• Creating a simple, stylish button in PhotoShop

Time to read: 9 minutes

Buttons abound on the web. They’re little elements that all sites have, in some form, and believe it or not can really help set the tone for a site. As the worldly ‘Dude’ said in The Big Lebowski: “That rug really tied the room together. ” Well, the same can be said of our little friend, the button.

I’m going to walk you through building a simple, yet flexible and editable, button in PhotoShop. You should be able to take what you learn here and expand it into your own button styles that will help your site.

Setting up your workspace

We’ll get started by creating a new document in PhotoShop. For this example we’ll make the document 400 x 300 px and 72 dpi.

New Document

This will give us a nice place to experiment and build our new button. For now we’ll just make a nice white background by filling Layer 1 with white (#ffffff).

Blank Document

We’ll also be good PhotoShop users and name our layers as we go. To name your layers, right click on the layer and select Layer Properties… In this case we’ll name it Background. From here on out we’ll be naming all of our layers so that we don’t have to guess as to which layer is which.

Name Layers

Picking a color

Before we draw our base shape we should pick a color so we can see our shape. Choose anything you like as long as it is not white. We’ll be defining our button’s actual appearance later in the layer styles through the use of a gradient.

Drawing the button shape

It is pretty easy to draw our basic shape for our button. We’ll be using the rounded rectangle for this. The round rectangle is in the tools palette in PhotoShop. If you don’t see it, it is probably just hidden under the shapes button. Click and hold the shapes button (can be a square, circle, line, blob) and an addition pop-up palette will appear.

Rounded Rectangle Tool

We’re almost ready to draw our shape. But first we’ll choose the button’s corner radius. This defines how round the corners of the button will be. The radius setting is in the top toolbar, as seen in the below screenshot. We’ll start with a 4px radius for our button.

Corner Radius

We’re going to now use this tool to draw up the shape of our button. You can draw yours how you like. Below is mine. Be sure you name this layer when you’re done. I called mine simply Button.

Button Base

One tip to getting perfectly aligned boxes when you draw them is to make sure the Snap to Pixels setting is enabled. This is a huge time saver as you don’t have to go in and align all of the sides of your shapes to the pixel perfect grid.

Snap To Pixels

Now that we have the base of our button created we can get down to the fun bits. We’ll be doing a lot in the Layer Styles palette going forward. Doing things this was, as well as using the rounded-rectangle shape tool, which is a vector shape, will make it possible for us to edit this button over and over without any loss or distortion.

Styling our button

To bring up the Layer Styles palette, double-click the layer you wish to edit, in this case our Button layer. Be sure to double-click the empty area of the layer and not the name itself. Double-clicking the name of the layer will only serve to allow you to edit the name of the layer.

Once you open the layer palette you’ll be presented with something like this (see below screenshot). Don’t get over whelmed though. While there’s a lot going on in this one little palette we’ll soon master some of these tools.

Layer Styles

We’re going to start in the Gradient Overlay section. We’ll pick out a nice gradient that will give our button a little personality. To make the gradient, click the Gradient Overlay text in the left-hand sidebar of the Layer Styles palette. You’ll be presented with a window like this:


To edit the gradient and create your own, single-click the actual gradient in this palette’s view. It will take you to a Gradient Editor view.

Editing Gradient

To edit the colors of the gradient first click the color slider node (1) and then click the Color chooser (2). You can then edit this node’s color choice. You’ll want to do this for both of the color slider nodes.

Editing Gradient

For my example I’ve used the colors #02b0e6 and #99dff5.

Our button should look something like this now. Pretty, huh?

Blue Button

Now it is tine to give our button some definition. We’re going to add a nice Stroke to our button. Click on the Stroke text in the left-hand side of the Layer Styles palette. You’ll get a window of settings like the one below. I’ve selected a 1px border Inside our shape with a color of #0f81a4 for my button’s border. I simply chose a color that was slightly darker than the darkest color of the button.

Stroke Outline

Next we’re going to use the Inner Glow to give it an inner stroke. Or should I say misuse the Inner Glow. Inner Glow is normally used to make a nice soft glow-y appearance to an object. We’re going to cheat and make it nice an solid and crisp though.

Click the Inner Glow text in the left-hand side of the Layer Styles palette. You’ll get a window of settings similar to the one below. I’ve chosen to use white for the color (#ffffff) with a Choke value of 100% (this is what makes it a solid, non-gradiated line) and a size of 2px (I use 2px since we’ve got in stroke of 1px. This gives a nice 1px inner-stroke). You can leave all the other settings as they are.

Inner Glow

Now to give it some depth and dimension we’ll add a drop shadow. Go to the Drop Shadow tab and make your settings similar to mine below. I use a close distance and small size by choice to give a clean appearance. You can experiment with yours to get a look you’re happy with. I used a color of #061419 (which is a very dark blue. This way we have a little color in our shadow, like in real life) with a Distance of 1px and a Size of 2px. You might also try a size of 0px for a crisp look.

Drop Shadow

Current State of Button

We’ll add a little light highlighting to the top of our button through the (mis-)use of the Inner Shadow style and then call it a wrap on this layer.

If you click the Inner Shadow text tab on the left-hand side of the Layer Styles palette you’ll get a set of settings resembling the ones below. I’ve made the following adjustments from the default settings here. I changed the Blend Mode to Overlay and made the color white (#ffffff) as well as set the Distance to 4 and the Size to 10.

Inner Shadow Highlight

Adding our text

Now we’ll finish off our button by adding some text to it.

Use the text tool to make a new text layer and place some text on a layer above your button. I used the same color as our button’s Stroke for the text (#0f81a4). In my case I’ve used Helvetica Neue Bold at 30pt, but you can obviously use what best fits your site.

Button Text

Now all that is left to do is add a Layer Style to our text to get it to look recessed within the button. Double-click the text Layer (which I hope you’ve named to Button Text by now) to access the Layer Styles palette. We’re going to add both an Inner Shadow and a Drop Shadow to our text.

The inner Shadow settings I used are below. Simpler is better in this case, so when playing around with your own buttons don’t overdo it here. This also goes for the Drop Shadow we’ll add in a minute. I’ve used our Stroke color for the Inner Shadow color here as well (#0f81a4)

Text Shadow

In the case of the Drop Shadow we’re going to misuse this style. We’re going to give the Drop Shadow a light color. I’ve used a light blue color (#b7e8f8) for the Drop Shadow and set the Distance to 1px with a Size of 0px (this makes for a crisp edge) and set the Blending Mode to Normal.

Drop Shadow Emboss

Finished Button

This should finish off your button.

I encourage you to play around with it and make your own designs. Remember that just because a Layer Style has the word Shadow or Glow in it doesn’t mean that is all you can or should use it for.

Experiment and have fun.

Other entries

Next: Build your own box kit for Photoshop