How to Make a Soft Edge on an Image In Photoshop

Written by nicole hamilton
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How to Make a Soft Edge on an Image In Photoshop
Soften edges to emphasise part of a photo. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Softening portions of an image is a popular way to reduce imperfections, create interesting image borders or produce a focal point for the picture. Photoshop offers several methods for creating soft edges. Feathering the edges of a selection quickly produces a soft edge around a specified area. Using a blur filter, especially Gaussian Blur, will soften the edges of the entire image and can generate a soft focus effect.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


    Soften the Edges of a Selection

  1. 1

    Launch Photoshop. Go to "File," then "Open" and choose the image you want to edit.

  2. 2

    Select the layer you want to use to create the soft edge. Go to "Layer," then "Duplicate Layer."

  3. 3

    Turn off the visibility for the background layer by clicking the eye icon, and then click on the duplicate layer.

  4. 4

    Pick a selection tool from the Tool's panel. For framing part of the image with a soft edge, choose the Rectangular or Elliptical Marque. Make irregularly shaped selections using one of the Lasso tools or the Quick Selection tool.

  5. 5

    Click and drag with the tool to make a selection. Refine the selection until the edges of the selection match where you want to apply a soft edge. Do not select the entire image or your soft edge will not be visible.

  6. 6

    Go to "Select," then "Modify," and then choose "Feather."

  7. 7

    Set a pixel radius of 5 pixels or higher. Click "OK." A higher pixel radius will make the edge wider and softer.

  8. 8

    Choose how to edit your soft edge selection. Filling the selection with any filters or colour will create an area offset by the feathered edge. The effects gradually fade into the rest of the image.

  9. 9

    Stroke the selection with colour to create a soft frame around the area. Choose "Edit," then "Stroke" and specify the location is the "Center." Click the colour box to pick a new colour. Press "OK." To create a soft-edged photo with a frame behind it, make sure you have selected the entire image accept for the outer edge. Go to "Select," and then select "Inverse." This inverts the selection so it affects pixels outside the original area you selected. Press the "Delete" button to remove those pixels. Go to "Select," then "Deselect." You should have an image with a soft outer edge.

  10. 10

    Create a coloured frame by adding a new layer under your soft edge layer and filling it with colour. Click the "New Layer" icon in the Layers panel, which looks like a piece of paper with a folded edge. Drag the layer beneath the soft edge layer. Choose a foreground colour and go to "Edit," then "Fill" using "Foreground Color," and click "OK."

    Soften the Edges of the Entire Image

  1. 1

    Duplicate the background layer of the image by going to "Layer," then "Duplicate Layer."

  2. 2

    Choose "Filter," then "Blur and then "Gaussian Blur." Make sure you select the top layer before applying the filter.

  3. 3

    Set the blur radius for between 11 to 15 pixels. Click "OK."

  4. 4

    Go to the "Layers" panel. Click the layer opacity. Reduce it to 50 per cent.

  5. 5

    Add a layer mask to the layer. Click the icon on the bottom of the Layers panel; this is a grey square with a white circle in the centre.

  6. 6

    Select the paintbrush. In Options, choose a soft brush and reduce the opacity to between 15 and 25 per cent.

  7. 7

    Click and drag to paint with the brush. Paint with black to add detail back to certain parts of the image. Paint with white to soften other portions even more. Press "X" to toggle between the two colours.

Tips and warnings

  • For a quick soft edge, select the "Blur" tool from the second set of tools in the Tools Panel. The Blur tool's icon resembles a drop of water, and you may find it hidden under the Sharpen or Smudge Tool. Select a large, soft brush from Options, and set the tool's opacity to 50 or 75 per cent. Click and drag over the edges you want to blur.

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