Creating A Vignette in PhotoShop
Creating A Vignette in PhotoShop
A Creative COW PhotoShop Tutorial

Creating a Vignette

Sytse Zijlstra
Sytse Zijlstra
The Netherlands

©2008 Sytse Zijlstra and All rights reserved.

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In this tutorial, CreativeCOW contributing editor Sytse Zijlstra demonstrates a quick, easy way to create a vignette in PhotoShop that gives much more control than using the distort filter.

Hello everyone and welcome to this photoshop tutorial!

This time we will be working on adding a nice vignette effect to your pictures. So, what exactly is a vignette? Well, the truth is, I don't know... I only know what it does. If you really want to know and like reading about trigonometric functions you should go to the wikipedia page on vignetting.

"Well then", I hear you ask, "what does it do?" Well, a vignette creates dark edges around an image in a circular fashion. The effect can be used artistically to draw the eye of the viewer towards an object of interest that is somewhere near, or in the middle of the picture.



Yes, I know... Photoshop already has a filter (DISTORT - LENSE CORRECTION) that will give you this effect. However, the way you can apply that effect is very limited. It always has the same circular shape, It comes in black and white only and you have very little control over the intensity of the effect. I like adding vignettes to my pictures, so I experimented a bit and I came up with a far more flexible way to add a vignette.

Oh, one more thing: it's generally a good idea to add the vignette after you've finished all other editing of the picture.

Ok, so let's get started!
First, get yourself a beer and a snack, and, most importantly, have a toilet break.

Second, create a new layer for the vignette shape on top of the picture you want to add the vignette to. Then pick the gradient tool (G) and set it to render in a circle. Enable reverse and disable dithering. I don't know exactly what dithering does, but it has something to do with distortions in the gradient. You can leave it on if that makes your cat stop begging for food. Also, make sure transparency is enabled. Next, bring up the gradient editor window by clicking on the gradient miniature picture in the toolbar. Pick the gradient that transcends from the primary color into transparency. We only want the effect to darken the edges of the image, so go ahead and slide the transparent opacity slider a little more towards the middle. It's a good idea to pick a primary color that contrasts with your picture so you can clearly see what you're doing. 

Now start from the object of interest (in this case the snow boarder) and drag the gradient to one of the corners. While doing this you should keep in mind that we will only be able to make the vignette shape larger, so make it a little smaller than you want it to be eventually. After you've applied the gradient bring up the free transform mode (CTRL+T) to fine tune the shape of the vignette. Of course you can make any transformation by going to EDIT - TRANSFORM and add some crazy skewness and perspective distortion if you fancy that, but for now the free transform mode will do just fine. So go ahead and ALT+CLICK on one of the corner points and drag it around until you get the desired shape. Holding ALT will make sure the center of the gradient stays where you put it.

Ok, the hardest part is over now. Good job! Now, over to the magical part...

Make the vignette layer invisible and CTRL+CLICK on the layer's miniature picture. This will make a selection of the shape of the layer. The great thing about this is that it also takes transparency data into account. So, basically what we have done here is to load the vignette shape into a selection. Using this selection we can apply the vignette to the picture. To do this, select the layer of your picture and then take a big, hard brush (and a deep breath) with the color you want your vignette to be and paint all over the picture until the whole selection is filled. Dark colors work best and you don't want them to be too saturated. In my example I used a dark purple, with a tad too much saturation. Of course, it all depends on the effect that you are after.


Well, that's looking pretty good, right? But we're not finished yet! Wait until you've seen the best part... Because with this technique it's also possible to change the blending style! :)

Directly after you are done painting go to EDIT - FADE (CTRL+SHIFT+F) to bring up the fading options. This only works if you do it DIRECTLY after your painting, so don't click anything else and make sure you went to the toilet before starting on this. If you did take a toilet break before starting, but you need to go again, you drank too much beer.

If everything went well you can now play around with the blending and opacity settings. There are some blending modes that are more suitable for vignette effects than others and my favorite is 'overlay', because it makes the dark and medium areas a little darker, but will leave the highlights mostly untouched.



So there we are! We now have a nice vignette added to our picture, completely customized to our liking. If you think the effect isn't intense enough you can paint over the image again with the brush and repeat the fading process. Of course you could also use this technique to make a bright vignette in stead of a dark one. You should be able to figure out how to do that now.


I hope you liked this tutorial and if you have any questions, please, feel free to add a comment below.


Happy editing! ;-)


Sytse Zijlstra