Unfortunately I can't find any topics to this specific issue. The ones I found are just "workarounds".

I want to achieve following style in Photoshop (the white border around the map, uneven width and automatic, no searching with manual adjustments and Undos until the right border appears):

enter image description here

I know how to make "rough" edges or similar by using a different texture or something like that, also by manually editing a mask (with spatter or whatever filter) maybe. But how to just make the stroke layer style "uneven"? There aren't any options with that style in Photoshop, are there? How is it possible to achieve this without having to do it manually?

Probably pretty much the "roughen edges" effect from AFX. So I can just put on an effect and the lines will always be uneven. Thanks.

  • Thanks guys! So, it looks like it's really possible what I'm looking for. Those manual workarounds look good, but yeah, they just are manual editing. I wish there was some style (like that bevel one but that looks not so good) to just apply. Oh well.
    – sigug
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 12:20

4 Answers 4


Here's one simple method you could use, and it's non-destructive.

  1. Create a shape layer for the landmass/island - with a fill, and no stroke
  2. Duplicate the layer, add a white stroke, change the stroke type to "outer".
  3. Drag the duplicated shape layer, under the original shape layer.
  4. Use the Liquify filter to slightly distort the white stroke. Photoshop will by default turn the layer into a smart object, allowing you to add the liquify filter non-destructively as a Smart Filter, so you can edit it again if you go too far.

Here's an example showing the arrangement of the layers and the result of using the above technique.

enter image description here

Note: when using the Liquify filter, you can enable the "Show backdrop" option, so you can actually see the other layers while you distort.

enter image description here


I'd try something like this.

Note that there's a lot of room to experiment here. Don't just try to copy all the values I used.

  1. Take a selection from the land layer (Cmd+Click Layer thumbnail).
  2. Duplicate the layer Cmd+J
  3. Apply Filter > Distort > Zig Zag
    • Style: Out From Center and Pond Ripples worked the best.
    • I used Style: Out From Center Amount: 14 Ridges: 16
    • All of these values are pretty specific to my map and its size. I'm giving you them as an example.
  4. Apply the Zig Zag filter on the other layer with the same settings, but minus the same amount you used before. In my case Amount: -14 Cmd+Alt+Ctrl+F
  5. Merge the two layers Cmd+E
    • The edge may be a little soft in places where Zig Zag stretched the image the most. If you don't want that, one simple way to handle it might be to duplicate the merged layer and merge down again.
  6. If the original coastline has sharp corners and you want those smoother out, you could take a new selection from the merged layer and Select > Modify > Smooth. I smoothed it by 3px. Then I filled a new layer with the coastline color.

...and this is what I got:

enter image description here

I figured it wouldn't hurt to give it a manual push here and there so I used Liquify, as suggested by Billy, to do little fix ups. I didn't go absolutely crazy with it, but my goal was to expand it a little more in places with more land mass and bring it in a little where there are like islands and stuff. For this one, I darkened the second coastline a bit.

enter image description here

Other attempts

This is what I got by applying Zig Zag with Amount: 3 Ridges: 3 Style: Pond Ripples and on the other layer Amount: -4 Ridges: 9 Style: Pond Ripples

enter image description here

I wanted to try and leave a more uneven coastline, so... Here I tried just using one layer and applying Zig Zag to it twice. First I used a minus amount and then I used Zig Zag again with a plus amount and a slightly different value for the ridges.

enter image description here

I also tried to add a tiny blur (0,5px) to the original coastline, which didn't look terrible.

  • Thanks. Yeah, it's still the manual workaround I was writing about. It would be way too extensive to do it that way each time, that's why I was looking for an automatic way. Don't get why there isn't an option in the stroke effect. Anyway - may I ask what paper texture you used?
    – sigug
    Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 20:07
  • @Grimwood, you know you can record all of these steps into an Action and do it in one button press... Actions do take a hot second to run, but in this case it should be fine. I just Googled for paper textures and brown paper textures. It's like 3 different textures piled up, I have no idea which ones they are...
    – Joonas
    Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 20:11
  • 1
    I wanted to make sure the action was actually possible to make... and yea... It is... I did have to make a separate action for the land and the road. Here's a gif of the actions in use
    – Joonas
    Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 23:10
  • @Grimwood, if you get stuck making the Action, don't hesitate to ask. It's slightly more complicated than the steps in my answer. — I'm going to throw this idea out there... It's possible to record triggering a script into your Action. So you could randomize the values in the zig zag filter (or whichever filter(s) you want to use. Distort > Wave may even be better, but it's a bit harder to use). That way you'd get a slightly different edge every time. You could use the Scripting Listener plugin to capture the filter as javascript code and then randomize the values using a min and max value.
    – Joonas
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 9:10

ADD: Just noticed that avoiding manual adjustments is the point. This is only a workaround.

One method to try; it needs no advanced vector and layer functionality nor manual drawing the non-uniformity. It's as possible in GIMP or Paint.NET:

Have your coastline (+ land) as white pixel layer; I assume the brown interior is decorative only.

enter image description here

With Filter > Render add some clouds as white on grey background, blur them with gaussian blur. Duplicate the coastline layer

enter image description here

Give to the blurred clouds blending mode darken, reduce the opacity, select the coastline copy and blur it too. The selection prevents blurring the outside.

enter image description here

Merge the blurred clouds and the blurred coastline. Make a selection with the magic wand (if you sample all layers, no merging is needed) which contains the forthcoming brown fill. Contract the selection if it's too near the white shape.

enter image description here

Fill the selection with brown. Close the blurred parts.

enter image description here

For roads and rivers you probably do better if you have only constant wide white.

enter image description here

Roads were originally white. A red copy was made. It's exterior was selected, the selection was expanded few pixels and a part of the red was deleted.


Try adding a Bevel & Emboss Effect

  • Style = Outer Bevel
  • Technique = Chisel Hard
  • Change the Gloss Contour
  • Highlight Mode = Normal, 100% white
  • Shadow Mode = Normal, 100% white


Apply a texture


Apply a thin same color outside stroke


It's an idea, sure it can be refined by testing other textures or options to adapt it to your work.



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