Using G’MIC to Create Vignettes

June 24, 2011
f/4.0; 1/125sec; 105mm; ISO 800

f/4.0; 1/125sec; 105mm; ISO 800

In late 2009, I wrote a post about adding a vignette to a photo. I was never really happy with that post, and it has bothered me now for a year and half that I never wrote about a better option. Then, almost exactly a year later, I posted about the FIL Script (side note: I totally forgot about that script! I really liked it, too. I should use it more often), and I made a quick reference to the fact that if you wanted to use some of the grain options, you would have to download the G’MIC plug-in.

What I did not mention in that entry was that, after downloading that plug-in, I finally came full circle and was able to provide a way of creating vignettes that I’m much happier with. The concepts are the same as from my first post – either create a new layer with a black area set to overlay, or create a duplicate layer with a layer mask and make that layer darker somehow (don’t worry, if you’re confused, I’ll detail the concepts below).

The key that G’MIC provides is the ability to produce a radial gradient starting at the center of your photo without you having to eyeball. Now this seems to me that this is something that gimp really should provide for you out of the box, and I looked all over for it, and maybe I’m missing something obviously but I could never find it! Even if they do, and I am blind for missing it, there’s still a reason I’d use G’MIC, but I’ll get to that in a bit. First, let’s see this in action…

First, if you don’t already have it, you’ll need to install the G’MIC plugin. You can download it from here. I’m not sure how it works for Linux/Mac, but for Windows, you’re downloading an exe and you can just double-click to install it.

Next, of course, you need to open a photo in Gimp to edit it. Here’s the photo I’m using (for the record, this isn’t straight out of the camera, I did adjust levels):

Taken on a hike in a Metro Park near my house.

Taken on a hike in a Metro Park near my house.

Option One: Vignette set to overlay

Remember, I said there were two ways to create a vignette effect. This is the one I do more often, but if I’m being completely honest, it’s just because I find it easier – not only to do, but to adjust the settings if I’m not completely happy with it.

So, to start, we bring up G’MIC, which is under the Filters menu. I’m going to pause here for a second and ask – how do you think that is pronounced? I’ve been pronoucing it as “Gee Mick”, but it sudddenly occured to me that, with the apostophe, they might intend for it to be pronounced more like “g’day, mate” is. Hmmm.

Anyway, sorry for that tangent. We bring up G’MIC and it looks like this:

Click to see full-size

Click to see full-size

G’MIC, like FX-Foundry is a suite of scripts, but instead of listing them all as individual scripts in the menus, you open G’MIC and select which script(s) you want to run from there. We want the Radial Gradient script, which is found under Colors:

Radial Gradient

Notice that you can select a starting color, ending color, fade start and end, and how centered you want the gradient. This is much nicer – in my opinion – than trying to center that gradient yourself!

In our first method for vignettes, we want a transparent-to-black gradient, so we change our starting color to transparent by click on the black box and then dropping the opacity to 0:


Then switch the Ending color to black (the “color name” for black is #000000, or you can just make sure the Hue, Saturation and Value boxes are all zeros).

Next, I prefer to have my fade Start at around 25 or 26 (this means more of the center of the gradient will be purely transparent), and my Fade end to be right at 100. So, my final settings look like this:


Now, while it’s not necessary, I suggest you save these settings as a favorite. That way, the next time you open up G’MIC you don’t have to select the colors and Fade start point again. To do this, all you have to do is click the blue Plus sign below the list of filters:

Add Favorite

It will now show up as a Filter under Faves at the top of the list of Filters. If you want to, you can double click on it to rename it (you don’t have to do this, but I have mine named “Vignette (overlay)”):

Rename Favorite

Ok, before you hit OK there is one very important step – you need to set your Output Mode to “New Layer(s)”. You do this in the lower left of the dialog box:

Select Output Mode

Note: your favorite that you created won’t remember this, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll forget this step the first time you use G’MIC in a day of editing. Then you’ll grumble and have to undo the script and come back in here and run it again. As soon as you set this, though, it WILL remember the setting until you close the Gimp.

Ok, NOW you can hit ok! And now my image looks like this:

Not quite there yet...

Not quite there yet...

And I have these layers:


Now, I select my G’MIC layer and set the Mode to Overlay. And now my image looks like this:

Now that looks good!

Now that looks good!

