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I want to put a thick, 15px border around the outside of a layer; I do not want to put it on the inside as I want to maintain the viewable area of the layer. I've tried stroke (and layer styles) but there's no option for square, outside borders.

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i don't think you can do an outside stroke with square ends; and you'll have to accept some hack, like Josh's answer. – Ian Boyd Feb 18 '10 at 20:50
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Make whatever you're drawing 15px too big and put a 15px inside border on it.

If you have a photo or other artwork, select it (Apple + click on the layer) and then go under Select->Modify and expand it by 15px.

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It's not a drawing, it's a photo, and it's tightly-cropped as it is so any inside border will mask part of the photo. – gravyface Feb 18 '10 at 19:11
Updated answer... – Josh K Feb 18 '10 at 19:32
I ended up moving it to a new document and expanding the canvas by 30px height and width to achieve a 15px white border. I think the real question is, how did this obtuse program get so popular? Thanks though. – gravyface Feb 18 '10 at 22:42
It's not that bad once you get used to it. Photoshop is a program that is hard to jump to every once in a while. Sit down for an hour a day and play with it for a couple of months. You'll get the hang of it. – Josh K Feb 18 '10 at 22:43

If you need to keep the full view of the picture you can click on canvas size and add lets say 30 pixels width and 30 pixels height. At that point you can add an inside stroke of 15px and get the square corner border around the picture while still getting 100% view of the image.

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