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By darkening the edges of an image, you'll help ensure that the viewer stays within the photo, rather than wandering outside and perhaps losing interest. In this lesson, I'll show you my preferred method for applying a vignette effect. The key in my mind is to utilize a separate layer to maximize your flexibility in finetuning the effect. In this case, I have an image that I've already converted the black and white and that has had a sepia tone effect added to it. However, I'm working with a flattened version of the image just to keep it simple here. The first thing I need to do is to add a new layer that I'll use to apply the vignette effect on.
However, I want that layer to have special properties. So I'm going to click on the Create New Layer button, the blank sheet of paper icon at the bottom of Layers panel, but I'm going to hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while I do so. This will cause the New Layer dialog to appear, rather than just creating a default layer. I can give this layer a name, and I highly recommend doing so, so that it will always be clear exactly why any given layer is added to the image. In this case, I'll simply call it Vignette.
Next, I'll change the Blend mode for this layer to Multiply. This is one of the darkening blend modes and one that has a relatively strong effect. But that's going to be helpful, because it will give us more flexibility when we decide on exactly how strong a vignette effect we want in the final image. I also want to turn on the check box to fill this layer with the neutral color for the multiplied blend mode which happens to be white. With these settings established, I'll click OK, and as you can see, my new layer is created. The layer is called Vignette, it is filled with white and the blend mode is set to Multiply.
And because white is the neutral color for the Multiply blend mode, this layer is currently having absolutely no effect on the image, but we're going to change that. Let's choose Filter > Lens Correction from the menu to bring up the Lens Correction filter. Now, we'll turn off all of the automatic correction adjustments, and instead, move straight to the Custom section. Here, we'll find sliders for vignette amount and the midpoint. I'll drag to the left to darken, and in fact, I'm going to darken by the maximum amount, even though, I might want to tone that down a little bit later.
I can also adjust the midpoint, which determines how far into the center of the image this vignette effect will appear. In this case, I'm going to pull it a little bit more toward the center, just because I want to create a little bit of a larger framing for my image. With these settings established, I'll go ahead and click OK. As you can see, the effect is a little too strong at this point. But that's because we've used a strong vignette effect and we use the multiply blend mode, which itself is relatively strong. But I can adjust the degree of this vignette by changing the Opacity setting for my Vignette layer. I can click the pop-up associated with this option in order to adjust the slider, or, I could simply point to the word Opacity and then click left to reduce the opacity or right to increase the opacity. I can then adjust the overall effect as I see fit. And by turning off the visibility of my layer, I can get a better sense of just how strong the effect really is.
Now, it's also possible to apply a lightening effect for the edges of the image if you prefer. Let's take a look at the variation that we would use in order to apply that effect. In this case, I'll turn off my Vignette layer so that we don't have the darkening of the edges taking hold. And I'll again, hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while clicking on the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel. I'll give this new layer a name. In this case, we'll call it lightening since I'm lightening the edges of the image. I'll change the blend mode in this particular case to Overlay.
This is a blend mode that allows us to either lighten or darken the image. And then, I'll turn on the Fill with Overlay Neutral Color check box, which will fill this later with neutral gray. I'll go ahead and click OK, and then, we'll go to the Filter > Lens Correction. Now, I'll go to the Custom tab, and increase my amount for vignette, so that I'm brightening the edges of the image. And once again, I can adjust the midpoint as I see fit. When I'm happy with the result, I'll click OK. And as you can see, I have a very strong brightening vignette effect for the image, but I can tone that down by reducing the opacity for this particular layer.
In this case, of course, I much prefer the darkening effect, but the point is that we can apply either lightening or the darkening to any image as we see fit. A vignette effect doesn't have to be strong to be effective. In fact, in most cases, it's best to use a very subtle effect. And even a very subtle vignette effect can help the viewer focused within your image.
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