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There are a variety of ways that you can add a vignette effect to an image, but one of those is through a layer mask in conjunction with an adjustment layer. And you can even use a selection as the basis of that layer mask. Let's take a look at how we can darken the edges of this photo utilizing a layer mask with an adjustment layer. I'll start off by essentially selecting the edges. I'm going to use the rectangular marquis tool in this case, rather than the elliptical marquis tool, because I want more of a darkening of all the edges, not an emphasis on the corners. So then I'll create a selection that is just inside from the outer perimeter of the image. Something like that will work well.
And then I can invert that selection by choosing Select > Inverse from the menu, so now I have this outer area of the image selected. Next, I'll add an adjustment layer, and because I have a selection active, while I'm adding that adjustment layer, the adjustment layer's mask will automatically reflect this selection. In other words, the adjustment will only affect this selected area. So I'll click on the Add Adjustment Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel, and then I'll choose Curves from the pop-up menu that appears, and I'll click and drag downward on that curve in order to apply a darkening effect. I'll keep it a little bit exaggerated initially.
And then I'm going to switch to the Masks section of the Properties panel. So I'll click the Masks button, and then I'll simply apply a little bit of feathering to that mask. In other words, I'm blurring that mask so that I get a smooth transition between the areas that were black and white. And that means I get a nice, smooth transition for that vignette effect. Once I think I've got a good degree of feathering applied, I can go back to the adjustment controls and fine tune the final effect. So you can see that as I lighten or darken I have a smooth transition between the area that's being affected and the area that's not.
In this case, I think I'll apply just a very subtle darkening effect around the edges of the image. I'll toggle the visibility of that adjustment layer off and on so that you can get a better sense of the effect. But by using a selection as the basis of my layer mask for a targeted adjustment, I'm able to very easily darken just the edges of my photo.
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