Unfeathering a Selection or Mask


Today’s Question: If I have feathered a selection in Photoshop and then added an adjustment layer for a targeted adjustment, is there a way to “unfeather” the result if the feathering was too much?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can reduce the feathering of a layer mask (or selection) using the Contrast adjustment in the Select and Mask workspace.

More Detail: In almost all cases when applying a targeted adjustment or creating a composite image in Photoshop you will need the effect of a feathered selection. Feathering creates a smooth transition along the edge of the selection or layer mask that defines where the adjustment or image is visible. In effect, feathering involves blurring the edges within the selection or layer mask.

While you will almost always want the effect of a feathered selection, I recommend that you never feather your selections. Instead, wait until you have created a layer mask based on the selection for a targeted adjustment or composite image. Then apply the feathering to the layer mask, at which point you’ll be able to achieve a better result because you can actually see the direct effect of feathering within the image.

If, however, you had feathered the selection by too much, you can indeed reduce the amount of feathering by applying a Contrast adjustment. Feathering involves blurring the edges of a layer mask (or selection), and Contrast sharpens those edges to reduce the blur effect.

After creating the layer mask, click on the thumbnail for the layer mask on the Layers panel to make sure that mask is active. Then go to the Masks tab on the Properties panel and click on the “Select and Mask” button. That will bring up the Select and Mask workspace, where you’ll find a Contrast slider in the Global Refinements section.

You can increase the value for Contrast to reduce the feathering along the edge of the layer mask. This is helpful whether you had applied too much feathering to a selection before creating a layer mask or you had previously applied feathering to a layer mask that had ended up being too much, and you need to reduce the degree of blurring for the layer mask.