Put a Stroke Around a
Feathered Oval
with Photoshop Elements

Making a feathered oval around your subject is a nice technique. We've seen how to achieve that with Photoshop Elements in a previous tutorial.

Click Here to see that tutorial.

Sometimes you might feel the need to tie it together a little more so that it doesn't look like it's floating out there on the background all by itself.

To do that you can put a stroke around the oval. That's what we're going to do in this tutorial.

Here's a look at the before and after:

Click on the video below to see exactly how it's done.

Under the video is an illustrated step-by-step guide showing how to put a stroke around a feathered oval with Photoshop Elements.

Follow Along with the
Same Photo that I Used

You can download the photo I used for the tutorial. You can download it for free HERE.

If you do use the downloaded photo I recommend that you resize it as shown in the video. I did that for a couple of reasons:

  1. At 80 inches wide the original image was much larger than needed for most applications.
  2. By changing the resolution from 72 pixels per inch to 300 ppi we achieve a smoother looking stroke.

To resize begin by going up to the Image menu and choosing Resize>Image Size....

The Image Size dialog box will appear.

If we increase the resolution we will automatically decrease the width and height dimensions.

First make sure that the "Resample Image" box is not checked. If it is, click on it to uncheck.

Next double-click in the Resolution field and type 300. You'll see the width change from 80 inches to 19.2 inches.

Click OK to close the dialog box and accept the change.

Make sure that the Resample Image box is not checked. Double-click in the Resolution box and type 300. Click OK.

Now that we're on the same page let's start the tutorial.

STEP ONE- Duplicate The Background Layer.

Start by making a duplicate copy of the Background Layer by pressing Command-J on a Mac or Control-J on a Windows PC.

We do this so that we can make our changes to the duplicate layer. Then if we mess up we will still have our original image safely intact on the Background Layer.

STEP TWO- Make An Oval Selection Around Your Subject.

Use the Elliptical Marquee tool to make an oval Selection around your subject by clicking-and-dragging diagonally.

If you need to move or resize your Selection go up to the Select menu and choose Transform Selection.

Your Selection will get a bounding box around it. There are eight handles around the bounding box that you can click-and-drag on to adjust the size of your Selection.

Click-and-drag on any of the eight handles (circled in red) to resize your Selection.

If you need to move your Selection you can place your cursor inside of the selected area and click-and-drag to move it to where you want it.

Once you're happy with your adjustments click the green check mark to remove the bounding box and accept your changes.

STEP THREE- Save Your Selection.

Let's save the Selection so that we can reuse it later. Go up to the Select menu and choose Save Selection... by clicking on it.

The Save Selection dialog box will appear. Give your Selection a name by typing it in the Name field. I'm going to name mine "oval". Then click OK to close the box and accept the change.

The Save Selection dialog box.

STEP FOUR- Feather Your Selection.

To get a faded edge we need to apply a feather to our Selection. To do that go up to the Select menu and choose Feather... by clicking on it.

The Feather dialog box will appear. This is where you tell Photoshop Elements how soft you want your Selection edges to be.

For our example I entered 20 into the Feather Radius field. Then click OK to close the dialog box and apply your change.

The Feather Selection dialog box.

The Radius amount you choose is in pixels. The number you enter depends on how soft you want your edges to be. The higher the number the softer or more faded your edges will be.

The number you choose also depends on the size of your image in both dimensions and resolution. A 10 pixel feather on a 72 ppi image will be different than a 10 pixel feather on a 300 ppi image of the same dimensions.

I recommend that you start by making a guess of the amount to enter in the Feather Radius field. Then continue with Step 5 which will allow you to actually see the results of your feather amount.

If it's not feathered as much as you'd like it to be you need to enter a larger number into the Feather Radius field. If it's feathered or faded more than you want it to be you need to enter a smaller number into the Radius field.

You can undo a few steps until you get back to the point right before you chose Feather... from the Select menu and then start again at STEP FOUR adjusting your Feather Radius amount up or down from what you entered the first time.

STEP FIVE- Invert Your Selection And Fill With White.

At this point we have a feathered Selection around our subject. We want to fill the area outside of our Selection with white.

To switch our Selection from inside the oval to the area outside of the oval we need to invert our Selection.

