Sparrow with and without Custom Vignette
Photo Processing,  Software

How to Create a Custom Shaped Vignette in Adobe Photoshop

Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw and almost every photo processing plug-in has a vignette filter.  So, why would you want to create a vignette in Photoshop?

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Creating a custom shaped vignette allows you to highlight subjects don’t have a circular or rectangular shape such as long narrow subjects.  With creating custom shaped vignettes in photoshop, you can also highlight multiple areas in a photograph like a subject and it’s reflection.

Steps to Create a Custom Vignette in Adobe Photoshop

Lasso Tool Selection
Lasso Tool Selection

1. Using the Lasso Tool, draw a selection around the area that you want for the vignette.  In the above photograph, I wanted to highlight the bird, his tracks, and his reflection.  You can also use the Rectangular Marquee Tool or the Elliptical Marquee Tool if you want a more regular shaped vignette.

Curves Adjustment Panel
Curves Adjustment Panel

2. Click on the Curves Adjustment Layer Tool to create a new layer with the selection as a mask.

3. Move the Curve line up to brighten the area you want to highlight.  In this case the bird, his tracks, and the reflection.

Tip: You can use the Hand Icon in the Curves Adjustment Layer to brighten / darken a certain brightness range of pixels in the selected area.  Click on the Hand Icon and an eyedropper cursor will appear.  While holding down your mouse button move the eyedropper up (brighten) or down (darken) over the areas in the image that you want to adjust.  You can always click the curves reset button if you don’t like the result.

Feather the Curves Adjustment Mask
Feather the Curves Adjustment Mask

4. To avoid having a hard line between the highlighted area and the vignette, Click on the Mask icon in the Properties Tab and adjust the Feather Slider to the right for a smooth transition.  You can also lower the Opacity of the layer to reduce the affect

Vignette Curves Layer
Vignette Curves Layer

5. Duplicate the Curves Adjustment Layer to darken the vignette area – Command + J (Mac) / Control + J (Windows).

6. Click on the Layer Mask for the vignette and press Command + I (Mac) / Control + I (Windows) to invert the mask.

7. Adjust the curve line to darken the vignette area. 

8. Click on the Mask icon in the Properties Tab and adjust the Feather Slider to the right for a smooth transition.  You can also reduce the Opacity of the layer to reduce the affect.

9. You can save in photoshop format if you want to preserve the layers to readjust later.  In the File menu select Save As and change the Format to Photoshop.

Multiple Selection Vignette
Multiple Selection Vignette

Vignettes with Multiple Selections

You can also easily create vignettes with multiple areas that you want to highlight.  Follow the same process as described above only after you make the first selection with the Lasso Tool.  Hold down the Shift Key and draw a second selection around the 2nd area that you want to highlight.  Your mask will now include both selections.

Written by Martin Belan

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