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To quickly fill a new layer with color, you can:
Create a new shape in the size of the layer.
Set the color you want, then, holding the Alt or Option key, press the Delete/Backspace key.
Use the Color Fill option in the Layer Styles.
Do you need to create a new Smart Layer if you are only changing the Layer Styles?
Only if you are using a pattern overlay.
If I only want a distortion effect to change the edges of my layer, I should:
Create a Mask from that layer and apply the effect to the Mask, rather than the layer.
Use the Layer Style effects only.
Duplicate the layer, add the effect and then Mask out the centre.
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