There is nothing more annoying than having jagged image edges. Not only does such a problem make the subject look unattractive, but it also shows unprofessionalism in editing. And if you like editing images and doing it professionally, the last thing you need is a poorly finished image with no smooth edges.
So what do you do? Well, you need to learn how to smooth edges in Photoshop. If you know the process, you can make any image look professionally retouched on any background. And in some cases, Photoshop smooth edges are hard to detect when trying to make everything look realistic.
Smoothing the edges of any photo in Photoshop involves several editing steps. And whether you are a professional photographer, e-commerce business person, or magazine editor, soften edges photoshop images are essential for you. And that is why today, I will discuss how you can get it done and share additional information.
What Are Smooth Edges In Photoshop? Essential Tools
When cutting an image subject from a background, cutting it out with unnecessary or uneven edges is not uncommon. You cannot present these images anywhere for professional purposes, as the jagged edges can stand out and make the image look imperfect.
Cutting specific shapes from a background might be easy without much trouble. But complex image matters require some editing to refine those edges and make the new background with the cut-out image appear natural.
And that is when you use some Photoshop tools and editing methods to make the subject blend well with the new background without showing any jagged areas. And that is what we call smooth edges in Photoshop. It is also known as the soften edges Photoshop as editing the images softens the pixels.
While you can use various editing software to photoshop borders, the Photoshop application is more popular for having essential tools and increasing image quality. Here are the tools that you would need to smoothen edges in Photoshop.
- Burn Tool
- Dodge Tool
- Refine Edge Brush
- Gaussian Blur
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Who Needs Smooth Edge Photos?
If you have read the article so far, you may already have some ideas on who needs these images. Even if you don’t, here is more detail to feed your curiosity.
Photographers do not just capture photos. They often need to edit and retouch images to improve quality and enhance the image. And if they are removing the background from the picture, they need to know how to soften edges in Photoshop.
Photography Studios/Photo Editing Agencies
Photography studios use background-changing software and tools for various purposes. And that is why they require smooth edges images to provide better-quality images for their clients. The same goes for photo editing agencies, which provide professionally edited images for businesses and people.
E-Commerce Site Owners
Without well-edited images, it is challenging for e-commerce businesses to survive the brutal competition. And e-commerce business photos require changing and editing backgrounds all the time. So when removing an image from one background to another, they need to smoothen the photo’s edges.
Retailers and online business owners use edited images all the time. Along with product photography, they often have models and other subjects in a photo that requires moving out with a different background. That is why retailers need edited images with refined edges.
Magazine And Advertising Agencies
Magazine and advertising agencies always use professionally edited images to make the published photos look eye-catching. So it is not a surprise that they would need photos with smooth edges to make them look flawless and attractive to the onlookers.
How to Smooth Edges in Photoshop: 16 Steps
To make your cut-out image look flawless and professional, there is no alternative to giving it a perfect finish. And the only way to achieve that is to ensure its edges are not poking out. But if you do not know how to soften edges in Photoshop or create Photoshop borders, this step-by-step tutorial will help you learn it easily.
But before we dive into the lengthy tutorial, let’s take a look at the steps we will follow until the end.
- Select The Object
- Select The Channels Panel
- Create A New Channel
- Select Contract
- Fill Selection
- Expanding Selection
- Inverse Selection
- Fill Color Replacement
- Edge Detection
- Refine Edge Brush Tool Application
- Use The Burn Tool
- Use The Dodge Tool
- Gaussian Blur Application
- Lead Selection
Now, follow this tutorial guideline with the image you want to cut out and smoothen the edges.
Step 1: Select The Subject/Object
After opening the image in Photoshop editing software, you must select the subject or object.
The selection process will be different yet simple depending on whether it is a product, a person, or a shape. To select the photo subject, you must first select the Quick Selection tool.
You will find the tool on the left side toolbar on the screen.
Step 2: Select The Channels Panel
Look at the right side of your screen, and you will find a bottom panel with several options, such as Layers, Channels, and Paths. You need to select Channel, and it will show a new window. You will also find the percentage level for colors and contrasts.
Then you need to select the channel that shows the highest contrast of your subject or object color. For example, if your image subject has blue, you choose the blue channel. And if it has red, you choose the red contrast channel.
