Sunday, August 16, 2009

To Build a Better Vignette

To Build a Better Vignette.

The vignette is a fabulous post-processing effect in today’s image style library. When done well, it draws attention to the key parts of an image composition by subtly darkening less important areas. When done poorly, you just look like you’re trying too hard… :-P
If you’re using Adobe Lightroom for your image cataloging/processing solution you have a vignetting option built right in. It works, but really, it’s not my favorite. Today I want to show you a little bit more complicated way that gives far better results. I still use Photoshop CS3 Extended, so if you are using Photoshop Elements or PS CS4 you may need to do some translation…
-Open a portrait in Photoshop and grab a selection tool. (You will see as we move on that with this method you can create vignettes of any shape or size.) For now let’s use the Rectangular Marquee tool (M).
-Create a selection about 25% bigger than the face/upper body of your portrait.
-Feather the selection. (CTRL+ALT+D or CMD+OPT+D) For high-resolution images use a setting of 250 pixels. For low resolution images you will have to play around to find a good blend.
-Invert the selection. (CTRL+SHIFT+I or CMD+SHIFT+I)
-Duplicate your layer. (CTRL+J or CMD+J) Note: this doesn’t work if you go up to Layer>Duplicate Layer. Use the shortcut and we will all be happier!
-Go to your Layers Palette and change the blending mode from Normal to Multiply. Use the Opacity slider to dial back the intensity if the vignette is too strong. Want it stronger? Duplicate your layer again!
You can think of the Multiply blending mode as doing the same thing as running an image through an inkjet printer more than once. Unlike the vignette option in Lightroom, which just adds a black overlay, the Multiply vignette takes the actual tones and colors and intensifies them. Areas of your image that are bright will not be affected by this mode very much at all, while dark areas will become quite intense.

Judson Alphin
My friend Judson. This image was color corrected in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and has no vignetting applied.

Judson Alphin
Image 2 has the same color correction and a vignette from Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. This isn't bad, and I would even go so far as to say that the Lightroom vignette makes the image look decidedly better.

Judson Alphin
Image 3 has the same color correction from Adobe Photoshop Lightroom but has been vignetted with the technique described above. Note the subtle drawing of your attention to his face by darkening the edges without the noticeable black overlay in Image 2.



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