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How to Blur Edges in Photoshop

Blurring edges of photos can give a whimsical and dreamy appearance to your work. It often lends well to an image meant to recall a memory or set the tone for a far away or mythical place. It’s not surprising that this effect is one of the more popular edits in Photoshop, especially when you begin to realize just how simple it is to create this illusion.

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Why the Effect Impacts
Apart from the romantic mood a blurred edge image presents, there are many other reasons to use this effect. Burring a wide frame as opposed to a thin edge line can create an instant focus on the subject of the photo with minimal effort. This allows users to obscure any unwanted details in the background of the image as well.
How to Get the Look
You’ll find that a blurred edge effect can be achieved through the use of a variety of Photoshop tools including:

  • Gaussian Blur Tool

  • Opacity Tool

  • Blur Tool

  • Median Filter 

Here’s a look at how to use each tool and the effect it will have on your project.
Gaussian Blur
A blurred edge is created with this tool by placing a transparent layer over the outlying areas of your image. The width and transparency of the selection can be modified in order to create a thick, thin, heavy, or light blur. The background image will remain visible through the transparent film, but it will be obscured.
Get this look:

  • Select the rectangular marquee tool and select an area that includes the areas that you do not want to blur.

  • Inverse the selection, creating a border surrounding the sharpened areas.

  • In the filter menu, select the Gaussian Blur tool to make the selected areas less severe, and create a smooth transition between the two areas of the photo

Opacity Tool
Using this tool to create a blurred border will add a layer of texture as well. Professionals often describe this bluer as having a wax paper like effect. When used appropriately, it obscures the images beneath the focused subject nicely.
Get this look:

  • First you’ll cut the area you want blurred by selecting it and pressing “Ctrl-X”

  • Create a new layer with a transparent background by selecting the area and pressing “Ctrl-V”. This will paste the edges into the layer.

  • You can lower the opacity level of the newly added layer and also work to flatten the image to create a smooth transition.

Blur Tool
Perhaps the most obvious and often used choice, this tool is great for a quick blur or for the beginner just experimenting with the effect.
Get this look:

  • Select the blur tool and use directly on either the image or on other layers

  • Best results happen when the size of the brush is increased to 100px, as you’ll cover more area per stroke.

  • Flatten the image when finished to create a smooth transition

Median Filter
Finally, you’ll want to smooth the contrast between blurred areas and sharp areas to complete your project. The Median Noise Filter is a great way to do this. This tool is also capable of producing a unique blurred image of its own. The tool reduces the contrast in colors of adjoining objects and, by decreasing the radius capacity of the filter, can create a unique blur wherein the objects within the blur are still identifiable.
Other Methods
Apart from using the tools mentioned above, you can create a blurred edge on a rounded or elliptical image as well. This effect, often called a vignette, is easily achieved with the following steps:
Use the elliptical tool to create a selection. You’ll copy this selection and then paste it into a new blank image page.
Select the image again in the new page, but this time use the drop menus to select “Modify—Feather”
You’ll be prompted to enter a numerical value into the field box, this number represents the number of pixels you wish to soften. For example, a value of “20” means that you will soften the area extending 20 pixels from the outside of the image.
Each of these blurring methods are open to artist interpretation and can be played with to find a signature look. Adjusting the width and depth of your blur can lead to ideal project completion that is unique to your style goals.

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