To invert the Selection go up to the Select menu and choose Inverse by clicking on it.

Now we have the area outside of the oval Selected so we can fill that Selected area with white.

To do that go up to the Edit menu and click on Fill Selection....

The Fill dialog box appears.

Click in the Use field and choose White from the popup menu by clicking on it. Click OK to close the dialog box and accept the change.

The area around the oval is now white. Let's Deselect by pressing Command-D on a Mac or Control-D if you're using a Windows PC.

STEP SIX- Add A Stroke.

Now we're ready to put a stroke around our feathered oval.

Let's start by creating a new Layer to put our stroke on. To do that go over to the Layers panel and click on the Create a New Layer icon at the top of the panel. It looks like a sheet of paper with one corner folded over.

Click on the Create a New Layer icon located at the top of the Layers panel.

A new blank Layer is added to the top of the Layers panel. We will use this new Layer to put our stroke on to.

Now we can load the Selection that we saved in STEP THREE and use it add a stroke around our feathered oval.

To load the Selection go up to the Select menu and choose Load Selection... by clicking on it.

The Load Selection dialog box appears. Click on the Selection field and from the popup list that appears choose the Selection that we named oval by clicking on it.

Then click OK to close the dialog box and load the Selection.

Now we can see the marching ants which represent our Selection near the edge of the oval.

To use the Selection to make a stroke go up to the Edit menu and choose Stroke (Outline) Selection... by clicking on it.

The Stroke dialog box appears. In preparation for this tutorial I experimented with different Width amounts and decided that a width of 8 worked well for this image.

But just know that it's a personal preference and you can choose any Width amount that you want. Much like when we chose a feather amount back in STEP FOUR you might need to start with a "guess" and OK it to see how it looks.

If you want it to be wider or thinner than your "guess" you can undo and go back into the Stroke dialog box and adjust the Width amount accordingly.

I left the Color set at the default of black but if you want your stroke to be a different color just click on the box labeled "Color" and the Color Picker will appear. From there you can choose any color you want for your stroke.

For "Location" I choose Inside which will put the stroke on the inside edge of the Selection. As I explained in the video that goes with this tutorial it doesn't make much difference with an oval Selection. But if your Selection is rectangular you need to choose "Inside" if you want the corners of the stroke to be sharp.

Next click OK to close the dialog box and add the stroke.

We no longer need our Selection to be active so let's deselect and we'll be able to see our stroke more clearly without the marching ants. To deselect press Command-D on a Mac or Control-D on a PC. Here's what our stroked image looks like:

This next part is optional but I'll show you how to move the stroke further away from the edge of the oval if you want to.

Press Command-T on a Mac or Control-T on a PC to put the Free Transform box around the stroke.

Put your cursor over the small square "handle" located in any of four corners of the Free Transform bounding box until your cursor changes to a double-headed diagonal arrow.

Cursor enlarged to show detail.

Once your cursor changes to the double-headed diagonal arrow hold down the Option key on a Mac or the Alt key on a PC and click-and-drag diagonally away from the image.

Because you're holding down the Option or Alt key as you drag, the stroke will enlarge evenly around the oval. If you pull it too far from your oval just drag in towards the center to bring the stroke closer.

Once you're happy with how it looks release the mouse button and the Option or Alt key and click the green check mark to remove the bounding box and accept your change.

Here's what the result looks like:

STEP SEVEN- Crop Away Excess Background (Optional).

With this photo we end up with a lot of excess white space around the stroked oval so I'm going to crop some of it away.

First I'll make the Crop tool active by clicking on it in the Toolbox. Then I'll click-and-drag around my feathered oval with the Crop tool. I get a bounding box that defines the crop.

If I need to adjust the Crop further I can click-and-drag on any of the eight adjustment handles of the bounding box until I get just the crop I like. Then click the green check mark to remove the bounding box and execute the crop.

The Crop bounding box showing the eight adjustment handles and green check mark circled in red.

After cropping the image this is what my final result looks like:

I always like to see the before and after together for comparison so here's a look at what we started with:

And that brings us to the end of this tutorial on how to put a stroke around a feathered oval with Photoshop Elements.

Until next time, this is Rick saying . . . Take care!

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