Add Multiple Strokes to Text with Photoshop Layer Effects
Learn how to add multiple strokes around text in Photoshop using layer effects, and how to save the strokes as a layer style preset! A step-by-step tutorial.
Written by Steve Patterson.
In this tutorial, you’ll learn how easy it is to add multiple strokes around your text using layer effects in Photoshop! Specifically, I’ll show you how to add rainbow color strokes, but you can use these steps with any colors you like. And you can add as many strokes as you like, up to a maximum of 10. I’ll also show you how to save the strokes as a layer style preset so you can apply the effect to other text with a single click. And at the end of the tutorial, we’ll look at a problem you’ll run into when adding a drop shadow behind the strokes, and the simple way to fix it!
The option to add multiple strokes to the same layer was added fairly recently to Photoshop. So to follow along, you’ll need to be using a recent version, preferably Photoshop CC 2020 or later.
Here’s what the final “rainbow strokes” effect will look like when we’re done:
The final result.
Let’s get started!
How to add multiple strokes around your text
We’ll start by learning how to add more than one stroke around your text, and then I’ll show you how to save the result as a layer style preset.
Step 1: Create a new document
Start by creating a new Photoshop document. If you are on the Home Screen, click the Create New button:
Clicking “Create New”on Photoshop’s Home Screen.
Or if you are not on the Home Screen, go up to the File menu in the Menu Bar and choose New:
Going to File > New.
Then in the Preset Details section of the New Document dialog box, enter a Width and Height for your document. I’ll set the Width to 2000 pixels and the Height to 1200 pixels, but you can use whatever size you need. The Resolution value does not matter because it only applies to print, so I’ll leave it at the default setting. And finally, set the Background Contents to White:
Entering the new document settings.
Then click the Create button to create the document:
Clicking the Create button.
And the new document appears:
The new Photoshop document.
Step 2: Add your text
To add your text, select the Type Tool from the toolbar:
Selecting the Type Tool.
And then in the Options Bar, choose your font. I’m using HWT Gothic Round which I downloaded from Adobe Typekit, but any font will work:
Choosing a font.
The default type color is black, but you can choose a different color by clicking the color swatch in the Options Bar and then choosing a new color from the Color Picker. I’ll use black for now, but later on, I’ll show you how to change the text color using layer effects:
The color swatch shows the current text color.
Then click in the document and add your text. I’ll type the word “rainbow”:
Adding some text.
To accept it, click the checkmark in the Options Bar:
Clicking the checkmark.
Step 3: Resize the text with Free Transform
To resize the text, go up to the Edit menu and choose Free Transform:
Going to Edit > Free Transform.
And then click and drag any of the handles. If you’re using Photoshop CC 2018 or earlier, you’ll need to press and hold the Shift key on your keyboard as you drag to lock the aspect ratio in place. Make sure you leave enough room for the strokes that we will be adding around the text:
Resizing the text with Free Transform.
You can also move the text into place by clicking and dragging inside the Free Transform box. I’ll move my text into the center:
Centering the text in the document.
To accept it and close Free Transform, click the checkmark in the Options Bar:
Clicking the checkmark.
Related: Master Photoshop’s Free Transform command
Step 4: Add a Stroke layer effect
In the Layers panel, the text appears on a type layer above the Background layer. To add a stroke around the text, make sure the type layer is selected. Then click the fx icon:
Clicking the fx icon.
And choose Stroke from the list of layer effects:
Adding a Stroke effect.
Step 5: Choose a color for the stroke
The options for the stroke appear in the Layer Style dialog box. Choose a color for the stroke by clicking the color swatch:
Clicking the color swatch in the Layer Style dialog box.
And then choose a new color from the Color Picker. I’m setting my strokes to the colors of the rainbow (red, yellow, green, cyan, blue and magenta), working my way from the bottom color to the top. So the first color I need is magenta.
I’ll choose magenta by setting the R (Red) value to 255, the G (Green) value to 0 and the B (Blue) value to 255. Then I’ll click OK to close the Color Picker:
Setting R to 255, G to 0 and B to 255 for magenta.
Step 6: Set the stroke size
Set the width of your stroke using the Size option. I’ll set mine to 10 pixels.
It’s very important that you remember the size you choose here because we’ll be adding this value to each new stroke we add to the text:
Setting the size of the first stroke.
