A technique was developed to investigate the role of aerial image contrast and image-log-slope (ILS) on the resulting magnitude of line edge roughness (LER) in resist with the goal of determining if the minimization of LER in current state-of-the-art, chemically amplified resist materials was limited by the quality of the projected aerial image or the materials and processing of the resist. The process of image fading was employed as the vehicle for controlled aerial image degradation. By reducing the quality of the aerial image through fading, the image contrast and ILS were decreased in a well-controlled and predictable manner, resulting in increased magnitude of LER. The link between experiment and simulation was made possible by the identification of the iso-fading condition, which in analogy to the iso-focal dose, results in a unique exposure dose for which the critical dimension (CD) of a resist feature does not change with increasing levels of fading. At the iso-fading condition, experimentally measured values for LER were analyzed as a function of the contrast and ILS of the aerial image used for patterning. It was determined that contrast was a poor predictor of the magnitude of LER though variations in feature type or illumination. The change in LER as a function of the ILS, however, produced a common basis for the comparison of LER through variations in line width, pitch, fading, increased background level of light, and illumination conditions. To include the effects of exposure dose on the resulting LER of resist features, the experimentally measured analog of the ILS, the resist edge-log-slope (RELS), was also used to produce a common curve for the evaluation of resist LER. Although overexposure can be used to further increase the ILS of the aerial image at the edge of the printed feature, the magnitude of 3σ LER in PAR735 resist appeared to be limited to a value of approximately 5.0nm in the limit of infinite RELS. This suggested that while the aerial image plays a strong role on determining the magnitude of LER during resist printing, there also exists a fundamental limitation to LER from the resist materials that cannot be improved by further increase in the quality of the aerial image.