How to Create a Vignette in Photoshop (A Quick Guide)

How to add a vignette in Adobe Photoshop

This article was updated in March 2024 with contributions from Megan Kennedy and Jaymes Dempsey.

Vignettes are a great way to add a bit of extra oomph to your images. They help keep the viewer focused on the main subject – while de-emphasizing the edges of the frame.

Many photographers, myself included, regularly apply vignettes to their images. But while many programs (such as Lightroom) include a straightforward vignetting tool, creating a vignette in Photoshop is a bit more complicated.

Fortunately, Photoshop is a very sophisticated program, and there is not just one, but a handful of methods for adding vignettes to your files.

In this article, I’ll share three of my favorite ways to apply the effect. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll be able to apply a vignette to any digital photograph quickly and easily, and you’ll even be able to customize the shape and intensity as needed.

Let’s get started!

What is a vignette?

In photography, a vignette is any shadowy darkness that appears around the periphery of an image. Here’s a very extreme example:

Exaggerated vignette example
An artificial, highly-exaggerated example of vignetting.

Here’s a much more subtle, realistic example:

Now, vignetting can occur for several reasons.

For instance, optical vignetting is caused by the physics of wide-aperture lenses. Less light reaches the edges of the camera sensor, and as a result, you get a darkening effect at the edge of the frame. Many post-processing programs offer optical modules designed to counteract specific vignetting effects created by specific lenses – but that’s a topic for another article!

The type of vignetting we’re interested in is artificial vignetting – where you create vignetting yourself using a program such as Photoshop.

As I mentioned above, Photoshop isn’t the only program you can use to create a vignette. In fact, Photoshop is unusual in that it doesn’t include an obvious, easy-to-access vignetting tool. But adding a vignette is still pretty simple, as I’ll explain below.

Why create a Photoshop vignette?

Vignetting can be a contentious topic in photographic circles. Some photographers love vignettes, while others loathe them.

But as photography has evolved, applying artificial vignettes in Photoshop has become a useful compositional device. Vignettes are an enduring photographic technique that can add to the gravitas of an image by creating a sense of atmosphere, age, or depth.

Personally, I think a restrained vignette can add to an image, especially if the composition includes a main subject toward the center of the shot. If the vignette is present but not immediately obvious to the viewer, it can subtly yet effectively emphasize specific parts of your photo.

The key word, however, is “subtle.” As soon as the vignette becomes perceptible to the viewer, it detracts from the image. So have fun creating your vignette – but don’t go overboard!

How to create a vignette in Photoshop: my three favorite methods

There are quite a few ways to create a vignette in Photoshop, each offering various levels of customizability. Today, I’m going to cover the three that I recommend the most.

These methods are simple, easy to apply, and will do a great job of creating a customizable vignette effect.

Method 1: The Lens Correction filter

If you’re looking for a quick way to create a vignette, then this method is a perfect choice.

To start off, open your image in Photoshop. I’m going to use this lavender photo, which has already been processed but doesn’t yet feature a vignette:

how to create a vignette in Photoshop a starter image of lavender

Step 1: Create a layer for your vignette

In Photoshop, it’s best to edit your files non-destructively; that way, you can go back and adjust your original file if required.

Standard Photoshop adjustments are destructive by default – but you can avoid editing the original file thanks to the power of layers.

So right-click on the Background layer in the Layers panel, then select Duplicate Layer.

In the pop-up window, rename the layer “Vignette.”

Step 2: Access the Lens Correction filter

With the Vignette layer still selected, click Filter in the Photoshop menu. Then select Lens Correction.

A new Lens Correction window will open. Click the Custom tab on the right-hand panel. Under the Vignette heading, adjust the Amount and Midpoint sliders until you’re happy with the vignette effect.

Then click OK.

how to create a vignette in photoshop lens correction

If the image looks a little dull after applying the vignette, you can give it a contrast boost with a Curves adjustment layer. You can also adjust the intensity of the colors with a Vibrance adjustment layer. Make edits until you’re satisfied, then call it a day!

final vignette using the Lens Correction filter
Keeping it subtle; my final image after using the Lens Correction vignette method.

Method 2: The Gradient fill layer

This second method is a little more complex than the Lens Correction method; however, it’s also more flexible. I like to use it when I want to create more sophisticated vignetting effects.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Set the foreground color to black

With your file open in Photoshop, the first thing to check is that the foreground color swatch is set to black.

To revert to the Photoshop default of a black foreground and a white background, press the D key.

Step 2: Add a Gradient fill layer

Next, choose Layer in the main menu, then select New Fill Layer>Gradient. Click OK on the first pop-up window that appears.

