How to feather edges in Adobe Photoshop.

Learn the tools and techniques you need to soften up your image when it’s rough around the edges.

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What is feathering?

Feathering is a way to soften the hard edges of an object in your image. By gradually fading between the colors of the pixels on the edge and the pixels surrounding it, feathering can help you make a newly added element blend in with the rest of your image. But that’s not the only reason you might want to feather an edge.
A split photo of a tree showing before and after feathering is applied.

Match your background.

If you’ve made changes to a single selection of your image, you may notice a distinct or jagged edge where it stands out from the unaltered background color. Feathering smooths those edges away.

Create a vignette.

A vignette effect is a way to highlight the subject of your image by fading and darkening the area around it. You can control how extreme this effect looks with a feather slide.

A before and after photo of a tree with a vignette effect applied.
An example of a layer with feathering applied.

Hide your layers.

Feathering the border where a new layer meets the existing one can help make them look like they’re both inhabiting the same space.

How do I feather edges in Photoshop?

Photoshop doesn’t have a dedicated feathering tool, but you can create a feathered selection in three different ways.

A split image of a hummingbird showing before and after feathering is applied.

Feather the pixels around a shape.

  • Select it:
    Use a shape-based selection tool, such as the Elliptical tool or Lasso tool, to choose the area that you want to feather. When you’ve made your selection, it’ll be surrounded by animated black dashes — also known as “marching ants.”
  • Set it:
    From the settings bar at the top of the window, select Feather.
  • Feather it:
    In the text box, enter a value of between 0 and 100 pixels to determine how heavily the Feather effect will be applied to the selected area.
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Feather the pixels around a selection.

  • Select it:
    Select the area you want to feather with a selection tool, such as the Quick Selection tool.
  • Mask it:
    Choose Select and Mask from the options bar.
  • Feather it:
    In the Properties panel on the right side of the screen, use the Feather slider to adjust how much of a blur effect will be applied to the layer mask that overlays the selected area.
  • Apply it:
    Click OK.
  • Copy and paste it:
    Ctrl+C if you want to copy the mask (Command+C on Mac) and Ctrl+V to paste it onto another layer (Command+V on Mac).
An example of feathering applied to a circular shaped object.

Feather radius.

This is a more advanced option, ideal for when you’re trying to create a blur effect or apply filters.

  • Select it:
    Make a selection.
  • Modify it:
    Go to Select › Modify › Feather or press Shift+F6.
  • Apply it:
    Click OK in the dialog box to apply changes.

How else can I smooth edges in Photoshop?

Feathering isn’t the only way to soften up an edge. Photoshop offers other options with their own distinct benefits.
An example image of a bird with feathering and anti-aliasing applied.

Smooth edges with anti-aliasing.

Unlike feathering, which changes pixels’ color, anti-aliasing softens the opacity between edge and background pixels while maintaining the image’s clarity. Basically, it blends pixels to achieve the same smoothing effect as feathering but doesn’t blur edges. Just choose your selection tool, check the box beside Anti-aliasing in the options bar at the top of the screen, and then select the spot you want to smooth in your image.

Smooth edges with the Blur tool.

The Blur tool is for advanced users who want to paint the smoothing effect directly onto the canvas using their cursor. Just zoom in on the edge you want to smooth, select the Blur tool, set its strength from the drop-down menu at the top of the screen, and then run it over the edges that you want to soften.

A photo of trees with a blur effect added.
An image of a bird with a blur effect added around the edges.

Blur the edges of an effect.

To make a targeted edit that’s feathered on the edges, like adding an angelic glow to the subject of a portrait, first select the area you want. The Select Subject tool will select the person in a portrait. Then press Q to open Quick Mask mode and go to Filter › Blur › Gaussian blur. Add blur with the slider, and hit Q to leave Quick Mask mode. Finally, in the Layers panel, go to Adjustments to alter the Brightness/Contrast or other aspects of your newly blurred selection.


Tutorials for your softer side.

Photoshop can do so much more than just create soft, feathered edges. Discover step-by-step tutorials to help you transform your original image into something completely new.

An example of a composite image.

Give a portrait an artful twist.

Use selections, masking, and some carefully softened edges to create a composite image.

Learn to make a composite portrait

An example of flowery font.

Design a flowery font.

Explore how you can use Photoshop to turn colorful flower photographs into a custom typeface.

See how to create floral typography

Frequently asked questions.

When should I use feathering in Photoshop?
Use feathering when you want to blend edges seamlessly, like when compositing objects onto new backgrounds or creating masks. Feathering prevents harsh unnatural edges.
What's the difference between feather and anti-alias in Photoshop?
Anti-alias smooths jagged edges but doesn't fade or blur the edge itself. Feathering blurs and fades the actual edge pixels to blend with the background.
How much should I feather the edges?
Start with a small radius like 0.5-2px first. Go higher at 5-20px for wide feathery edges. Use larger feather amounts for bigger selections or objects. Too much can cause blurriness.
How do I increase file size?
Yes, feathering makes edges semi-transparent which can increase file size slightly. Use conservatively on low-res web images. For print, larger feathers have minimal impact.
Can I feather layer styles like drop shadows?
Yes, double click the layer style to open the Layer Style dialog. Under the Blending Options, adjust the Spread slider to feather/extend the shadow edge.
How do I feather only the inside or outside of the selection?
Use Layer > Matting > Defringe to feather just the transparent pixels on the inside. For the outside, expand the selection then feather.