Vignettes in Glamour Retouching

A vignette is a technique to darken the borders of an image. Since our eyes are drawn to the lightest, sharpest parts of any image, the vignette is a great way to focus attention on the model.

The key to rendering a sensitive glamour retouch is to study the image and have a vision of the result before doing anything. The original of the fabulous Andrelica showed nice light on her cheek, but her eyes were in shadow:

The original image of Andrelica.

The original image of Andrelica.

I remedied this in Photoshop by creating a Curves adjustment layer, setting the blend mode to Screen (to lighten), adding a black layer mask, and painting (on the mask) different shades of grey on the sclera and iris using a 50% hard Brush. Call this a reverse vignette if you will, because it is lightening an area.

My eye was drawn to the bright highlight on her shoe, which is not where I wanted the viewer’s eye to go. To fix this, I simply used the Clone Stamp tool to clone a darker area of her shoe onto the highlight.

A curves adjustment layer set to the Multiply (to darken) blend mode was used to vignette the entire image. A big, soft black Brush was used to paint (on the white layer mask) over her, thereby returning her to her original lightness. The edges of the frame remained dark, and thereby concentrating our attention on her.

Something more was needed. I created a second vignette layer identical to the first, and on the white mask I painted a black vertical stripe over three areas: her eyes, her lips, and a broader stripe across her chest. This had the effect of lightening these three areas. After adjusting its layer opacity, you get the result seen here:

The final image of Andrelica.

The final image of Andrelica.

Seven tips to keep in mind:
1. Always analyze your image first.
2. Retouch any bright, distracting highlights to eliminate them.
3. Use a Curves adjustment layer for vignettes and reverse vignettes. It is not used for its curve, but only for its blending mode. Because it contains no actual pixels of the image, it really helps to keep the file size down.
4. To lighten a specific area, create a Curves adjustment layer, set the layer blending mode to Screen, add a black mask, and paint on the mask with a soft white Brush.
5. For a traditional vignette or to darken a specific area, use a Curves adjustment layer set to the Multiply blending mode. Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, you can either paint on a white mask with a soft black Brush or paint on a black mask with a soft white Brush. 
6. While vignetting can be accomplished on a single layer, it is often more expedient to use more than one such layer.
7. Remember the Curves layer opacity slider can be adjusted downward to fine tune any of these effects.