How to Smooth Edges in Photoshop | Step-by-Step Guide

(Last updated on September 7th, 2023)

Short Summary

Photoshop is a vast universe filled with tools, but one of the most sought-after techniques is how to perfectly smooth edges. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned designer, mastering the art of edge refinement can make your visuals stand out. Let’s take a whirlwind tour of four quintessential methods:

  1. The Blur Tool: Picture this as your manual paintbrush for edges. It’s your go-to for those smaller sections or simpler forms. While its simplicity is its strength, patience is key, especially for larger or intricate areas.
  2. Feather Selection: Think of this as your automatic edge smoother. Draw around your object, apply a feather touch, and voilà, your edges blend seamlessly. While it’s quick, mastering the selection can sometimes be tricky, especially if your object’s boundary isn’t sharply contrasted.
  3. Refine Edge Command: The craftsman’s choice. This method offers you a pallet of controls, from smoothness to contrast. It’s like molding clay – detailed and precise. A word of caution: while powerful, it might feel like advanced calculus to a beginner.
  4. Smart Blur Filter: The brainy choice. Instead of merely blurring, it thinks for you, preserving details and cutting out noise. The results? Smart and sleek edges. The catch? It might demand more time and computing power, especially for those high-res images.

In a nutshell, each method is like a unique brush stroke – having its own flair and finesse. Dive into these techniques, and soon enough, you’ll be delivering artwork that doesn’t just catch the eye, but holds it in awe. So, ready to edge it like a pro? Dive in and watch your creations come alive.


Ever snapped what you thought was the perfect photo, only to spot jagged or pixelated edges that threw everything off? Or have you tried to transplant an object from one image to another, but were left with edges too stark to be convincing? Yep, we’ve all been there. This pixelated predicament is something countless photographers and graphic designers grapple with. But here’s the thing – mastering edge-smoothing in Photoshop can elevate your images from ‘meh’ to ‘marvelous’.

When we talk about smoothing edges in Photoshop, we’re diving into the art of subtly blurring the contours of an object or selection. This makes it meld seamlessly with the background, giving a natural and polished vibe. Whether you’re touching up portraits, refining landscapes, or perfecting logos, this technique can be the cherry on top. For instance, it can transform a face from looking rugged to radiantly smooth, or give a logo that sleek, professional touch.

Dive in with me as we explore four fantastic techniques to achieve this: the blur tool, feather selection, refine edge command, and the smart blur filter. While each comes with its unique perks and quirks, tailored to varying image complexities, by the end of this guide you’ll have the confidence to tackle those tricky edges and produce photos that’ll leave your audience in awe.

Method 1: Using the Blur Tool

Let’s kick things off with the Blur Tool, the quintessential ‘edge smoother’ in Photoshop. Picture it as a brush that softly fades your image’s edges. Whether you’re a newbie or an expert, you’ll love its user-friendly interface. You get the steering wheel, controlling everything from the brush’s size and hardness to its blur intensity. It’s a godsend for those small tweaks on minimalistic images.

Here’s your quick guide to finesse with the Blur Tool:

  1. Dive into Photoshop and pull up your chosen image.
  2. Snag the Blur Tool. Either grab it from the toolbar or be a keyboard ninja by pressing ‘R’.
  3. Tweak Time! Head over to the options bar. Fancy a bigger brush? Crank up the size. Need subtler edges? Dial down the hardness. And if you’re chasing a different blur vibe, play with the strength.
  4. Get Close and Personal: Zoom into your target area. Now channel your inner artist: paint over those pesky edges. Use short, delicate strokes or go freestyle with circular motions. Remember, you can always switch up the mode and opacity for different blur flavors.
  5. Rinse and Repeat: Keep at it until you nail that perfect blend.

👍 The Upside:

  • Beginner-friendly.
  • You’re in the driver’s seat, controlling every nuance of the blur.
  • It’s a gem for tiny touch-ups or basic forms.

👎 The Downside:

  • Got a larger canvas or intricate patterns? It might eat into your time.
  • Overdo it, and you risk weird distortions or artifacts.
  • Too much blur can make your image lose its crisp charm. Less can indeed be more!

Method 2: Using the Feather Selection

Let’s ramp up the sophistication with the ‘Feather Selection’. This technique serves you a cocktail of automation and speed. Rather than brushing away pixel by pixel, it lets you draw a selection around your object and gently fades its edges. Need to smoothen vast spaces or intricate patterns? This is your go-to.

Here’s your roadmap to seamless feathering:

  1. Open Your Image in Photoshop.
  2. Lasso Up: Opt for the lasso tool, polygonal lasso, or the magnetic marvel from the toolbar. Feeling snappy? Just hit ‘L’. If you’re unsure about selections, you can check out how to deselect in Photoshop.
  3. Feather Play: On the options bar, tick the feather box and decide on a radius. This number dictates the softness of your edge – higher values mean dreamier fades.
  4. Outline Time: Draw around your target using the lasso. If you need to tweak your selection, the add or subtract buttons are there for you.
  5. Layer Magic: Press Ctrl+J (for the Windows squad) or Command+J (for the Mac aficionados) to clone your selection onto a fresh layer. Not sure about layer manipulations? Check out how to flip a layer in Photoshop or how to resize a layer in Photoshop.
  6. Stealth Mode: Make the OG layer invisible by hitting the eye icon in the layers panel.
  7. Blend it Right: Modify the new layer’s opacity or blending style for that flawless merge with the backdrop.