A second pop-up will appear: the Gradient Fill settings window. Make sure to tick the Reverse box (otherwise, your vignette will be inside-out, with the center of the image dark, and the edges of the image untouched by the effect).

By default, the Gradient Fill Style will be set to Linear. Change this to Radial – that way, Photoshop knows to create the gradient in a circle, rather than a line.

At this point, you should see a vignette applied to your image, but it’ll be extremely intense. You can boost the Scale percentage to alter the strength of the vignette (smaller numbers correspond to a more intense gradient). I usually enter a value around 300% to 350%.

how to create a vignette with a Photoshop gradient

Click OK.

Gradient Fill final image
The image after the Gradient fill layer has been applied.

Step 3: Experiment with opacity and blending modes

Once you’ve applied the Gradient fill layer, your image may look a little dark and flat. To blend the gradient effect more carefully, make sure the Gradient fill layer is selected, then reduce the opacity of the layer via the Opacity slider.

Each image will be different, but I usually reduce the opacity of the Gradient Fill layer to around the 50% mark. Here’s my example image with reduced opacity:

a reduced opacity version of the lavender image
The vignette effect is more subtle with the opacity reduced.

To further blend the Gradient fill layer with the underlying image, you can also work with Photoshop blending modes. Just click on the blend mode dropdown menu and see what works best for your image.

Finally, if your image is still feeling a little flat, make some adjustments with a Curves adjustment layer to boost the contrast.

Vignette with the Hard Light blend mode applied to a Gradient fill layer.
The final result, with a Hard Light blending mode applied to the Gradient fill layer and a contrast boost via a Curves adjustment layer.

Method 3: Using the Shape tool

Photoshop’s Shape tool has endless uses – including adding a vignette to a photograph.

Specifically, by working with an ellipse shape, you can easily create a versatile vignette. Here’s how:

Step 1: Create an ellipse

First, make sure your foreground color is set to black.

Then, with your image open in Photoshop, select an ellipse from the Shape Tool menu on the far left Photoshop toolbar. Check to make sure that the Fill swatch located toward the top of the screen in the Shape menu is set to solid black (if it’s not, then double-click and adjust the Fill color).

Once the color is set, drag the ellipse outline over your image to form an oval shape. When you release the mouse button, the shape will automatically fill with black.

How to create a vignette in Photoshop with the Shape tool

Step 2: Invert the ellipse

With your Ellipse layer selected, click on the Properties window and select the Subtract front shape icon located under the Pathfinder heading (see below). The shape will reverse, creating a black border around a now-transparent ellipse.

creating a reverse selection with the Ellipse tool

Step 3: Adjust the vignette with masks

Make sure the Ellipse layer is selected, then refer back to the Properties menu.

This time, click the Masks icon; it looks like a gray circle on a dark background (see below). The Masks menu allows you to adjust the Density and Feather of the Ellipse layer. I usually leave the Density at 100%, but I push the Feather adjustment to its upper limits (which softens the vignette effect).

Using masks to adjust the vignette effect
The Feather slider softens the edges of the vignette.

Step 4: Add finishing touches to your vignette

To increase the subtlety of the vignette, you can adjust the opacity of the Ellipse layer. Experimenting with different blending modes is another effective way to adjust the impact of the artificial vignette.

And feel free to alter the dimensions of the vignette with the Transform options or tweak the contrast and saturation with adjustment layers.

Once you’re done, you should have a vignette like this:

how to create a vignette effect in Photoshop final result of Ellipse Tool vignette method
The results of applying a vignette with the Shape tool in Photoshop.

How to create a vignette in Photoshop: final words

As you can see, applying vignettes to your photos in Photoshop doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it’s really very simple! And it’s fairly customizable, too – which means you can spend plenty of time playing around with the strength, feathering, and position of your vignette effect.

So open some of your favorite images in Photoshop. See how they look with vignettes.

As long as you keep it subtle, I’m guessing you’ll get a great result!

Photoshop vignetting FAQ

What is a vignette?

A vignette is a darkening around the periphery of a photograph. It occurs for various reasons in many photographic circumstances.

How do I add a vignette in Photoshop?

There are several ways to create a vignette in Photoshop. The methods listed in this article are simple and effective ways to apply a vignette aesthetic.

Where can I find the vignette tool in Photoshop?

Unfortunately, Photoshop doesn’t offer a vignette tool. However, you can easily create a vignette with the Shape tool, a Gradient fill layer, or a Lens Corrections filter.

How do I remove in-camera vignetting?

The easiest way to remove vignetting in post-production is to open the image in Photoshop and – with the image layer selected – click Filter>Lens Correction. The Lens Correction window will present various options for reducing unwanted vignetting.

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