Step 3: Create A New Channel
In this step, you need to create a channel for the photo subject/object you want to edit. You will find a New Channel option under the Channels panel. The area will have a + symbol on it, letting users know where they can create the channel.
Place the cursor on the Channel panel you selected in the previous step and drag it down to the + symbol. Thus, you have created a new channel to help you in the following editing steps.
Step 4: Select Contract
Next, you have to select a contract level for the image to help it get highlighted later. On top of the Window panel, you will find Select. Click on it, and it will show you a drop-down menu.
Go a few steps down and select Modify and then Contract.
There, you will get a box to set the contact pixels level you want to set. You can keep the number between 12 to 16 pixels. Click OK, and the selected subject will get a bump within the photo.
Step 5: Fill Selection
Here, you will fill the entire selected subject or object with a single solid color. For the edge smoothing edit, we need to fill it with the color black. You will find the options on the right side of your screen, where you have the Layers panel.
There, at the bottom of the screen, you will find the Fill/Adjustment icon. Select that icon, and you will get a Color Picker option. Click on it and select Solid Color. From the color box, click on the color black to fill the selected photo subject in black.
You can use the Toolbar to change the foreground color if needed. You can use alternative methods, such as entering D to change color or entering Alt/Delete to change the foreground color.
While Contract selection makes certain areas on the photo smaller, expanding will make them larger but with a different purpose. Just like before, you need to set a pixel level here.
Step 6: Expanding Selection
Go to the options panel and click on Select. It will give you a drop-down menu with various options. You need to choose Modify and select Expand from there.
Clicking on Expand will again show you a box to set pixels for expanding the image. You can expand it by 20-35 pixels.
Expanding the photo depends on the image resolution. If you are unsure of the number of pixels you need to set, experiment a bit with various numbers to see which one looks accurate on the photo.
Step 7: Inverse Selection
Inverting the photo subject is essential to protect the entire selected image. This step is pretty simple, and you can do it in two ways. You can click on Select and go to Inverse to get it done.
On the other hand, you can use a shortcut command by pressing Shift+ Ctrl+ I or just press Enter. The perk of using the Inverse option is that it helps you get a more accurate cut-out image.
Step 8: Fill Color Replacement
Remember that you filled the image with black color? Well, now it’s time to change it to white. Press Ctrl/Cmd+ Delete, and you will be done with half the task. Pressing the commands will change the photo’s foreground color.
After that, you need to undo the Inverse selection. You can do it from the control panel or using the shortcut command by pressing Ctrl/Cmd+D.
The cutout will be done at this point, but it might still not be perfect. You can zoom on the cutout photo’s edges and will notice white edges visible around the black that requires fixing.
Step 9: Edge Detection
To smoothen the edges, you need to detect the rough edges first. You need to use this if the image subject has curves, hair, and fur or has background lighting. Detecting the edges will help discover rough edges to smoothen them later.
Go to the Edge Detection window, and you will find a Radius slider and a checkbox that says Smart Detection. Start by setting a low value and then increase it gradually. It will help control your output, and you will easily know how much value works for edge detection for your subject. There is no need to check on the Smart Detection box.
Once you are pleased with the detection outcome, you can increase the Radius pixels. While increasing it, keep an eye on the image’s edges so that you know it is working correctly. Though it usually works in 4-5 pixels, the number can vary depending on several things.
Step 10: Refine Edge Brush Tool Application
If the photo subject contains hair or fur, using the Refine Edge Brush is essential to smoothen the edges. Having such things in an image makes it more challenging to work on the edges. Though different people use different methods to work on them, I believe the Refine Edge Brush tool works more effectively.
You will find a few brushes on the left side toolbar of the screen. Select the 2nd Refine Edge Brush to work on the image. While the edges are already marked, you still need to do a few things.
Zoom into the image and use the open or close bracket to increase and decrease the brush tool size. I would advise starting with a smaller brush size to understand your efficiency.
Move your mouse pointer over the fur or hair edges and move it in a painting motion. You will notice that the area appears smoother and clearer than before. After that, even if you Zoom into the image with the highest percentage, you will hardly detect any excessive hair or light.
Step 11: Use The Burn Tool
Once again, go to the toolbar at the left of your screen and select the Burn Tool.