👍 The Upside:

  • Quick and straightforward.
  • Delivers a precision game stronger than the Blur Tool.
  • Keeps the image’s crisp details intact.

👎 The Downside:

  • Sharp, contrasting edges can pose selection challenges.
  • Over- or under-feathering? Beware of ghostly halos or gaps.
  • Non-uniform backgrounds can lead to color and brightness shifts. Always keep an eye out!

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Method 3: Using the Refine Edge Command

Step into the world of advanced edge refinement with the ‘Refine Edge’ command. Offering a myriad of customization options from contrast to radius adjustments, this method lets you take charge of even the minutest details. Acing those intricate outlines or fine details? This tool’s got you.

Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of this method:

  1. Launch Your Image in Photoshop.
  2. Select Your Weapon: Go for the quick selection tool or the magic wand. Shortcut lovers, ‘W’ is your key.
  3. Tweak Time: Within the options bar, tailor the settings. Play with the brush size, dial the selection tolerance, or decide if you want to select neighboring pixels with the contiguous option.
  4. Rough it Out: Sketch a basic selection around your object. The add or subtract buttons are always there for tweaks.
  5. Enter ‘Refine Edge’: Tap on its button in the options bar or via Select > Refine Edge.
  6. Pick Your View: Within the refine edge dialog box, choose a view mode – be it overlay, on black, on white, or others.
  7. Detailing Time: Work with the sliders in the dialog box. Want less jaggedness? Increase smoothness. Need a crisper edge? Boost the contrast. You’re the artist here.
  8. Detail Brushes: Use the refine radius tool for enhanced precision or the erase refinements tool to ditch unwanted sections.
  9. Choose Your Output: Pick your preferred option, whether that’s a new layer, a selection, or others.
  10. Hit OK to seal the deal.

👍 The Upside:

  • Unparalleled precision and depth.
  • Greater versatility over feathering.
  • Ideal for detailed or elaborate patterns.

👎 The Downside:

  • Might feel a tad overwhelming for greenhorns.
  • Requires a tad more patience than feather selection.
  • Overexertion can lead to unsavory distortions or artifacts. Steer with care!

Method 4: Using the Smart Blur Filter

Dive deeper with Photoshop’s ‘Smart Blur’ – a genius at blurring while maintaining critical edge details and cutting down noise. Ideal for smoothing broader areas or noise-prone images, this method ensures you have both customizability and precision on your side.

Let’s explore this method:

  1. Open Your Image in Photoshop.
  2. Clone Your Canvas: Duplicate your layer. Quick shortcuts? Ctrl+J (Windows) or Command+J (Mac).
  3. Access Smart Blur: Head to Filter > Blur > Smart Blur.
  4. Configure Your Blur: In the dialog box, tweak your settings. Play around with the radius and threshold to dictate blur depth and quality. The mode and quality options help achieve varied effects.
  5. Seal the deal by clicking OK.
  6. Blend and Merge: Fine-tune the opacity or blending mode for the ultimate seamless integration.

👍 The Upside:

  • Remarkably intelligent. (It’s in the name!)
  • Prioritizes edge detail and noise reduction, stepping up from the regular blur tool.
  • Unlocks a world of customization.

👎 The Downside:

  • Can be a tad demanding on time and resources, especially for hefty images or at peak settings.
  • Careful! Too much radius or threshold tweaking might birth unwanted halos or artifacts.
  • Depending on the mode or quality selected, you could see alterations in color or brightness. Always preview!


Navigating the world of Photoshop can sometimes feel like traversing a maze, especially when it comes to perfecting those edges. Through this guide, we’ve delved into four distinct methods to smoothen edges, each bringing its own strengths to the table. Whether it’s the straightforward blur tool, the efficient feather selection, the meticulous refine edge command, or the intuitive smart blur filter, mastering these techniques can drastically uplift the quality of your artwork.

For those chasing perfection, here are some golden nuggets to remember:

  • The Power of Layers: Embrace layers, masks, and blending modes. Not only do they offer room for non-destructive edits, but they also empower you to fine-tune your creations with finesse.
  • Play Around: Don’t limit yourself. Experiment with various techniques and settings to unearth the effect that mirrors your vision.
  • Detail is Everything: Frequently zoom in and out. This ensures you spot any blemishes or irregularities in your smoothing escapade.
  • Quality First: When saving, opt for top-tier formats like PNG or TIFF to maintain the integrity and sharpness of your imagery.

Here’s hoping this guide illuminated the path of smoothing for you. Dive in, try out the techniques, and watch your images transform. Got any thoughts or queries? Don’t hesitate to drop them below. Cheers to crafting compelling visuals! Happy Photoshop-ing!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you refine edges in Photoshop?

In Photoshop, you can refine edges by using the “Select and Mask” feature. After making a selection, go to the top menu and choose “Select” followed by “Select and Mask.” Within this workspace, adjust the “Smooth,” “Feather,” “Contrast,” and “Shift Edge” sliders to fine-tune the selection’s edge. Additionally, the “Refine Edge Brush Tool” can be used to brush over complex areas like hair or fur to extract them more accurately from backgrounds.

How do you soften edges on square in Photoshop?

To soften the edges of a square in Photoshop, use the “Rectangle Tool” to create a square. Once done, right-click the shape layer, and select “Blending Options.” Under “Blending Options,” navigate to the “Stroke” section. Set the fill type to “Gradient,” choose a gradient that goes from your desired color to transparent, and adjust the angle and scale to achieve the desired soft edge effect. Alternatively, you can rasterize the shape and use the “Gaussian Blur” filter to soften the edges.

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