Have you encountered photos that appear to have darkened corners or edges? That effect is called ‘vignetting’ and is usually unintentional. It is often the result of lens inadequacies or incorrect camera settings. However, this effect can also be deliberately included to act as a border, and is useful if you want to draw the viewers’ eyes to the center area of the frame, which would then be the brightest area in the image.
There are many ways to add a vignette in post processing, and this mini-tutorial would be a simple yet very effective way to achieve this result.
Open the image and create a duplicate layer so that you can work with that while leaving the original opened image untouched. A keyboard shortcut for Windows is Ctrl +J and for Mac users it is Command + J. You can also do a right-click with the mouse and select duplicate layer from the pop up window.
Select the rectangular marquee tool and make a square near the edge of the frame, approximately the width of the vignette you want to create.
With the marquee selection still showing (also known as ‘marching ants’), go to Select > Feather and a dialog box will appear where you can adjust the radius of the feathering in pixels. The higher the radius, the more gradual the vignette.
If we make any adjustments at this point, only whatever is in the marquee square selection will be affected. Since we want the opposite of that, we go back to Select and choose Inverse. The new selected area will be the edges and not the area in the middle of the frame.
It’s time now to darken the edges to create a vignette. Go to Image > Adjustments > Curves and the Curves dialog box will appear. There are many things you can do with Curves to enhance an image (more on Curves in another article). Some are simple and some are a bit more complex but for this effect, it will be a very simple adjustment. Place your cursor on the bottom part of the diagonal line, click and drag down to make the line curve downward as seen in this screenshot:
It is up to you how dark you want the vignette to be. The more you drag down the lower part of the line closer to the bottom of the graph, the darker the vignette. Now that was quick and easy, wasn’t it?
This is a comparison of the original image and the final result after adding a vignette:
What if you want the vignette to be on the lighter side instead? Easy! Just do the opposite of how you adjusted the Curves graph. Place your cursor on the upper portion of the diagonal line and drag it upwards to curve like this:
This is a comparison between the original image and the end result after tweaking the Curves adjustment tool:
Tags: vignette, vignette post processing technique, vignetting for effect