Step 7: Set the position of the stroke to Outside
Finally, set the Position of the stroke to either inside the edges, outside the edges or centered on the edges of your text. For this effect, I’ll choose Outside:
Setting the stroke’s position to Outside.
And we now have our first stroke around the text:
The first stroke is added.
Step 8: Add a second stroke
To add a second stroke, click the plus sign ( + ) next to the Stroke effect on the left of the Layer Style dialog box:
Clicking the plus sign.
A second stroke appears above the first. New strokes are always added above the previously-selected stroke, and you can add as many strokes as you like, up to a maximum of 10:
A second stroke is added above the original.
Step 9: Change the stroke color
The new stroke shares the same settings as the previous one. So to choose a different color, click the color swatch:
Changing the new stroke’s color.
And then choose a new color from the Color Picker. I’ll set my second stroke to blue by changing the R value to 0, and leaving G at 0 and B at 255. Then I’ll click OK:
Setting R to 0, G to 0 and B to 255 for blue.
What happened to the first stroke?
But notice that we now have a problem. We see our second, blue stroke around the text, but the original magenta stroke has disappeared.
The reason why we can’t see the original stroke is that the second one is sitting above it. And because both strokes are the same size (10 pixels), and they both share the same position (Outside), the stroke on top is completely blocking the stroke below it from view:
The second stroke is visible but the first one is not.
Changing the position of a stroke
One way to fix that would be to change the position of one of the strokes. I’ll click on the magenta stroke (the one on the bottom) to select it:
Selecting the first stroke.
Then I’ll change its Position from Outside to Inside:
Changing the first stroke’s Position to Inside.
And now with the magenta stroke on the inside of the text and the blue stroke on the outside, both strokes are visible:
Both strokes are visible after changing one of their positions.
The only problem with moving one of the strokes to the inside of the text is that the letters now look a bit too narrow. Plus we still have more strokes to add, which means that this solution is not going to work. So I’ll set the Position of the stroke back to Outside:
Resetting the Position to Outside.
And now we’re back to seeing just the blue stroke:
Back to the original problem.
Step 10: Add the size of the first stroke to the second stroke
So if changing the position isn’t going to work, how do we get the second stroke to appear around the outside of the first one? It’s actually very easy. All we need to do is make the new stroke wider than the original, and then move the new stroke below the original.
First, make sure the new stroke (the blue one) is selected:
Selecting the blue stroke.
Then take the size of the original stroke and add it to the size of the new stroke. In my case, my new stroke is 10 pixels wide, so if I add the size of the original stroke (also 10 pixels wide), I get 20 pixels:
Adding the size of the original stroke to the new stroke.
Step 11: Move the second stroke below the first
Then move the new stroke below the original by clicking the Down arrow at the bottom of the Layer Style dialog box.
Note that you can only move strokes above (using the Up arrow ) or below other strokes. You can’t move a stroke above or below other types of layer effects:
Clicking the Down arrow to move the second stroke below the first.
And now both strokes are visible around the outside of the text. The magenta stroke is sitting above the blue stroke, but because the blue stroke is 10 pixels wider than the magenta stroke, those outer 10 pixels of the blue stroke remain visible. And this creates the illusion that both strokes are actually the same width:
Both strokes now appear around the outside of the text.
Step 12: Add a third stroke
At this point, adding more strokes around the text is just a matter of repeating the same steps.
First add a new stroke by clicking the plus sign beside the stroke you just added. This will always be the stroke at the bottom:
Adding a third stroke.
Then click the color swatch to choose a new color:
Clicking the color swatch.
And in the Color Picker, choose cyan by leaving R at 0, changing G to 255 and leaving B at 255. Then click OK:
Setting R to 0, G to 255 and B to 255 for cyan.
Increase the size of the stroke by adding the size of the original stroke. By “original stroke”, I mean the very first stroke we added (the magenta one).
My new stroke is currently 20 pixels wide, so adding the size of the original stroke (10 pixels) means I need to increase the value to 30 pixels:
Increasing the Size of the third stroke.
And then move the new stroke below the previous one by clicking the Down arrow at the bottom of the dialog box:
Clicking the Down arrow.
And we now have three strokes (cyan, blue and magenta) around the text:
The effect with three strokes added around the text.
