How to Add a Thick Outline to Type in Photoshop

Outline text and other objects to create graphic elements

What to Know

  • Select Type Tool > create text or object. In Fx menu > Stroke. Set Size, Location, Blending Mode, Opacity, and Color > OK.
  • Or, select Horizontal Type Mask Tool > enter text > Command (macOS) or Control (Windows) > hold key to adjust text or object.
  • Then, switch to Move Tool and add an outline (stroke) to the selection.

This article explains how to create a thick outline in Photoshop 6 or later without losing the ability to edit the text or object.

How to Add a Thick Outline in Photoshop

There are several ways to create outlined text in Photoshop, but most require you to render the text. Here's a technique for a thick outline that allows the type to remain editable. You can use this technique to add an outline to any object or selection, not just text.

  1. Select the Type Tool (vertical or horizontal, as appropriate) and create the text.

    The Text Tool
  2. With the Type layer selected, choose Stroke from the fx menu.

    The Stroke effect command
  3. Set the size (in pixels) by using the slider or entering your own value.

    The Size settings of the Stroke effect
  4. Choose a Location for the stroke:

    • Inside means the stroke will be placed inside the edges of the selection.
    • Center puts the stroke equally inside and outside the selection.
    • Outside runs the stroke along the outside edge of the selection.
    The Position settings for the Stroke effect
  5. Blending Mode: The choices here determine how the colored stroke will interact with the colors under the stroke. This is especially effective if the text is placed over an image.

    Blend Mode settings for the Stroke effect
  6. Opacity sets the transparency value for the stroke.

    The Opacity setting for the Stroke effect
  7. Click once on the color chip to open the color picker. Select a color for the stroke, or pick a color from the underlying image. Click OK to apply your color.

    The Color option for the Stroke effect
  8. Select OK to add the effect based on your settings.

    The OK button in the effects window

In Photoshop 6 or later, the Stroke layer effect is a better way to add outlines to objects. Adding a stroke to text is not a best practice because it tends to make the text bolder and less legible. This is one of those techniques you should use only when the text is treated as a graphic element. Even then, be subtle.

How to Add a Thick Outline to Type Quickly

If you're pressed for time, here's an easy method that takes about 45 seconds.

  1. Select the Horizontal Type Mask Tool.

    The Horizontal Type Mask Tool
  2. Click once on the canvas and enter your text. The canvas will turn pink, and the underlying image or color will show through as you type.

  3. Press the Command (macOS) or Control (Windows) key, and a bounding box will appear. With the key held down, you can resize, distort, move, or rotate the text.

  4. Switch to the Move Tool, and the text appears as a selection. From there, you can add a stroke to the selection.

    The Move tool

Alternatively, you can use a Brush on the selection.

  1. Create the text outline using one of the two techniques shown.

  2. Select Window > Paths.

    Photoshop Window > Paths
  3. Select the Make Work Path option from the bottom of the Paths panel. This will result in a new path named "Work Path."

    The New Path button
  4. Select the Brush Tool.

    The Brush tool
  5. Open the Brush panel to choose an appropriate brush.

    Photoshop Brush panel
  6. Click the foreground color chip in the tools to open the Color Picker to choose a color for the Brush.

    The Foreground color
  7. In the Paths panel, with your path selected, click once on the Stroke path with brush icon (the hollow circle). The brush stroke is applied to the path.

    The Stroke Path with Brush command


If you edit the text, you'll need to trash the outline layer and recreate it.

For a thinner outline, the layer effects method is preferred (see related information below).

For a ragged outline, set the layer blend mode to Dissolve and lower the opacity.

For a gradient-filled outline, Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (macOS) on the outline layer, and fill the selection with a gradient.

If you have a Creative Cloud account, open your Creative Cloud Library and double-click a brush you have created to apply it to a path. You can create brushes easily with the​​ Adobe Capture app, which is available for Android and iOS devices.

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