At first, they seem slender and sexy, lithe and luminous.
But look closely at some of the latest images of Kate Winslet, Kate Moss, Britney Spears and Heidi Klum. Look at how their skin shows not one wrinkle or blemish, how their limbs lie in anatomically awkward positions, how their waists appear more fitting for dolls than for flesh-and-blood females.
Blame airbrushing. Photographers, magazines, models and even celebrities have relied on digital trickery for years, but lately, it seems the retoucher's Photoshop tool is being wielded less like a brush and more like a knife, slimming and sculpting stars into shapes that bear fleeting resemblance to their actual bodies.
"The more and more we use this editing, the higher and higher the bar goes. They're creating things that are physically impossible," said Hany Farid, a Dartmouth College professor of computer science who specializes in digital forensics and photo manipulation. "We're seeing really radical digital plastic surgery. It's moving towards the Barbie doll model of what a woman should look like -- big breasts, tiny waist, ridiculously long legs, elongated neck."
Below, Farid dissects some of the latest acts of what he sees as out-of-control airbrushing.