See also: How to add a rainbow to an image with Photoshop
Step 13: Add a fourth stroke
Add a fourth stroke by clicking the plus sign beside the bottom stroke:
Adding a fourth stroke.
Then click the color swatch:
Changing the color of the fourth stroke.
And in the Color Picker, choose green by leaving R at 0, G at 255, and changing B to 0. Then click OK:
Setting R to 0, G to 255 and B to 0 for green.
Next, add the original stroke size to the new stroke’s size. So 30 pixels plus 10 pixels equals 40 pixels:
Increasing the size of the fourth stroke.
Then move the new stroke below the others by clicking the Down arrow:
Clicking the Down arrow.
And we now have a green stroke around the text. Four strokes down, two to go:
A fourth stroke has been added.
Step 14: Add a fifth stroke
Add a fifth stroke by clicking the bottom stroke’s plus sign:
Adding a fifth stroke.
Then click the color swatch:
Changing the color of the fifth stroke.
And choose yellow by changing R to 255 and leaving G at 255 and B at 0. Then click OK:
Setting R to 255, G to 255 and B to 0 for yellow.
Next, add the original stroke’s size to the new stroke’s size, which takes me up to 50 pixels (40+10):
Increasing the size of the fifth stroke.
And then click the Down arrow to move the stroke below the others:
Clicking the Down arrow.
And we have our yellow stroke. Only one more rainbow color to go:
Five strokes added around the text.
Step 15: Add a sixth stroke
Add the sixth and final stroke by clicking the bottom stroke’s plus sign. Again, you can add up to 10 strokes but for our rainbow colors, we only need 6:
Adding a sixth stroke.
Click the color swatch:
Changing the color of the sixth stroke.
And then choose red by leaving R at 255, changing G to 0 and leaving B at 0. Then click OK:
Setting R to 255, G to 0 and B to 0 for red.
Increase the stroke’s size by adding the original stroke’s size, which brings mine to 60 pixels (50+10):
Increasing the size of the sixth stroke.
And finally, click the Down arrow to move the stroke below the others:
Clicking the Down arrow.
And with that, all six rainbow colors are now added as strokes around the text:
All six rainbow colored strokes around the text.
See also: Create a rainbow gradient in Photoshop
Changing the text color with a Color Overlay effect
At this point, we’ve added all of our strokes. But I don’t like that my text color is black. What I really want is for the text to be white so it matches the background. Now I could just click OK to close the Layer Style dialog box and then change my type color in the Options Bar. Or, I could change the color using a Color Overlay layer effect. Here’s how it works.
Step 1: Add a Color Overlay effect
Still in the Layer Style dialog box, I’ll select Color Overlay in the column along the left:
Adding a Color Overlay.
Step 2: Choose a new overlay color
Then I’ll change the overlay color by clicking the color swatch:
Changing the color of the overlay.
And in the Color Picker, I’ll choose white by setting R, G and B each to 255. Then I’ll click OK:
Choosing white in the Color Picker.
And now my text color is white. I like this better:
The rainbow color strokes with white text.
How to save the effect as a layer style preset
If you think you might use your multiple stroke effect again in the future, you can save it as a layer style preset.
To save it, click the New Style button on the right of the dialog box:
Clicking the New Style button.
Then in the New Style dialog box, give the new preset a name. I’ll name mine “Rainbow strokes”. And make sure Include Layer Effects is checked. We didn’t use any blending options so you can leave Include Layer Blending Options unchecked. And unless you want to add the preset to your Creative Cloud library, uncheck Add to my current library.
Then click OK to create the preset:
The New Style options.
And with the preset saved, click OK to close the Layer Style dialog box:
Closing the Layer Style dialog box.
How to apply the layer style preset
In the Layers panel, all of the strokes we applied to the text, as well as the Color Overlay effect, appear listed below the type layer:
The layer effects applied to the type layer.
To show you how to quickly apply the preset, I’ll delete the effects by right-clicking (Win) / Control-clicking (Mac) on the word Effects:
Right-click (Win) / Control-click (Mac) on “Effects”.
And then choosing Clear Layer Style from the menu:
Choosing “Clear Layer Style”.
And now we’re back to just the black text with no effects applied:
Back to the original text after clearing the layer effects.