I happen to like this vignette just as it is, but that’s pretty rare for me. Usually I want to either decrease or increase the effect. To decrease the effect, just adjust the Opacity of the G’MIC layer down. To increase the effect, create a duplicate layer of the G’MIC layer and then adjust that one’s opacity until you’re happy with it. For instance, this is my photo with two G’MIC layers, with the second set to about 50% opacity:

Perhaps a bit too much for my taste, but still looking good.

Perhaps a bit too much for my taste, but still looking good.

Like I said, I prefer this particular image with just the one layer, but no two images are alike, of course!

Option two: Layer with a Mask

The idea with this method is that we’re going to create a duplicate layer of our photo with a layer mask on it, and then make that photo darker. I covered Layer Masks, and what exactly they do in the smoothing skin tutorial, but a quick recap: if you had a layer mask to a layer, you can then “paint” on that mask – if a layer mask is completely white, then you will see all of that layer. If a layer mask has some black on it, the layer becomes transparent there, so you see the layer below.

What we want to do is make the center of our layer mask black, so we see the (original photo) layer below in the middle, and for the outside of the photo we want our layer mask to be white so we can to see our duplicate layer, which we will make darker. So the outside is darker than the center!

…sometimes I feel I’m really not good at explaining things… seeing in it action should help!

First step is to create a duplicate layer of our photo (Layer –> Duplicate Layer), then right click on your new layer and select “Add Layer Mask”. It doesn’t matter what settings you use to initialize the layer mask, I usually stick with the default white.

Now open up G’MIC and go to the Radial Gradiant again (under Colors). This time keep black for the starting color and white for the ending color, and adjust the Fade start again. If you want, you can save this to your Faves as well (I have mine called “Vignette (Mask)”). Make sure your Output Mode is still New Layer(s) and then hit OK.

Now my photo looks like this. Which just isn’t right!

this will win a photo contest, I'm sure

what I need to do is get this gradient into that layer mask I created. So I select the entire image and copy it. Then I paste it. This will make it show up as a floating layer:

Floating layer

Click on the layer mask in your layer dialog:

Click here

Then right click on your floating layer and select “Achor Layer”. Now you’ll have that gradient in your layer mask:

In layer mask

Now you can either delete or remove the visibility of the G’MIC layer. I deleted mine. You’ll notice after doing this that your image still looks exactly the same. Our layer mask is make the original photo show through in the center and our duplicate layer show on the outside, but the two layers are still exactly the same, so it doesn’t look any different.

The magic happens when we adjust the levels on our duplicate layer. So, make sure the duplicate layer (and now the mask) is selected and then go to Colors –> Levels. Now more the left-most slider under Input Levels over to the right some. I have mine set to this:

Levels setting

Then hit OK. Now my photo looks like this:

The final result!

The final result!

As a reminder, here is the original:

Taken on a hike in a Metro Park near my house.

Taken on a hike in a Metro Park near my house.

And here is the photo with the first method:

Using the first method.

Using the first method.

Honestly, I the two methods result in a image that looks pretty much the same, and I still think the first one requires less work. That whole pasting into a layer mask thing on the second method can be annoying.

But both work, and the Radial Gradient script in G’MIC make both methods easier. Especially because you can save your settings as a favorite (which, btw, was the one reason I was mentioning above that I would still use G’MIC even if the Gimp could create those gradients out of the box without manually selecting your start and end point).

Honestly, I haven’t explored G’MIC much outside the radial gradient and – as you might have seen from one of my screenshots – the Old Movie Strips. My first impression that I mentioned back in December still holds true – I think it’s probably a much more useful tool for editing graphics instead of photos. My methods of editing usually result in my photo still looking like a photo, which is what I prefer. But if you want to play with reflections and making your photo look like a cube, and other crazy effects, G’MIC definitely offers a lot of different scripts with very customizable options to do these things, so check it out.

What do you think about the vignettes though? Do you think this was easier? I hope so, because that original vignette entry is one that has bothered me for quite some time!

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  • I have been looking high and low for a vignette to use. Thank you so much!

  • I do love your tutorials!

    My vote is that it is pronounced like "gimmick."

    Maybe I didn't look hard enough, but do you have a B&W conversion filter that you like? I haven't found one yet.

  • Under Toolbox in the FX-Foundry suite there's "Lasm's Channel Extract", it will convert the photo to b&w in a crap-ton different ways.  then I just play around with them.  Sometimes I like one of them as-is, sometimes I pick one and adjust the levels, and sometimes I pick two and put one of the other set to Overlay

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