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. However, unless you are using a very old version of Photoshop, the Strokelayer effect is a better way to add outlines to objects in Photoshop 6 or later. In case you were wondering, “stroke” is just another way of saying outline in Photoshop jargon.
Just keep in mind adding a stroke to text is not exactly regarded as a best practice. All it tends to do is to make the text bolder and to make the text illegible. This is one of those techniques you should only use when the text is to be regarded as a graphic element. Even then, unless there is a valid and compelling reason to do so, be subtle.
How to Add a Thick Outline to Type
This is easy and should take only about 2 minutes.
- Select the type tool and create your text.
- With the Type Layer selected, choose Stroke from the Fx menu.
- When the Layer Style dialog box opens, be sure Stroke is selected.
- Set the width to the desired amount by using either the slider or entering your own value.
- Choose a Location for the stroke. (Let’s assume you have added a 20-pixel stroke.) There are three choices.
- The first is Inside. This means the stroke will be placed inside the edges of the selection.
The second is Center. This means the stroke will appear 10 pixels inside and out of the selection.
The third is Outside. This means it will run the stroke along the outside edge of the selection.
- 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.
- Opacity sets the transparency value for the stroke.
- 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.
How to Very Quickly Add a Thick Outline to Type
If you are really lazy or pressed for time, here’s another way. This method is ridiculously easy and takes about 45 seconds.
- Select the Horizontal Type Mask Tool.
- Click once on the canvas and enter your text. You may have noticed that the canvas turned red and the underlying image showed through as you typed. That is just Photoshop showing you the mask.
- Press the Command (Mac) or Control (PC) key and a bounding box will appear. With the key held down, you can resize, distort or rotate the text.
- Switch to the Move tool and the text appears as a selection. From there, you can add a stroke to the selection.
- You don’t always have to add a solid stroke to the selection. You can use a Brush.
- Create the text outline using one of the two techniques shown.
- Open the Path panel by selecting Window > Paths.
- Select the Make Work Path option from the bottom of the Paths panel. This will result in a new path named “Work Path.”
- Select the Brush Tool.
- In the Photoshop Options, click once on the Brush icon to open the Brushes available to you. Alternatively, you can open the Brush panel to choose an appropriate brush.
- Double-click the foreground color chip in the tools to open the Color Picker. Choose a color for the Brush.
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.
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 (PC) or Command-click (Mac) 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. Brushes are easily created using the Adobe Capture app which is available for Android and iOS devices.