By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith, Fred Gerantabee

The Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite 5 Feather feature is your secret weapon for making your retouched image look realistic. If you feather a selection (blur its edges) instead, you create a natural-looking transition between the selection and the background of the image.

If you boost the color using curves to the CEO’s face, do you want it to look like a pancake has been attached to his cheek? Of course not — that isn’t discreet (or wise).

To feather an image, follow these steps:

  1. Create a selection.

  2. Choose Select→Modify→Feather.

  3. In the Feather dialog box that appears, type a value in the Feather Radius text field and then click OK.

The results of the feathering depend on the resolution of the image. A feather of 20 pixels in a 72ppi (pixels per inch) image is a much larger area than a feather of 20 pixels in a 300ppi image. Typical amounts for a nice vignette on an edge of an image are 20 to 50 pixels. Experiment with images to find what works best for you.

This feathering effect creates a nice, soft edge to your image, but it’s also useful when retouching images. Follow these steps:

  1. Using any selection method, create a selection around the part of an image you want to lighten.

  2. Choose Select→Modify→Feather; in the Feather dialog box that appears, enter 25 in the Feather Radius text field and click OK.

    If an error message, say “No pixels are more than 50% selected,” click OK and create a larger selection.

  3. Choose Image→Adjustments→Curves.

  4. Click in the center of the curve to add an anchor point and drag up to lighten the image.

    This step lightens the midtones of the image.

Notice how the lightening fades out so that the correction has no definite edge.