Monday, March 26, 2012

How to Add a Custom Vignette using Photoshop and PSE

Title pic

How many times have you seen your photos and they lacked a little something?  Sometimes what will do the trick is a vignette.  If you just read that and went “huh"?”, it’s okay.  A vignette is a shading around the edge of a photo.  I am talking about the good kind of vignette, the kind that helps frame and highlight your subject.  I am not talking about the bad kind that some lenses are prone to do at the corners (yuck).

Many wonderful sites offer vignettes as a part of their actions packages.  I have had quite a few included in my Paint the Moon sets I have purchased.  Most of the vignettes (not necessarily all of them) are a dark border faded into the photo.  You adjust the look by adjusting the opacity. 

But what if you have a photo like this…

Demo before

I don’t want to put a vignette on her shirt and I don’t really want it just around the edge, especially because she is not centered in my photo.

Here is an easy way to make a vignette however you choose it to be for your specific photo.  It gives it more of that custom look.  :)

Start with a flattened image (no open layers). Press CTRL and J at the same time. Mac users press Command and J.  This will create a duplicate layer for you.  Go to your layer panel and select the blend mode to “Multiply”.

Duplicate layer multiply

Now you will look at the bottom of that layer panel and see an icon that is a rectangle with a circle in it. Click it.  That adds a layer mask to your duplicate layer.

Add layer mask

Your layer panel will now look like this below.  But your photo will look dark and horrible.  It’s okay.  Now press CTRL and I at the same time (Mac user Command and I).  This will invert your layer mask.

Layer mask whitelayer mask black

So now instead of a white layer mask (which is showing everything in the layer), you have a black layer mask (which is hiding everything in the layer).

Click on your black square that is the layer mask.  Now select your brush tool.  At the top of the screen you will see a bar below your task bar.  You will see the options for your brush.  Select the opacity and bring it down to the 20’s range. 

brush opacity

I like to do this because you can paint over to increase the look.  If you ended up doing too much, and the look is too harsh, just go over to your layer panel and adjust the opacity of this payer to your liking.

One thing to remember is that if your layer mask is black, you want your brush to be on white.  A little thing to remember is that black conceals and white reveals.  You have concealed your layer with the black mask, now you want to reveal part of it with a white brush.  You can change your brush at the bottom of the tool column on your left side.  It looks like this.  Just click the arrows to switch.

COlor of brush

Now your photo looks like this:

Demo after

I made my vignette in the top left corner come a lot further in the photo.  But I didn’t do anything at all to the bottom middle.  See it is subtle, but it does draw you into the photo and focus on her.  It almost gives her a glow. 

Here is the before and after:


Of course you can make yours stronger.  A too strong vignette just didn’t fit this frame for my taste. It is a perfect example of how a regular vignette would not work. 

Now you can create that custom look for any of your photos without having to rely on a cookie cutter vignette that is not “one size fits all”.  I hope you enjoyed this.  :)

If this is confusing or you have any questions at all, please feel free to email me at any time.

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  1. Excellent job Kim! I love how it came out. The best ones are there but the viewer doesn't even realize it- they just know they are drawn in to the subject. You executed that perfectly!

  2. Ohhhh cleverly done indeed! very subtle but it makes a difference... little girls highlighted face is just beautiful.
    Thanks for linking up! you know what.. I'm gonna follow your instructions now and have a go! I have a photo in mind. ;-)
    Jennie. x

  3. Great tutorial, worked great! Thanks!

  4. Oh very cool. How do you know this stuff??

  5. Thanks for your great tutorial! I learn so much from other photographers like you!

  6. Great tips and this is a lovely photo!

  7. Easy enough. I'll have to give this a try. Thanks for sharing.

  8. great tutorial and I LOVE that picture!!! thanks for sharing!

  9. Great tips Kim, you are really good a 'splainin' things ;)

    Love that beautiful pic too!

  10. Great tutorial Kim! Thanks for the tips. Picture is fantastic!

  11. Thanks for sharing - I think it's pretty easy to run custom vignettes once you know what you're doing. I don't like many of the presets I have that do it for me.

  12. So I tried it tonight and am pretty happy with the results. Thanks again for sharing.

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