How to Soften Edges with Feathering in Adobe Photoshop CS6

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith, Fred Gerantabee

Knowing how to retouch an image in Adobe Photoshop CS6 means little if you don’t know how to make the retouching discreet. 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).

If you feather a selection (blur its edges) instead, you create a natural-looking transition between the selection and the background of the image.

To feather an image, follow these steps:

  1. Create a selection.

    For the nonfeathered image shown on top use the Elliptical Marquee tool to make a selection. Then copy the selection; create a new, blank image; and paste the selection into the new image.

    To create the feathered image on the bottom, use the Elliptical Marquee tool to select the same area on the original image and went on to Step 2.


  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.

    For example, enter 20 in the Feather Radius text field. (Then copy the selection, createe a new image, and paste the feathered selection into the new image to create the image on the bottom.) Voilà! The edges of the image are softened over a 20-pixel area. This technique is also referred to as a vignette in the printing industry.

The results of the feathering depend on the resolution of the image. A feather of 20 pixels in a 72 ppi (pixels per inch) image is a much larger area than a feather of 20 pixels in a 300 ppi 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 created 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.