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Adding a Vignette Layer with Photoshop

Vignettes are a bit of a Marmite addition to an image, you either love them or hate them. However, if used carefully they can be a useful tool to help lead the viewer’s eye to an area of a photograph.

The advantage of the method I will go through is that the vignette is located on a separate layer from the main image so it can be turned on or off.

Duplicate the background layer by clicking on the flyout arrow at the top of the layer palette and select Duplicate Layer or use cmd-J (Mac) or ctrl-J (PC).

Now select the Rectangular Marquee tool (M) . If you cannot see the Rectangular Marquee tool click on hold the button and a flyout will appear and you can choose the Rectangular Marquee from that palette.

Go to the Feather option in the top menu bar and set a value of 250 pixels (this is fine for a full resolution image, you may need to play around with this value for lower resolutions)

Now drag a selection in the upper layer. Don’t select to small an area as the feathering will make the selection larger than you think.

Press Backspace (Mac) Delete (PC) to “knock-out” the selection you just made. Now press D to get rid of the marching ants.
Select the Multiply blend mode and the vignette is done. If the vignette affects areas of the image you would rather it didn’t use a layer mask to reduce the effect or simply use the Eraser tool to eliminate it completely.

Usually I add the vignette as one of the last steps in a workflow and the image I have used here has been flattened. You can add the vignette to a non-flattened image by selecting the uppermost layer in the stack and pressing shift-alt-cmd-E (Mac) shift-alt-ctrl-E (PC) to merge all layers into a composite layer at the top of the stack and then proceed with the steps above.

About Richard Hales (35 Articles)
Richard’s first foray into was photography was as an apprentice photographer for Oxford University over 20 years ago. From there Richard went on to study photography at University somehow gaining a BA & MA, he still is rather confused how he managed to do this. After University and an unfinished (and un-started) PhD Richard “retired” from photography for a few years to pursue a career in wine and, oddly, scrap metal before returning to photography and setting up a wedding and portrait photography business in Worcestershire. As well as running his photography business Richard is currently working on a bread & jam making book. He is the average height for a Nut.

1 Comment on Adding a Vignette Layer with Photoshop

  1. Jeffrey // 05/03/2015 at 4:48 pm //

    I am not getting the expected results in the end or able to match what is happening in your instructions. Your last photo does not indicate a vignette or fade around the edge so maybe this is not what I’m trying to learn. I’m using Photoshop 2014. First, when I duplicate layer I get the same image on top not an empty page as shown in the third image from the bottom. When I select command-backspace to “knockout the back ground I end up with an image on the second layer that is faded towards the middle to white. What am I doing wrong?

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