How to Play with Contours in Photoshop CS6

By Barbara Obermeier

Several of the layer effects in Adobe Photoshop CS6 have various options for contours. Contours change the distribution of the colors in the effect. The default setting for all the effects except satin is linear contour. In an effect with a linear contour, the opacity drops off in a straight line.

But you’re not limited to the linear contour option. Click the arrow of the Contour option to make a variety of preset contours appear in a drop-down menu. Click the panel arrow to load the complete contour preset library by choosing Contours at the bottom of the menu. You can also click the Load Contours command to load other libraries you may have saved previously or acquired from elsewhere.


The presets offer contours such as Ring, Rolling Slope, and Sawtooth, all of which create rings of transparency within the shadows and glows. If you use contours with bevel and emboss effects, you can create nooks, crannies, bumps, and lumps that are highlighted and shaded.

In the Contour panel menu, you can also find options for naming and deleting contours, as well as saving, loading, resetting, and replacing contour libraries. Using different contours can create fun and funky shadows and glow.