How to Feather the Edge of a Photo in Illustrator

By David Weedmark

The Feather effect in Adobe Illustrator adds softened edges to any photo. Applying the Feather effect directly to a photo feathers all the edges. The higher the number you enter in the Feather window, the more pronounced the feathering effect is. To create a feather effect on just one edge of a photo, insert a shape over the edge and then feather the shape. Create a cameo-style photo by placing an oval over a face in a photo and creating a clipping mask. Then feather the clipping mask to give the oval portrait an old-fashioned appearance.

Feather All Edges

Step 1

Place a photo in an Adobe Illustrator file, by choosing "File" and "Place," which loads the chosen photo into the cursor. Position the photo and click "Enter." Resize the photo if needed by selecting "Transform" and "Scale" from the "Object" menu.

Step 2

Click the “Effect” menu. Select “Stylize” and then click “Feather” to open the Feather window.

Step 3

Click the “Preview” button in the Feather window. Enter a small number into the Radius field -- 18 pixels or 0.25 inches, for example -- and examine the effect on the photo. Increase or decrease the amount of feathering using the arrows next to the Radius entry field. When you are satisfied with the result, click "OK."

Feather a Single Edge

Step 1

Place a photo in an Illustrator file.

Step 2

Click the “Rectangle Tool” in the Toolbox. Draw a narrow rectangle with no fill or stroke over one edge of the photo, extending the rectangle beyond the photo edges.

Step 3

Click the “Effect” menu, select “Stylize” and click “Feather” to open the Feather window. Turn on the preview. Enter a narrow Feather Radius and observe the effect on the photo edge. Adjust the feathering using the arrows next to the Radius field or by moving the rectangle until you have the look you want. Click “OK.”

Create a Feathered Cameo

Step 1

Place a photo in an Illustrator file. Select the "Ellipse" tool in the Toolbox. Draw an ellipse around the face in the photo by dragging the tool across the photo.

Step 2

Press “Ctrl-A” to select both objects. From the "Object" menu, select “Clipping Mask” and “Make.” Only the portion of the photo covered by the oval remains.

Step 3

Click the “Effect” menu, select “Stylize” and click “Feather.” Turn on the preview. Set the Feather Radius to a small number and adjust the feather effect as needed by increasing or decreasing the value with the arrows. Click "OK."

Tips & Warnings

  • Hold down the Shift key when drawing an ellipse to make a circle.
  • This article applies to Adobe Illustrator CC, 2014 release. Other versions of the software may differ.