Layer Style is an effect like a Drop Shadow or a Bevel and Emboss or a Glow that is applied to just one layer at a time, and that will affect the edge of that layer, the area between the content on the layer and any transparent pixels around the outside of the layer. Many of the layer styles that come with Elements add dimension to a photo, helping you to get the photo look like it's up and off the page. Before I apply a layer style, I always check the LAYERS panel, and I make sure that I've selected the proper layer on which I want the layer style to appear.
Let me show you what's on each layer in this image. I am going to hold down the Option key and click on the Eye icon to the left of the photo layer and you can see that that layer contains this photograph as well as some transparent pixels all around the photograph. Then I'll show you what's on the white background layer by holding the Option key and clicking in the visibility field to the left of the white background layer. This layer is filled entirely with white. So when I turn on the photo layer again by Option+clicking the white background layer icon, what you see is that where the photo layer is transparent, you can see down through to the white background below.
And that makes the white kind of look like a frame around the photo. But now to make that frame look even more realistic, I am going go to the EFFECTS panel, where I am going to click the second icon to display thumbnails of available layer styles. This menu offers categories of layer styles. So, let's say that I leave this at Bevels. I can select one of the thumbnails and to apply that kind of a bevel, I'll go down to the Apply button and click, and that's applied this Inner Ridge style bevel to the photo layer. I'll make the white background layer temporarily invisible by clicking its Eye icon, so that you can see that that layer style is on the photo layer, around the edge of the layer.
Once I apply a layer style to a layer, the layer gets a little fx icon on the right side of it here in the LAYERS panel. I am going to turn the white background on again by clicking the Eye icon to the left of the white background layer. Now let's say I want to try out another layer style. I really need to use a trial-and- error process because there is no real preview of layer styles. So if I want to try out a different layer style, I'll undo this one by pressing Command+Z. This time I am going to go to another category of layer style, I am going to choose Inner Shadows, and I am going to click on the second icon below Inner Shadow and apply that, but first, I want to make sure that I am on the photo layer in the LAYERS panel, which is really important.
So I've selected the photo layer, I have the Low Inner Shadow thumbnail selected in the layer styles area of the EFFECTS panel and I am going to click Apply. That put this Inner Shadow around the inside of the photo layer, making it look like the photo is recessed inside of the frame. Now layer styles are cumulative. I can have more than one on a layer. So with the photo layer still selected, I am going to go up to the Category menu in the EFFECTS panel and this time, I am going to choose the Strokes category.
Here I'll click on the second icon, Black Stroke 10 pixels. If I leave my mouse over that thumbnail, by the way, a tool-tip comes up and tells me the full name of that layer style. And then I'll go down and I'll click Apply. That applies this stroke around the outside of the selected photo layer. In addition to the Inner Shadow layer style that I had applied to that same layer. I've shown you only a few of the many layer styles that are available. There are lots of choices and I urge you to explore them on your own time. My favorites are the ones that add dimension, like the ones I have shown you here.
Try using them to make a photo pop up off of the frame, as I've shown you how to do.
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