Is there a way to add a pixelated gradient outline around a layer in Photoshop CC 2017?

I have tried using a stroke but each gradient layer is about 4 to 5 pixels in width. I need the each outline layer to be 1 pixel in width kind of like the top right image, which would be a pain in the *** doing the whole thing manually.

enter image description here


You can do this manually by contracting a selection:

  1. Use the 'Magic Wand' (W, might need to switch away from 'Quick Selection') tool to select all of your shape. Adjust tolerance to 1 if needed.
  2. Choose Select > Modify > Contract... and choose 1 pixel for the contraction value.
  3. Use the 'Paint Bucket' (G, might need to switch away from 'Gradient') tool to fill the contracted selection with a slightly different colour.
  4. Repeat steps 2. and 3. until you are content with the effect.

enter image description here


Not sure its exactly what you need, but try an 'Outer Glow' and play with the value in the 'Size' field, push the 'Spread' to 100% and try the 'Cove Deep' contour.

(outer glow)

  • This works but it is also kinda noisy(The pixels appear to be blending with surrounding pixels), is there a way to remove the noise and make the each layer of pixels more distinct. Like like the top right portion of my image. The reason Im being so picky is because I am trying to make a height map for a video game, and it looks best if there is no blending between pixels. Nov 24 '17 at 23:27
  • @Zachwuzhere Instead of 'Softer' you could try 'Precise'. And you can add an Adjustment Layer with a Posterize effect on top, then you'd have more control over the grayscale steps.
    – AAGD
    Nov 25 '17 at 12:07
  • I tried the precise technique, but it didn't really seem to do anything. I'll just stick with my c# script because Photoshop is apparently too complicated and advanced for me. Nov 25 '17 at 18:28

So after wasting 7 hours trying to do this in Photoshop, I just wrote a simple c# script that loops through each pixel (that is > 0 grayscale), and set its surrounding 8 pixels to a gradient. It looks terrible but it works for heightmaps!

enter image description here

  • If this is what worked for you, you should choose this as the best answer.
    – Billy Kerr
    Dec 18 '17 at 19:18

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