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Create eye-catching rough-edge effects using Photoshop

Added on Monday 1st of November 2010 03:53 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


After a while the same flat-edged image becomes blasé. But you don’t have to settle—use this time-tested rough-edge effect to make your images stand out.


To give your image an edgy border, we’ll:

     Tell you how to select the right image for this technique.

     Show you how to mask your image in Quick Mask mode.

     Demonstrate how to erase the mask edges to give your image the look you’re after.


While most image trends are short lived, several effects have become standards—such as the drop shadow and outer glow. Rough-edges around imagery, as shown in Figure A, are a popular effect as well, and seem to have some staying power. Although there are a number of third-party plug-ins you can purchase to produce this effect, it’s difficult to create a unique effect that will best complement your particular image. However, using Photoshop, you can create custom edge effects more easily than you might think.



Use the right image

Important to this effect’s success is the right image selection. Because you apply the effect at the edges of the image, any vital visual information found on the image edge may either be lost or obscured. As such, your primary subject should be centered in your image and edge detail should be minimal. If you’re taking a photo that you know you’ll later apply this effect to, move or zoom back and leave a little extra room at the edges of your image.

Once you have an image selected, you’re ready to set it up for this technique. To follow along using our example, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, and extract the file edges.tif.


To set the image up for this technique:

1.       Launch Photoshop and open the edges.tif file, as shown in Figure B.

2.      Select the Background layer and drag it to the Create A New Layer button at the base of the Layers panel to make a copy of the layer. This way you won’t alter the original. Rename this new layer edges.

3.      Click on the Background Layer Visibility button to hide the layer. You’re now ready to create your rough-edges effect.




Switch to Quick Mask mode

You’ll create this rough-edges effect with a selection technique that employs the use of the Quick Mask mode.


To switch to Quick Mask mode:

1.       Double-click on the Edit In Quick Mask Mode button, and the Quick Mask Options dialog box opens.

2.      Choose the Selected Areas option button, as shown in Figure C, so you can see what areas of your image you’re masking, and then click OK.


3.      At this point, Photoshop should have activated Quick Mask mode. You can tell when you’re in Quick Mask mode because the Set Foreground and Set Background color boxes change to black and white respectively. If not already in Quick Mask mode, simply select the Edit In Quick Mask Mode button at the base of the Tools panel.


Add a mask

Although you’re in Quick Mask mode, you haven’t actually added a mask to your image. You’ll apply a mask using a Paint tool. Since we’re only concerned with the areas at the edges of the image, a quick way to accomplish this is to use the Paint Bucket tool and then erase the areas you don’t want.


To mask the image:


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