Create a Non-Destructive Vignette Effect with GIMP

A vignette is a photo whose edges are blurred. This tutorial will show you how to create this effect for your photos in the GIMP free photo editor using a layer mask. This is a good introduction to working with masks and layers in GIMP.

This tutorial uses GIMP 2.6. This should work in later versions, but there may be differences with older versions.

  1. Make a selection for a vignette effect
  2. Apply a layer of mask
  3. Enable quick mask mode
  4. Apply Gaussian Blur to Quick Mask
  5. Reset foreground and background colors
  6. Fill the selection layer mask with black
  7. Add a new background layer
  8. Reorder layers
  9. Change wallpaper to pattern
  10. crop image

Make a selection for a vignette effect

Open the image you want to work with in GIMP.

Activate the ellipse selection tool by clicking E † This is the second tool in the toolbox.

Click and drag in the main image window to make a selection. After you release the mouse button, you can further adjust the selection by clicking and dragging the inner edges of the bounding box around the elliptical selection.

Apply a layer of mask

In the layers palette, right click on the background layer and select Apply a layer of mask

In the Add Layer Mask dialog box, select White (full coverage) and press To add † You will not see any changes to the image, but an empty white box will appear next to the image thumbnail in the layers palette. This is the thumbnail of the layer mask.

Enable quick mask mode

In the lower-left corner of the main image window, click Quick Mask Switch † This shows the masked area as a ruby ​​red overlay.

Apply Gaussian Blur to Quick Mask

Go to page Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur † Set the blur radius to the size of your image. Use the preview to make sure the blur doesn’t extend beyond the boundaries of your image. Click OK when you are happy with the blur level. You will see a blur effect applied to the red quick mask. Press the button quick mask again to exit quick mask mode.

Go to Select > Reverse to deselect.

Reset foreground and background colors

At the bottom of the toolbar, you’ll see the current foreground and background color choices. If they are not black and white, click on the little black and white squares, or click d to return colors to standard black and white.

Fill the selection layer mask with black

Go to Edit > Fill with FG Color † Fill selection with black. Since we’re still working with the layer mask, the background color acts as a transparency mask for the layer’s contents. The white areas of the mask reveal the contents of the layer, while the black areas hide them. Transparent parts of your image are staggered in GIMP (as in most photo editors).

Add a new background layer

We don’t need a choice anymore, so go to Select > No or click on Shift-Ctrl-A

To add a new background to the image, click the new layer button in the layers palette. In the dialog box New layer set the fill type of the layer to white and click Okay

Reorder layers

This new layer will appear above the background and cover your images, so go to the layers palette and drag it below the background layer.

Change wallpaper to pattern

If you prefer a patterned background for a vignette photo, select a template in the Templates dialog box and go to Edit > Fill template

This vignette is non-destructive as none of the pixels in our original photo have been altered. You can reopen the whole photo by right-clicking in the layers palette and “ Disable Layer Mask You can also change the vignette effect by further editing the mask. Try turning the layer mask off and on again to see the original image.

crop image

As a final step, you’ll probably want to crop your image. Select the crop tool in the toolbar or click Shift-C to activate it. This is the 4th icon in the 3rd row of the toolbar.

Click and drag to make a crop selection. You can adjust it after you release the mouse, just like you did with the elliptical selection. When you’re happy with your crop selection, double-click inside to complete your harvest.

Since cropping is destructive, you can save the image with a new name to keep the original image.

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