• Facebook
  • Instagram

© 2021 Austin James Jackson LLC. All Rights Reserved.

  • Austin James Jackson

How to Effectively Create a Custom Vignette in Photoshop

Many people don't truly understand how often landscape photographers create vignettes. I use a vignette on every single photo that I edit, and I find it to be one of the best things to use in order to give my photos that final professional look.

If you've never used a vignette before, it's not hard at all. A vignette is simply where you darken the edges of your photograph, which helps bring the viewers eye to the center of the frame. When viewing a photograph, our eyes are drawn to the lightest part of the image first, so darkening the edges helps ensure that the center of the image (generally where your subject is) is the brightest part of your image.

In this week's blog post, I'll be teaching you exactly how I make vignettes on all of my photos in Photoshop, as well as sharing some images to show you just how much of a difference using a vignette makes. Not only do I darken the edges, but I actually brighten the center ever so slightly to help lead my viewer right into the center of my frame.

Vignette for landscape photography
An image with no vignette.
landscape photography vignette
The same image as above, but with a vignette applied.

How to Create a Custom Vignette

Step 1:

First, create a new group with two blank layers above all other layers in your Photoshop file. The new layer button is on the bottom right next to the trash can, and the group button is one more to the left of the new layer button.

photoshop making a vignette
Step 1: Also, notice how the image doesn't really have a great focal point, because the edges of the frame are the same lightness as the center of the frame.

Step 2:

Next, grab the Elliptical Marque Tool (the circle selection tool, seen selected in the photo above) and draw a circle around your frame, not quite to the edges. Click and drag the circle to center it in the frame (guides should pop up when you hit the center). Then, go to Select > Modify > Feather and feather the selection by 1000 pixels.

photoshop interface
Step 2: Your screen should look something like this.

Step 3:

Now, while on one of your blank layers, go to Edit > Fill and change the "Contents" to white. You should now see a cloudy white circle in the middle of your photo.

Select the other empty layer (VERY IMPORTANT) and go to Select > Inverse. This inverses the selection. Then, go back to Edit > Fill and change the "Contents" to black.

photoshop interface
Step 3: Your image should look roughly like this.

Step 4:

Now, you'll want to select the group (mine is called "Vingette", spelled wrong on Photoshop of course...) and change the blend mode to overlay. Then, select the layer with white on it and change the opacity to 25%.

After that, you'll want to select the layer that has the black on it, and go to Edit > Transform > Warp. You are now able to drag the black vignette around to make the perfect custom vignette. It will take some practice to master, but this is my favorite way of creating a vignette.

photoshop warping to make a vignette
Step 4: I like to zoom out when I warp, and often times, the warping gets even crazier than this! I push and pull on all of the handles until I have the result I want.

Step 5:

Toggle the results of the warp on and off on the group layer by hitting the eye icon just to the left of the layer. Occasionally, you may want to adjust the opacity of the brightening or darkening layers. Also, be sure that the darkening layer didn't oversaturate anything on the corners of the frame. You can also mask out the effect in certain spots, which is just another reason why I love making the vignette in Photoshop.

photoshop vignette
Before vignette
photoshop custom vignette
After vignette

While adding a vignette is something that is up to your own personal taste, almost all pro landscape photographers are doing it these days. On most photos, you wouldn't even be able to pick out a vignette unless you were looking for it. Even on my photo above, it is not obvious that I have darkened around the edges unless I tell you.

Hopefully you'll be able to put this tip to use in the next photo you edit, and I think you'll be really happy with the results. As with anything else, it takes time to master, but you'll start seeing great results as soon as you implement this way of making a vignette.

Thanks for checking out this week's 5 Minute Photography Blog post, and I'll see you next week!