Here’s a few simple steps to create an interesting vignette effect on your photograph.
1. Activate the Brush Tool: This can be done in the side tool bar or by simply pressing ‘B’ on the keyboard.
2. Enter Quick Mask Mode: Press the Q button on the keyboard. This activates the masking mode. It will appear as nothing has happened; however, the mask is being applied to entire photo. We need invert the mask by pressing (command I), so no part of the photo is masked. The photo should now look red.
3. Brush in Dark Edges: We’ll use the brush tool. Make sure you have the foreground color set to white.
Next, make sure your opacity is set to 30% and the brush hardness is set to 0%.
Now brush the edges of the photo with the brush tool. Notice, because of the 30% opacity, we havent’ taken much red away. Next, we’re going to set the opacity to 100%, and mask the very outer edges. Masking these two opacities will give the vignette a more gradual (feathered) transition from light to dark edges.
4. Leave Quick Mask Mode: Next we’ll press the Q key on the keyboard to exit the Quick Mask Mode. Now you’ll see the area we have masked. Note the ‘marching ants’ circle in the middle. This is where the masking ends. Although it appears as an abrupt delineation, it’s actually a gradual (feathered) transition. You’ll see what I mean in a moment. Your photo should look like the following now:
*Notice how I didn’t mask much of this person’s head. That’s the beauty of applying the vignette with this method. Brushing in a vignette in the quick mask mode allows you to optimize your vignette for the photo. In this case, I didn’t want to darken the person’s head in. Therefore, I chose to not brush around his head.
5. Apply Curves Adjustment Layer to Selection: Lastly, we’ll darken the masked area with a curves adjustment. To quickly apply curves to the area highlighted you’ll need to click ‘create new fill or adjustment layer’ at the bottom of the layer window. Click the ‘curves’ option to bring up the curves adjustment window.
Next we’ll darken the levels around the edges by clicking and dragging the adjustment curves down. See below.
You can see that by using the quick mask and applying the curves with the ‘Create New Fill and Adjustments’ you’re able to quickly select and darken the outside of the photo. Lastly, flatten the image. ’Voilà!’ you now have a nice looking vignette. The vignette is subtle, but it centers the focus and gives the person the added pop. Below is the before and after result.