How airbrushed are magazine ads? New tool reveals all

A new computer program can judge just how airbrushed magazine photos really are, including this "too perfect" ad of Julia Roberts. / MSNBC

How "shopped" are the picture perfect models and celebrities you see in ads? Researchers at Dartmouth claim their new tool will analyze and let you see exactly how much airbrushing goes on in your magazines.

Dr. Hany Farid and Ph.D. student Eric Kee developed a photograph-analyzing computer program that can quantify how much an image has been retouched. By using "before and after" Photoshop images provided by participating magazines, they created a mathematical model that scores photos on a 1-to-5 "alteration" scale.

The worst offenders shed 10 to 20 pounds off models, erased all wrinkles and blemishes and even added or subtracted inches in height. Pictures rated 1 or 2 only showed slight changes, like color modification or "healing" a pimple.

"Fix one thing, then another and pretty soon you end up with Barbie," Farid told The New York Times.

Farid said the computer program was inspired by European legislators' push to require advertisers to label all digitally-altered images. One U.K. agency was outraged enough to ban a Porcelain doll-like Julia Roberts make up ad in July.

Should the U.S. develop a policy for airbrushed advertisements? Would you like to know how much Photoshopping goes on in your favorite rag mags? Weigh in below.