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Layer Opacity vs Fill in Photoshop

by SnickerdoodleDesigns on 5 October 2013
in Designer Tools & Tips,Photoshop CS+,Tutorials Pin this scrappy stuff!

One of the things that I love about Photoshop is that there is always something new to learn.

For the  purposes of this demonstration, I am using Photoshop CS6. Unfortunately,  the Fill option, which we will explore today, is not available in Photoshop Elements (unless it has been integrated into the new Photoshop Elements 13, which I have yet to explore.)

Some things in Photoshop are obvious. Sometimes I stumble across a tool or technique unexpectedly. And sometimes I have to deliberately set out to learn something I don’t understand. The later was the case for me with the Opacity and Fill options in the Layers Panel. Let’s take a look at those today.

The Opacity and Fill options are at the very top of the Layers Panel.


Both the Opacity and the Fill options control the transparency of a layer.  In the image below I have duplicated the word “Sweet.”  In the “Sweet” on the top layer, I have reduced the Opacity to 50%.  In the “Sweet” on the second layer, I have changed the Fill to 50%.  The end result looks the same on both words, doesn’t it?


So when DO the Opacity and Fill options make a difference?  The answer is:    When using Styles.

In the image below,  I have placed a small stroke on the text, as well as a slight drop shadow.


Now let’s lower the Opacity of the text layer to 50%:


We can see that everything on this layer is semi-transparent – the text as well as the Layer Styles.   Let’s take the Opacity back up to 100% and try lowering the Fill now.

In the image below, I have duplicated the text. I have lowered the Fill on the first layer to 50%, and the Fill on the 2nd layer to 0%.


The Fill option affects the transparency of the layer, which in this case is the text; but it does NOT affect the layer styles, here the Stroke and Drop Shadow.

We are seeing a gray color at the 50% Fill level because my original text was black.  If I had started with a different color text, the 50% Fill would result in 50% of the originating color.

You can see that at 0% fill, our text is totally transparent. We are left with only the Stroke and the Drop Shadow.

And that’s it. Simple, but elusive until you really take a look at it.

Experiment and have fun with this!  It’s a great way to add interest to your Title work!

“Everything is easy, once you know how to do it.”  ~ Jared Barneck

**Credit**  I have Halloween candy on my mind, which is why I chose to use the word “sweet” in this tutorial.  The paper used here is from Lil’ T.O.T.’s, a collaboration between SnickerdoodleDesigns and KimberKatt Scraps.  Visit both of our blogs to pick up some adorable *FREEBIES* to coordinate with Lil’ Tots.

SnickerdoodleDesigns Blog     |     KimberKatt Scraps Blog

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jewel 6 October 2013 at 2:02 am

This is a great way to do ‘embossed’ and ‘typeset’ styles … put your fill to 0 and then play with bevels!


2 jg 6 October 2013 at 2:14 pm

great tutorial! thanks for sharing it.


3 Faye 6 October 2013 at 8:32 pm

I had been wondering about fill – thanks for showing the difference to opacity so clearly :)


4 SnickerdoodleDesigns 6 October 2013 at 9:44 pm

Thank you for your comments, ladies! I’m glad to know you found this helpful.


5 Mar 8 October 2013 at 6:15 am

Thank you so much for explaining the difference between the opacity and the fill. I have tried them, like in your first example, and couldn’t tell a difference. Now, I’m anxious to give it a try on my next project.


6 Faith A 10 October 2013 at 9:34 am

How simply you have explained this, thank you. I have played around with both and haven’t seen a difference either, looks like I didn’t use the right example LOL.
Thank you


7 Alida 16 October 2013 at 10:15 pm

I have wondered about this for so long. Thanks for sharing.


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