Using Photoshop to create a vignette effect. Step-by-step tutorial

October 27

12 min. to read

Do you want to focus attention on a certain object in the picture? The vignette effect in Photoshop is the best solution in this case.


In Photoshop there is a huge variety of special effects to give your picture a unique style. One of the most popular elements for photo editing is the vignette. This effect is used when you want to highlight a specific fragment in the picture. It is achieved by softening the lighting around the desired element, so the surrounding area is darkened or blurred.

Whether you prefer blurring or darkening the background is up to you. Use your creativity and personal preferences. Pay special attention to the specific elements of the picture you want to process.

Vignetting in Photoshop will look impressive on holiday pictures or portraits. Such an image would be a wonderful gift for your family and friends.

Photoshop offers different variants for creating a vignette. We will take a look at the most effective ones.

Three easy ways to make Photoshop vignette effect

Our eyes are naturally attracted to the lighter areas of the photo. Vignettes make the area you want viewers to look at brighter, and darken everything else a bit. Although it sounds simple, it can be difficult to get the effect without looking unnatural. The secret of a good vignette is to make it soft and subtle. Remember, small changes can have a huge effect on your final images.

We'll show you different methods on how to create a vignette in Photoshop, so you can choose the easiest way to add it.

Method 1: Using the option of Lens Correction

Do you want to create a vignette quickly and without dealing with layer masks or complicated settings? 

Let's see how to add a vignette in Photoshop using the Lens Correction filter.

Step 1: Duplicate your layer

First, duplicate your layer by dragging the original image down, or by going to Layer-Duplicate Layer. One more method for making a copy is to hit ctrl+J. We do this in order to ensure that we always have the original image to go back to.

Step 2: Choose a custom correction

Go up to filter, then go down to lens correction and click that. It's going to bring up a new screen. Now focus on the right. You can see a little menu where we choose an appropriate type of correction - auto or custom. For our purpose choose a custom correction.

Step 3: Adjust the photo using the amount and midpoint sliders

Now we can adjust all the vignette settings. Because this is one of the easiest ways, we have only two correction sliders - amount and midpoint. The amount slider of the vignette shows how dark or light it's going to be. The midpoint determines where the vignette starts. You can pull the start of this effect tighter in, or you can pull it further out towards the corners. When you have finished editing the image, click OK.

Method 2: The Gradient fill layer

This method of creating a vignette in Photoshop is a bit more complicated but gives you more possibilities for editing. We will look at each step for more details.

Step 1: Set the black color to your foreground

Let's start by pressing the D key to set your foreground solid color to black and the background layer to white. 

Step 2: Use the gradient fill option

From the new adjustment layer menu, choose gradient. Click inside the gradient to open its editor. From the basics drop, select foreground to transparent. Now choose a radial from the style drop and set an appropriate angle. Check the reverse box and click OK. 

Step 3: Customize the effect to suit you

To move the gradient around use a double click on the gradient thumbnail and now you should be able to drag it according to your likes. Feel free to play with the opacity slider to control the intensity of the vignette. Continue until the final result suits you.

Method 3: Using the Shape tool

Of course, we can't skip such a method as using the Shape tool to create a Photoshop vignette. This instrument is widely used for a variety of purposes in image editing. Today we'll look at how to use the elliptical shape to create a vignetting effect.

Step 1: Make an ellipse shape

So, you have opened the desired picture in Photoshop. The first thing you need to do is to apply a black fill to create the foreground. Now use the Shape tool menu on the left panel. Find the ellipse and make sure that the color of the shape is black. If another color is set, no problem, just change it. The next action is to stretch the shape onto the image. The size of the figure depends on how big the vignette will be. After you release the mouse button, the ellipse will be filled with black.

Step 2: Use the mask tool

Select the ellipse layer. In the properties menu, use the Subtract front shape function. Now you will see your image inside the shape, and the surrounding area will be black. Go back to the properties menu and use the mask tool. Adjust the shading and density of the vignette.

Step 3: Think creatively

Now it's time to experiment. Change the saturation and contrast using adjustment layers. Try different blending modes and reduce the opacity of the layer to get the perfect result.

As you can see, each user can choose among different ways how to do a vignette in Photoshop. It all depends on the goals and preferences. You can use the easy way and quickly get the desired result. But if you like to learn something new, use different methods and become a true professional!

Using the vignette effect: yes or no?

Now that we know how to add a vignette in Photoshop, we should talk candidly about another important topic: in what cases the vignette will look appropriate, and in what cases it will not? Let's study this theme in more detail.

Reasons for adding a vignetting effect to a photo

The vignette as an artistic technique can be used for a variety of reasons. Here are the most common ones:

  • When you want to darken the less important details of the image and draw the viewer's attention to the main subject;

  • You want to create a vintage effect by making your images look like they were taken with an older camera;

  • When natural vignetting is not noticeable, but you want to make the photo look more realistic;

  • Artificial vignetting can be an alternative when the lens aperture does not provide a nice background blur for portraits and macro photography.

Vignetting in artistic photography

In most cases, the darkening effect at the periphery of a photo is seen as a defect. However, there are some scenes where it may look quite appropriate. For example, in portrait photography, darkening along the edges of the image allows you to draw the viewer's attention to the most important part of the frame - the face. At the same time, gradient darkening is one of the easiest ways to add a mysterious touch to the picture. In photos of family events or corporate vacations, vignetting can also be used as a tool to draw attention to the main part of the image.

Sometimes there are too many unwanted background elements in a photo that can really spoil the image. In this case, unnecessary objects have to be removed, which is quite difficult, or darken, which can be done in a photo editor. Use a Photoshop vignette filter to perform this procedure quickly and with a large number of options.

So, how to answer our question?

If we look at the purely technical side, the vignetting effect is, of course, a defect in the photographic image. However, there is no definite answer to the question of whether vignetting is good or bad for photography. Much depends on the subject, the skill of the photographer, and the desired goals. First of all, trust your own preferences. If you have any doubts, change the look of the picture by adding a vignette in Photoshop and see the result.

Conclusion

The vignetting effect gives your photos a unique look and helps to draw attention to the most important part of the scene, so it can be an interesting creative tool. When used properly, the vignette gives the photo a special charm. It takes practice to learn how to use it correctly. Now that you know how to make a vignette in Photoshop, experiment and create your own unique style of editing images.