Monday, December 1, 2003

Creating cheesy holiday vignettes for free


By David Gewirtz

I truly, friggin' hate vignettes. They're cheesy and tacky and come with the expectation that you're going to "Ooh" and "Ah" at some kid who's usually making too much noise, smells way too weird, and leaves stains everywhere. Can you tell I don't have kids?

But, hey, it's the holiday season, when the slush outside is frightful, and smelly kids are supposed to be delightful, and in that warm and smarmy spirit, I bring you a free utility that will help you create vignettes until the cows come home.

In all seriousness, there are some reasons you might want to make a vignette. Vignettes have long been used to bring an ethereal feel to an image, to highlight something special or romantic. Used very much in moderation, vignettes have a place in your image arsenal.

Remember, I said "moderation." I have a friend who told me that his favorite thing is to create vignettes and he's done many tens of pictures with vignettes. It wasn't until he sent me pictures of his baby that it all made sense. If you're a new dad, go ahead, and enjoy making vignettes. Someday that adorable baby's going to want to borrow your car and making vignettes will be the furthest thing from your mind!

Another friend was nice enough to send me a program that did vignette effects. Unfortunately, the program isn't widely available, came with his camera, and is a few years old -- all of which make it difficult to recommend for a wider audience. However, I found FrameFun, a free program, shown in Figure A, that will do the very same thing.


Here's a baby picture I can identify. Isn't he the cutest? (click for larger image)

The program is absurdly easy to use. Install the program and launch it. Open a file. On the bottom, you'll see a few settings. Select Border, Vignette, Oval, and set Abs to 100, and click Apply. This setting remains valid even after you close the program and relaunch, so you've basically got yourself a vignetomatic.

The program offers a few other useful features, including the ability to batch process (imaging hundreds and hundreds of vignettes) as well as a variety of other line-based framing techniques.

As imaging programs go, we can't give FrameFun the highest marks. It doesn't do all that much, but it runs well. It loses a point because the vignettes it creates have a strange, blue cast around them, which you can more easily see in Figure B.


Ooh, pretty warship! David want to play with pretty warship! (click for larger image)

You could also do vignette effects quite effectively in Photoshop, without the blue coloration, but that's not free. We'll leave that as an exercise to the reader. Because of the bluish cast around the vignettes and the overall simplicity of the program, and remembering that it's free, we give FrameFun three lenses out of five.