How To Add a Vignette In GIMP {Solved}

large feature vignetting

Photo by Ali Pazani

In photography, framing your subjects is an excellent way to draw your viewer’s attention to them. We can apply this photographic technique in GIMP, too… with a vignette. There are three ways to add a vignette in GIMP; via a selection, a shape, and a built-in vignette filter.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn all three methods for making vignettes. Oh, and I’ll also show you how to customize the shapes to create a spot-like effect.

If you’re ready to master vignetting… let’s do it!

Watch the video tutorial by clicking here.

Table of Contents

The Easiest Alternative to Add a Vignette With GIMP

hotspot image of vignette settings

For this image, hover over each icon to reveal what each setting does.

It wasn’t that long ago when we didn’t have a vignette tool! If you’re using GIMP 2.8… you still don’t have it. The vignette filter is worth updating to the latest version. Before we dive into how to use it, let’s first explore all the vignette filter settings.

change the vignette color
change the radius
change the softness
changes the hardness too
will adjust the aspect ratio
adjust how thick or thin it is
move it to the right or left
reposition up or down
adjust the angle
decrease the opacity

Now, let’s discover how to add vignettes around your image.

Step 1: Open An Image


Download this image if you’d like to follow along with this tutorial. Or open any image of your choice.

Step 2: Create a New Layer

add a new layer

One vital step most tutorials skip is creating a new layer. I prefer placing my vignette on a separate layer from the background layer. This way, you have more control over the layer after it’s added.

For example, in the vignette filter window, you have an option to adjust the Blending Mode and the transparency. Let’s say you change the opacity slider to 50 and set the mode to Hard Light. After adding this vignette to your image layer, it’s permanent!

What do I mean by that? If you decide that you no longer like that mode and or transparency setting, you can’t change it! That’s why it’s essential to place the vignette on a new layer. You can still apply a different mode and transparency to it, but it’s not permanent!

So, add a new layer by clicking on the first icon at Layer Panel’s bottom.

Step 3: Apply Your Vignette Effect

add the effect

To add your vignette, go to the menu, Filters > Light and Shadow > Vignette. Adjust the settings to your liking and click the OK button. Boom… instant vignette!


Step 4: Style Your Vignetting Effect

retro effect

A retro vignette was achieved with a red color and the “Grain Merge” blending mode.

Now that your vignette is on a separate layer, you can further style it. Either lower the opacity, choose a Blend Mode, apply a Gaussian Blur, or whatever you need to do to fulfill your creative vision!

To save them:

  1. Click on the plus icon to the right of the “Presets” drop-down menu (at the top right).
  2. Give it a name and click OK.
  3. BOOM! It’s now saved as a preset.

Pro Tip:

Once upon a time, I created the perfect vignette, and I added it as described above. After finishing with the image, I started editing another. The image was similar in composition, lighting, colors, etc. I realized the vignette I added previously would have been perfect. 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember the exact settings, and it took me forever to get it close. I should have saved the settings as a preset! Yep, you can save your settings to re-use for future images.  Click the “plus” icon top/right to create and save a preset.

How To Create A Heart Shape Vignette {or Any Shape}

heart shape

Who says your vignette layer has to be added as a basic shape? Nope, not I. You can create a heart, star, octagon, or any other shaped vignette. The only problem is, these types of shapes can not be made in GIMP!

So, we have to get creative. Check out this free resource that includes over 25 custom shapes you can use for your vignettes (and other design projects).

Once downloaded, find the heart shape, drag the image file over your interface and release your mouse button. It will then be added as a new layer! Here’s how to convert the heart shape into a vignette…

How To Create a Custom Vignette

rotated oval

Let’s create a vignette with one of our selection tools. For this example, I’m using the Ellipse tool to create my vignette in the area exactly where I want it. Oh, and adjust the size, shape, angle, etc., too.

Once you have your selection, invert it as we did previously and fill it in. Make sure to add a new layer before filling! Again, deselect and apply a Gaussian Blur.

Pro Tip:

Did you know that you can rotate your selections to adjust the angle? Yes, yes, you can. Here’s how to rotate a selection…

Grab the Rotate Tool (R) and select “Selection” (next to Transform) in the Tool Options and rotate to your heart’s content.

Bonus! {My Favorite Effect For Adding a Vignette}

custom vignette with gradient

My favorite method to create a vignette is the ‘ole fashion way,… or at least how we did it in older versions. That method is through the use of a Layer Mask and a gradient. Here’s how…

What's Next?

It’s time to take your GIMP skills up a notch or two with more free tutorials. Or maybe you want to elevate your skills to the master level? If so, check out these pro tutorials.

Like this article? If so, please share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.