How to Add a Thick Outline to Type in Photoshop

Outline text and other objects to create graphic elements

The Photoshop Stroke Layer effect Panel

Lifewire / Sue Chastain

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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.

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.

"Stroke" means "outline" in Photoshop jargon.

This is easy and should take only about two minutes.

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

    Photoshop text tool
  2. With the Type layer selected, choose Stroke from the fx menu.

    Photoshop text fx menu
  3. When the Layer Style dialog box opens, be sure Stroke is selected.

    Photoshop Layer Style > Stroke
  4. Set the width as desired by using the slider or entering your own value.

  5. Choose a Location for the stroke:

    • Inside means the stroke will be placed inside the edges of the selection.
    • Center puts the stroke 10 pixels inside and 10 pixes outside the selection.
    • Outside runs the stroke along the outside edge of the selection.
    Photoshop Layer Style > Stroke > Position
  6. 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.

    Photoshop Layer Style > Stroke > Blend Mode
  7. Opacity sets the transparency value for the stroke.

  8. 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.

    Photoshop Layer Style > Stroke > Color
  9. Hit OK.

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.

    Photoshop 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.

    Photoshop text mask

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."

    Work Path in Photoshop
  4. Select the Brush Tool.

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

    Photoshop Brush panel
  6. Double-click the foreground color chip in the tools to open the Color Picker. Choose a color for the Brush.

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

    Photoshop stroke path

Tips

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.