Step 1: Select your type layer
To apply a layer style preset to the text, all we need to do is select the style we need from the Styles panel. But first, in the Layers panel, make sure that your type layer is selected:
Selecting the type layer.
Step 2: Open the Styles panel
Then if the Styles panel is not already open on your screen, open it by going up to the Window menu and choosing Styles:
Going to Window > Styles.
Step 3: Select the layer style preset
As of Photoshop CC 2020, Photoshop’s default layer styles are grouped into folders. But the style we just saved is sitting below the folders.
To apply the style to the text, simply click on the style’s thumbnail to select it:
Selecting the “Rainbow strokes” preset from the Styles panel.
And just like that, the entire effect is instantly applied:
The result after applying the “Rainbow strokes” layer style.
How to add a Drop Shadow to the effect
Finally, what if you want to add a Drop Shadow to the effect? You might think that you could simply add a Drop Shadow to the type layer itself. But the result may not be what you expect.
I’ll quickly add a Drop Shadow just so we can see the problem, and then I’ll drag the shadow away from the text. And notice that while the text itself is being shadowed, the strokes around the text are being ignored. This results in the shadow looking too narrow:
When applied to the type layer, the Drop Shadow ignores the strokes around the text.
We need a way to apply the Drop Shadow to both the text and the strokes. And we can do that by first adding the type layer to a layer group and then applying the Drop Shadow to the group itself.
Step 1: Add the type layer to a new group
With your type layer selected, click the menu icon in the upper right of the Layers panel:
Clicking the Layers panel menu icon.
And from the menu, choose New Group from Layers:
Selecting “New Group from Layers”.
Name the group “Text” and then click OK:
Naming the layer group.
And now the type layer is inside the group. You can twirl the group open or closed by clicking the arrow next to the folder icon:
The new group with the type layer inside it.
Step 2: Add a Drop Shadow to the group
With the group selected, click the fx icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:
Clicking the fx icon.
And choose a Drop Shadow layer effect:
Adding a Drop Shadow.
Step 3: Clear the multiple strokes
The settings for the Drop Shadow open in the Layer Style dialog box.
But before we change any of the settings, notice that the Effects column along the left is still cluttered with all of the strokes we added to the text. Even though none of the strokes are active, they are still taking up a lot of space:
The Layers panel still shows the multiple strokes.
Since we don’t need all of these strokes anymore, we can clear them by clicking the fx icon in the bottom left corner of the dialog box:
Clicking the fx icon.
And then choosing Reset to Default List from the menu:
Choosing “Reset to Default List”.
Step 4: Reselect “Drop Shadow”
Unfortunately, this deselects the Drop Shadow we chose initially, so you’ll need to reselect it:
Reselecting “Drop Shadow” from the Effects column.
Step 5: Choose your Drop Shadow settings
Then enter the settings you need for the Drop Shadow. I’ll leave the Angle at 135 degrees but I’ll increase the Distance to 30 pixels and the Size (which controls the softness of the shadow edges) to 15 pixels:
Setting the Angle, Distance and Size of the Drop Shadow.
And because we are applying the Drop Shadow to the layer group, everything inside the group, including the strokes around the text, is being shadowed:
The Drop Shadow now affects both the text and the strokes.
Step 6: Change the color of the shadow
Since the strokes around the text are so colorful, the black shadow looks out of place. So to change the shadow color, click the color swatch:
Clicking the color swatch.
Then choose a new color. I’m going to choose red. But rather than dialing in the values for red in the Color Picker, I’ll move my mouse cursor over the strokes and I’ll click on the outer red stroke to sample it:
Sampling a color from one of the strokes around the text.
Then in the Color Picker, I’ll choose a darker shade of red by lowering the Brightness (B) value down to 50 percent:
Lowering the brightness of the sampled color.
Click OK to close the Color Picker. Then click OK to close the Layer Style dialog box.
And here, with the Drop Shadow color changed to red, is my final result:
The final effect.
And there we have it! That’s how to add multiple strokes around text using layer effects in Photoshop!
For more ways to use layer effects with text, see my tutorials on how to add transparent text to an image, how to create spray painted text, or how to create sparkling gold letters!
And don’t forget, all of our Photoshop tutorials are available to download as PDFs!