Adding Multiple Strokes in Photoshop

Multiple strokes effect in Adobe Photoshop

Although it seems that is not possible to have multiple strokes effect in Photoshop, we can still achieve or simulate it. One way is to use tip with Smart Objects recently published on In this post I will present you different approach to achieve same result of multiple strokes around editable shape, type or pixel based layer. My tip is to use gradient for stroke instead of solid color. Trick is to set Fill Type to Gradient, Style to Shape Burst and gradient color stops at the same or near same locations. The beaty of adding multiple strokes around Shape and Type layers using gradient is that you will have only one fully editable layer. Lets go to my tip.

How to set Stroke settings
As already mentioned you can use this tip with Shape, Type or pixel based layer. For demonstarting purpose I will use Type layer. Just to mention that bigger font size is desired to achieve similar result as mine. I will use 120 point Candara Bold font but you can start with any font in size 48pt at least. First open Layer Style dialog by holding Alt/Opt + double clicking on Type layer thumbnail, or by right/Control clicking and choosing Blending Options.
Alt+double click type layer to open Layer Style dialog

Click on Stroke (letters) to expand this tab and see available settings.
Click on Stroke (letters) to see available settings

Before proceeding change stroke size to 5px for example and Position to Outside. Next is to choose Gradient from Fill Type drop-down list.
Change Fill Type to Gradient

Choose and Shape Burst from Style drop-down list to have instant preview of final effect on screen.
Choose Shape Burst from Style drop-down list

Click on Gradient rectangle to open Gradient Editor dialog.
Click on Gradient rectangle to open gradient editor

Choose any gradient as starting point or manually add color stops by clicking below gradient rectangle. I will use Two Color default gradient as starting point. My goal is to have 3 strokes with different colors around type, so I need at least 4 color stops. Since there are already 2, I will click twice below gradient rectangle to add two additional stops.
Add color stop to Gradient

For left side of gradient rectangle stop i will change color to yellow. Click on color stop to select it then click Color reactangle at bottom left od Gradient Editor dialog. When Color Picker (Stop Color) dialog opens, click inside color field to choose color then confirm on OK button.
Steps to change color of gradient color stop

For color in middle of gradient i want red. I will change next two gradient stops to red color in the very same way as described above for left side stop. Lastly I will change right side stop color to blue.
All color stops changed

Now comes main part. In order to my gradient appear as 3 strokes with different colors I need to move side stops close to inside stops, so there wont be any gradual transition. Click on both side stops and drag them close to those inside.
Drag color stop

Depend on Stroke Size you need color stops very close or at exact same Location. To see color stop location first click on it then take a look at Location percentages at middle bottom of Gradient Editor dialog. Now that you know location click on color stop you want to position next to it and type 1-2% bigger number. Watch on screen to see instant result. You can move around stops and experiment, just keep stops with different colors very close or at same position. You are not limited in number of colors but in this case I do not see any sense to use more then 3 colors which will simulate 3 strokes.
determine color stop location

When you are done click on OK button to confirm and exit Gradient Editor dialog. Click one more time OK to confirm and exit Layer Style dialog and you are done.
Result with multiple strokes

Take advantage of this method
You have now fully editable Type layer in this case and you can use all advantages: to retype text, change font, size, tracking, kerning, stroke settings at any time you want.

Play with Fill slider
You can also set Type layer fill to none or zero percent using Fill slider to have only stroke effect visible what makes very interesting and cool effect.
Change Fill opacity to zero percent

Use Emboss with Stroke only
One of effects that can be achieved whenever Stroke effect is applied to layer is to apply Bevel and Emboss to Stroke only without affecting layer content. Open Layer Style dialog, click on Bevel and Emboss letters to expand and see that tab with available settings, then choose Stroke Emboss from Style drop-down list. Continue exploring what is possible using available settings: Technique, Depth, Direction, Size, Contour...
Stroke Emboss

Bonus tip: dealing with small imperfections
Almost always, with most of available fonts, you will have some small imperfections. Most of them you can fix from Character panel using options like tracking and baseline shift. There are certain imperfections which can not be fixed with any available option. In this example imperfection is on letter i where strokes around top and bottom component are touching. Other fonts may have imperfections on s, e, r...
Imperfection on letter i

The only solution I know is to convert type to shape and to tweak letterform a little bit using Direct Selection Tool. To convert type to shapes right/Control + click on Type layer and choose Convert to Shape.
Convert type to shape

Use Direct Selection Tool to select anchor points in problematic area then apply correction like moving points up or down. Converting type to shapes you will lose editability and all options on Character and Paragraph panel but for that price you can fix small imperfections in your effect.
Fix imperfection using Direct Selection Tool

This is one more approve that is worth to know Layer Style dialog which is one of most important in Photoshop. Combining settings available you can achieve many effects that may seem impossible in first moment.


Product used in this tutorial: Adobe Photoshop CS6


  1. Awesome! LOL This effect is so cool! I used to add one stroke, then, 'Rasterize Layer Style'. Then, I'd add another style, etc. You can't edit any but maybe the final layer, so, this is excellent news!

    Thank you!


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