Vignetting typically means darkening of the corners of an image, which can be a great way to enhance an image by diminishing distracting details at the edges of an image. With film, this was mostly a natural function of lenses (based on the lens design and aperture), though dodging and burning in the darkroom allowed additional control. But with Photoshop, we can now create any vignette we want. Here’s an example:
Notice how the vignetted image draws your eyes much more powerfully to the girls. The distracting dirt and background have been diminished so that they are no longer competing for the viewer’s attention.
To create a vignette in Photoshop:
- Use the circular marquee or lasso selection tools to select the area to vignette. Set the feather (in the tool options at the top of the screen) to about 100 pixels. You may wish to try different values to find what works best for a given image. Alternatively, set the feather to 0 and then feather the layer mask you create in the following steps. Feathering the mask has the advantage of being easy to adjust at any time.
- Invert the selection (because we want to darken outside the selection, not inside) by via Select/Inverse menu or using the keyboard shortcuts: <shift>-<cmd>-I on a Mac or <shift>-<ctrl>-I on a PC.
- Add an adjustment layer to darken the image. Use a brightness/contrast adjustment layer with brightness set to about -35. If you want more control, I recommend using a curves adjustment layer.
- Optionally, use the black and white paintbrushes on the mask at low opacity to further refine the vignette.
If you want to just create vignettes with the push of a button, Lumenzia includes a vignette tool that makes it incredibly easy to add a beautiful vignette to any image. Lumenzia also uses a custom curve designed to prevent color shifts and prevent shadows from getting too dark. And you can also create an reverse vignette, ie lighten the center instead of darken the edges. I often lighten the center slightly to draw additional attention to it (in fact, I used that approach slightly in the demo image above). The following video demonstrates how vignettes in Lumenzia: