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Photoshop Elements Tutorial: Feathering

by Erin Peloquin on November 3, 2011 · 4 comments

Reading Photoshop Elements tutorials, you are bound to come across the word “feathering” at some time or another.

Do you wonder what it means and why it’s so important?  Read on.

Feathering a Selection

On this website, you’ll most often hear about feathering when I  make vignettes.  If you are into replacing heads or compositing photos (I’m not), you might hear about it in those types of selections as well.

A feathered selection has softer edges and a gradual progression from the selected to the unselected area.  An unfeathered selection is very precise and crisp.  See the difference?

In the photo above, I drew 2 rectangles with the Rectangular Marquee tool.  Each rectangle was the same size.  The rectangle on the left had a feather of 75 pixels, and the rectangle on the right had zero.

Apply This Technique to Your Photography

To vignette this photo in Photoshop Elements, I need to draw a selection with a marquee tool at a high feather:

To add the vignette:

  1. I stamp my visible layers.
  2. On the new layer, I use the rectangular marquee tool to identify to Elements the area that I don’t want to be darkened by the vignette and delete it.
  3. I change the blend mode of that new layer to multiply.

Feathering comes in when drawing the not-to-be-vignetted area of the photo (step 2, above).  On the photo below, I used a feather of 250 pixels on the left and 0 on the right.  The left side looks more natural, right?

So that’s WHY you feather.  HOW do you feather?  There are a couple of ways.

After selecting your marquee tool (or lasso tool),  you can adjust the amount in the tool options.

If you’ve already drawn your selection and forgot to set a feather before drawing, go to the Select Menu and choose Feather.

250 is the maximum amount.   Choose a size based on the size of your image and the degree of the effect you want.  If I had used a radius of about 150 in the image above, the vignette would have been more intense.

If you get a message saying:

Warning.  No pixels are more than 50% selected.  The selection edges will not be visible.

your amount is too high.  Reduce it and try again.

When selecting parts of a photo to extract, relocate or remove, a small feather (5 to 10 pixels) is usually a good idea.  This prevents harsh edges that make it obvious that you’ve “done some work” on your photo.  The feathered edges will help the area blend into its surroundings.

So that’s feathering in Photoshop Elements.  Do you feel more confident with it now?

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