I was trying to clean up the bottom of this bitmap bookmark by replacing blurry (i.e. Between black and the main grey color) pixels with the main grey color of the bokmarks.

I selected paint brush, then used the eye dropper tool to select the main grey color. When I subsequently tried to change the foreground color to black or any other color, however, the brush simply continued to paint in the grey color!

Eventually I figured out it is because the eye dropper must have picked up the layer style rather than the actual color, and so I was painting in the layer style. When I "cleared styles," however, all of the grey in this image disappeared and was replaced by whatever I had as the foreground color (the brush would then also finally paint in that color, but at this cost described...)

Could someone please explain why this happens, and how it might be possible to simply paint on to this layer in different colors without changing the existing layer style?

Thank you in advance.

enter image description here

1 Answer 1


Layer styles alter the entire layer.

If you do not want layer styles applied while painting, paint on a new layer without any layer styles applied to the layer.


Layers have internal structures. When you create an element such as type, a shape, vector object, or a brush stroke you start at the level closes to the canvas. Lets call this the painting area. When you add a Layer Style it gets stacked on top of or below the painting area in a predetermined location. The order in which the layer styles are listed in the Layer Style dialog refers to the order they are stacked on top of one another.

layer structure

The structure of layers with layer styles is somewhat complex and can be difficult to grasp unless you study it a bit.

Some Layer Styles will always fall below the painting area, while other Layer Styles will always be *above** the painting area. There is no way to add pixel data above some live layer styles on a single layer. With some Layer Styles you are always painting underneath the layer style. You can not change the stacking order of live Layer Styles.

The "Overlay" Layer Styles are designed to cover all pixel data on the painting level. Therefore, you can't use an overlay layer style and ask it to ignore a portion of the painting level. It sees the entire level. The exception is a Pattern or Gradient Overly which contains transparency, or any Layer Style where opacity has been reduced.

If you need different colored pixel data which is not effected by the layer styles, you need to add a new layer. The structure you are seeking is simply not possible on a single layer.

An alternative, which may or may not work for your given circumstance, is to right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Macintosh) on the Layer Style icon to the right of the layer name in the Layers Panel and choose "Create Layers":

Create Layers

This will split the layer styles into raster layers and their stacking order can then be altered. But be aware, this removed the dynamic ability to alter the Layer Styles any further. When you Create layers you are doing just that and each layer is then a standard pixel-based layer.

  • OK, thank you for the clarification. Although I understand the theory, I am still not sure why I cannot choose a color on that same layer and paint with it? Is it simply because once the layer style is applied to the layer, that just overrides anything else that is done to it in terms of color? i.e. What if the layer style had a gradient to transparency? How could I paint a color in the transparent area? Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 6:58
  • 2
    @Zak833 That's exactly it. You have a gradient overlay effect on the layer. What that tells the layer is that every pixel painted in that layer is affected by the gradient effect, no matter what colour is being painted. The layer effect rules over and trumps what ever is being painted on the layer. If you temporarily disable the gradient overlay (eye icon next to Gradient overlay) you'll see that the colour that you painted with is there underneath the effect. Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 9:14

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