Darkening the edges of an image can be a great way to boost its visual appeal. We show you three ways to add a vignette in Photoshop.
By Peter Wear and James Ostinga.
Vignetting, light fall-off around the edge of photos, has changed status. It used to be a major headache for lens designers. But now, just as they’ve pretty much got on top of it, vignetting has returned as a fashionable photo-editing flourish.
The idea is simple. Our eyes are attracted to the brightest part of any scene. So, by mimicking a vignette, we can highlight the major element in a photo – but so subtlely the viewer doesn’t notice the trick. It’s become a favourite, almost to the point of cliché, for portraits and landscapes.
Here are three simple and effective techniques you can use to create vignettes in Photoshop...
01 THE EASY WAY
Go to the Layers panel and duplicate the Background layer (use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-J (Command-J, Mac) or drag the Background layer onto the Create a new layer icon).
In the main menu choose Filter > Lens Correction (the same filter is available in Photoshop CS and Elements). Choose the Custom tab and go to the Vignette settings. Drag the Vignette slider left to darken the corners of the image. Use the Midpoint slider to change the the thickness of the vignette. When you’re happy with the result click OK. You can refine the effect in the Layers panel by reducing the Opacity of the top layer.
02 THE BIG BRUSH TECHNIQUE
This option isn’t quite as quick but it is non-destructive and does give you a little more control. In the Layers panel click the Create new fill adjustment layer icon. Choose Levels from the drop-down menu. In the Adjustments panel move the middle slider (under the histogram) to the right to darken the scene.
We can now edit the layer mask that comes with the Levels adjustment to crete our vignette. Go back to the Layers panel and click the mask (the white rectangle) next to the Levels adjustment icon. In the Tools panel choose the Brush Tool and make Black the foreground colour. Choose a soft-edged brush and make the brush tip as big as possible.
Now, make a single click right in the centre of whatever it is you want to highlight. It doesn’t have to be in the middle of the image. This returns the original brightness to your image. To refine the darkness of the vignette double click the Levels icon in the Layers panel and drag the central slider to a new position. The crucial thing is the big, soft brush, which creates a very gradual transition between bright and dark.
03 THE MULTIPLY TECHNIQUE
This technique is a favourite of Digital Photography + Design magazines’s image-editing guru Mark Galer. It’s subtle and very controllable.
Open your image and duplicate the background layer. In the Tools panel choose the Rectangular Marquee Tool and set the Feather to between 150 and 250 pixels (the bigger the image, the more Feather you need). Click and drag over the central part of the image to make a selection. Now delete the selected pixels using the Delete or Backspace key on your computer.
In the Layers panel change the blend mode of the top layer from Normal to Multiply to darken the edges. If the effect is too strong, and it probably will be, simply reduce the Opacity of the layer to taste.
For more great Photoshop tips check out the latest issue of Digital Photography + Design, on newsstands now.