Creating good selections in your digital images is a critical step
in producing a fine art print. One of the great advantages of digital
printing is the ability to make very precise and selective corrections
to the image. In order for these changes to be well integrated into
the image it is almost always necessary to feather the edges of
the selection so that the transition between the area you are changing
and the surrounding areas is seamless and invisible.
The challenge is to use the correct amount of feathering. The nature
of the transitional area, from soft to hard, will determine the
proper amount of feathering to add. The simple way to feather a
selection is, once the selection is active, to choose Select->
Feather. This dialogue box lets you select the number of pixels
to feather. Unfortunately you don't see the effect of the feathering
until you hit OK and wait for the feathering to occur (it might
take some time on a large file!). If you are wrong then you must
repeat this process until you stumble upon the degree of feathering
that works. We hate trial-and-error methods!
Try this. Once your selection has been made, enter Quick Mask mode.
The simplest way to do this is to hit "q" on the keyboard.
You will see that the selected area remains clear, while the rest
of the image becomes an opaque color. Enlarge the view on screen
until you have a good close picture of the edge of the mask. Now
open Filter->Blur->Gaussian Blur.
The edges of the selection will soften, which represents the actual
feathering of the selection that will occur. Now you can dial in
just how much feathering is needed to create the proper transition
between adjacent areas.
While in Quick Mask mode you can also further refine the mask by
painting the edges with different opacity black or white paintbrushes.
By hitting "q" again, you will exit Quick Mask mode with
your selection still active. Now you can, for example, open an adjustment
layer to adjust the selected area.