Free your layer effects by dropping Fill to 0%

mmmDropLayer Effects are a really powerful set of tools for creating quick effects applied to pixel information. Most people think of them in terms of typographic or design-y uses, but they’re an absolutely essential component of a high-res photo realistic retouching workflow. Follow this trick to free them from your layer stack and add endless flexibility.

Drop that Fill

My preferred method is to create a masked Color Fill Layer based on whatever shape I want the layer effect to be. Reduce the Fill – not the Opacity – to 0%, and watch as the Color Fill disappears and the Layer Effect remains.

Color Fill w/Layer Effect & 0% Fill

Color Fill w/Layer Effect & 0% Fill


By reducing the Fill to 0%, you’re telling Photoshop that you don’t want to see what’s IN the layer, but you’re cool with retaining the Layer Effect that’s been applied TO it.

By applying the Layer Effect to a mask, you’re keeping all of the flexibility that comes with a mask – the ability to Refine Edge, change the shape of the Layer Effect by painting on the mask, and smudging or feathering the mask edges manually.



  • Daniel Damocles Wall

    You can do the same thing on a blank layer with a mask by unchecking “Transparency Shapes Layer” inside your Layer Style palette. I’ve used this technique a lot over the years and am always surprised when I find other retouchers don’t use it.

    • sefmccullough

      Daniel thanks that’s killer. I just used that and it works great. I’m going to test the differences between the two techniques and add the results to this post. I actually feel like the technique you describe is the way the results were intended to be achieved by the adobe programmers.

      To clarify, the setting Daniel describes is in the Layer Styles palette, under Blending Options.

      Thanks Daniel!

  • Rachel Kissel

    Sef, can you post any examples of how you might use this? Maybe just a quick screen grab and Imgur it?

    • Sef

      I’m working on a video post to show the steps better – stay tuned for v2.0 of this post.

      • Rachel Kissel

        Awesome! I’m looking forward to it!

  • Verco

    Also very interested to see how this is applied to an image