Make sure to check the Options bar’s top after doing that. Click the drop-down to change Range into Shadow and set Exposure to 15%.
Now you need to use the mouse pointer to work on the edges. Press Alt and Zoom into the image to see the edges more clearly.
Now, move the mouse pointer again over them in the painting manner and observe the change. The white lines around the edges that you saw before will gradually vanish.
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Step 12: Use The Dodge Tool
Again, select the Dodge Tool from the toolbar, and you will be able to magnify the image with it. Spot the dark areas around the edges and drag the Dodge Tool over the areas. You will notice they are getting lighter and more highlighted. Keep using the tool like that until the edges appear natural and smoother to you.
Using the Burn Tool and Dodge Tool simultaneously often helps get the best outcome. But if you are happy with this result, hallelujah! But if this method does not work out for you, you can try the alternative I will be explaining in the following steps.
Step 13: Gaussian Blur Application
One of the alternatives to using the Dodge Tool is applying the Gaussian Blur tool. Go to the Filter panel, select Blur, and then the Gaussian Blur option. This option effectively blends out the jagged edges and makes them appear smoother.
However, if the image has bumpier edges, you should increase the Blur radius. The screen next to the menu will show you the preview while it takes effect.
So make sure to keep an eye on the image while increasing or decreasing the radius.
Step 14: Level
Here is another alternative and effective method for smoothening the edges if the Dodge Tool does not work well. To use this method, go to Image and then select Adjustment. There, you will find an option that says Level.
It will take you to three sliding arrows, and they work in the following ways:
- Right Arrow: It will make the image white.
- Left Arrow: It will make the image thin.
- Middle Arrow: It is a combination of the two.
Step 15: Lead Selection
After smoothening the edges using the above-mentioned ways, you need to apply Lead. So select Lead, press Cmd/Ctrl, and click on the Channel.
Doing this will help select the image’s white areas. From the Channels, choose RGB, and you will get back the original channel.
Step 16: Masking
Finally, we have reached the last step of applying smooth edges in Photoshop. To use the masking effect, you must follow the instructions below.
Hold or press down Alt/Option, and you will get a new Mask button at the right. Applying the Masking option will complete your mission to smoothen rough edges in photos.
Necessities Of Photoshop Smooth Edges
You could just cut out an image from its background and be done with it, right? Then why bother going through all these hassles to smoothen the edges?
The answer depends on whether you think leaving a poorly cut image is suitable for professional aspects or to present to an audience. Smoothing the edges enhances not only the appearance of the image but also increases its value. Let’s see the reasons why Photoshop’s smooth edges are necessary.
Enhances The Image
One of the first reasons why you should get the edges to smoothen is to get a flawless image. Regardless of your purposes, no one wants to use a jagged edge image anywhere. And since softened edges Photoshop images go through multiple editing tools, it helps enhance the image and make it look natural.
Improves Image Quality
Another benefit of using edge detection Photoshop tools to smoothen the edges is that it can help improve the image quality. Photoshop is one of the most reliable editing tools for any kind of photo. It comes with all the essential tools you need to change low-quality images to high quality.
Makes Image Presentable
Jagged-edged images are not presentable, no matter how much you think they are. If you are using the image for your business purposes or to make a presentation, get ready to get some negative feedback or poor scores. Smoothing the edges removes the imperfections, helps get better detail in the image, and makes them attractive to others.
Helps Attract Audience
Talking about attractiveness, do you use cut-out images for your e-commerce business? Are you a photographer who has clients demanding manipulated or different background images? Then you need to ensure everything is perfect, including the edges. Because those are the things that will help you gain a larger audience.
Increases Image Value
If you use manipulated images or changed background images for sales, you need to ensure no jagged edges are visible around the image subject. Smooth and refined images always appear natural and can increase the photo’s value.
Frequently Asked Questions
Whether you want to use an image for an e-commerce business or attract an audience for other purposes, it is impossible to achieve the target without offering eye-catching images. And if the photo seems too fake, poorly edited, or unattractive due to jagged edges, the picture will lose its value.
That is why it is essential to know how to smooth edges in Photoshop. If you are a beginner, I would say not to get disappointed if the first few results do not turn out professional-like. You can always improve and improvise with more practice.