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Let's learn the proper way to create a vignette. It gives you a lot of flexibility and then along the way to do that, we will learn a couple of tricks, like how to convert a selection to a layer mask and so forth. To do the classic vignette effect, and a vignette is where you have a soft edge fading out to either a white background or hopefully transparency, so you can control the color of the background separately. Let's go ahead and make our rectangular selection here, like so. And what we want to do is soften those edges, so it's not just a hard edge. Now, again, most people will go to Select > Modify > Feather.
I don't actually like this technique and I am going to show you why here. I can't really preview this. I have no idea how hard or how soft this feathered selection is going to end up. If I click OK, I just get some indication of rounded corners. I have no real way to preview this as I am creating it using this method. So, I am going to undo this, Command +Z, Ctrl+Z. And instead of making a selection and then feathering it, I am going to go press my friend the Quick Mask by pressing the letter Q and going into Quick Mask mode. Now I can accurately see how sharp the edges are.
The mask is being shown as the green overlay, and the selected area as the clear area. It turns out that if you are in Quick Mask mode, you have all your menu commands available to you and one of them is the Filter menu. So, if I go to Filter and choose Blur > Gaussian Blur, it will bring that up. So, I will move the dialog box up here a little bit. If I mouse outside the dialog box, I get a little rectangle or a square cursor here. If I click somewhere on that image, I can actually see the edge of the mask that I am currently viewing here. So, it turns out, using Gaussian Blur in Quick Mask mode is the exact same thing as feathering a selection outside of Quick Mask mode.
They both give you the same result, but the advantage of doing it in Quick Mask mode is that you get a preview. So, you remember, our Feather Radius was 30 when we were using the Feather command. I am going to take the Radius of Gaussian Blur to the same amount. I get the exact same result, except here I get a live preview. I can actually see how hard or soft that vignette is going to be. If I go ahead and click and drag on the slider, I have a lot of control. I have a way to preview this before I commit to it. So, I am going to settle on say 20. I will just type in 20 there and click OK. Great! Now I have got the exact vignette I want.
It's got the edge quality I want, because I was able to preview that in advance. I am going to go ahead and press the Q key to go back out to Normal mode. If I press the Delete key on the keyboard, it actually brings up the Fill command, where I can choose to fill this with a particular color. If I choose let's say white and click OK, that's not exactly what I wanted, right? I wanted the opposite of that. So, I am going to undo it. I set that up to show you that you can inverse your selection. Sometimes it's easier to select what you don't want and then flip it around to get what you actually wanted or vice versa.
So, before I actually fill this with that white background color, I am going to go to the Select menu and choose Inverse. Now it has selected everything but the center of that flower. I press the Delete key again on my keyboard. That brings up the Fill command. It remembers the last setting I had, so it's white. I click OK. I have got my classic vignette effect here. Now, the problem here is that I don't have a lot of flexibility to reposition the flower within that vignette, because I have actually filled those original pixels with that white background color. So, I am going to undo this, Command+Z, Ctrl+Z. What I want to do is convert this selection into a layer mask.
Now, before I can do that, the background layer has to be converted. You will note at the bottom of the Layers panel there is a button here to create a layer mask, but it's not available to me, because a background layer cannot be masked to transparency. We need to convert this layer into just a regular layer. The way you do that is just simply double-click on the name of the layer. We can call it layer 0. I can call it Vignette. Type in that name and press Return. Now I have a layer that can support transparency. If I go back to the bottom of the Layers panel and click on the layer mask icon, I have converted my selection into a mask.
So, instead of seeing white pixels here, I see transparency. I see a checkerboard. Right now, on the layer mask, black means selected. White means protected. What I want to do is reverse this layer mask, so I get the opposite of what I am currently viewing. A mask can be inverted at any time. So pixels can be inverted; selections can be inversed. Same concept, but again, one you are acting on a selection. The other one you are actually acting on pixels. This layer mask is actually a grayscale image being used to mask this layer.
So, I am going to go ahead and make sure the layer mask is targeted. You can see there is a border around that thumbnail. If I click on the image, it has the border. If I click on the layer mask, it has the border. I am going to use the keyword shortcut to Invert, which is Command+I or Ctrl+I. I now have the opposite of the mask, so you can always flip a mask anytime you want. Now, I have a lot more flexibility, because if I want to have a background color behind the flower, I can use a different layer to do that. I am going to go click on the New Layer icon to create a new layer.
It's a new layer, just called Layer 1. It's filled with transparency. I am going to move Layer 1 below the Vignette layer, and just by doing the clicking and dragging until it's below that layer and letting go. Now I want to fill this layer with a color. I'll go to the Edit menu and choose Fill. Let's go ahead and choose white and fill it with white and click OK. The advantage of this technique though is that I can always change the color of that layer to anything I want after the fact. And because this flower is on its own layer with a layer mask, I can reposition the flower within the masked area.
By default, the image and the mask are locked together. They are linked. So, I am going to unlink them. So, if I get my Move tool- I will just press V for the Move tool- if I were to click and drag anywhere in this flower, you will see the flower and the mask move together because they are linked. I am going to click on the little link icon between the image and the layer mask. And now when I click on the flower, you can see I can move that freely around within that mask to reposition it. So, I have a lot more flexibility of creating the custom vignette look I am looking for. Make your selection, type Q to go to Quick Mask.
Use Gaussian Blur to soften the edge. Get out of Quick Mask mode. Convert that selection to a layer mask. If your layer is a background layer, convert the background layer first. Then add the layer mask. That converts your selection to a layer mask and now you have this flexibility to change any part without it being destructive.
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