How To Cross Process in Photoshop
Image © Randy McKown

In this Photoshop Tutorial I’m going to be showing you how to cross process in Photoshop.

For those of you who are new to photography, cross processing is an interesting technique that has been around forever. This is based on the original practice of cross processing color film by intentionally using the wrong chemicals for a given film types development.

While this technique can sometimes yield very interesting effects, it can also create an extremely tacky and un-professional look. The real trick is knowing when and when not to use cross processing in Photoshop. I strongly advise using it in moderation across your portfolio.

How to Cross Process in Photoshop

We’re going to be cross processing by using a curves adjustment layer in Photoshop. To add a curves adjustment to your photo, click on the curves icon in the Adjustments panel. I’ve pointed it out for you below in yellow. You can also do this from the main menu by going to Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Curves.

How To Cross Process in Photoshop

You can see in the screenshot below that Photoshop has added a new adjustment layer above our background image in the layers panel.

How To Cross Process in Photoshop

Photoshop has also automatically opened the property panel where we can adjust our curves. Your screen will show a straight diagonal line over a histogram. Clicking on this line will create a point which you can drag around to manipulate the curve of the line.

How To Cross Process in Photoshop

By default, Photoshop is displaying the RGB curve. You want to click on the drop down box that currently reads RGB and switch it to Red.

Make two points, dragging the shadows down and another dragging the highlights up. You want to make it a smooth and subtle S Curve. If your image was not properly exposed in the first place you might need to make a larger S Curve. Adjust it for what looks best in your image.

How To Cross Process in Photoshop

Next you are going to switch from Red to Green. Again repeat the same process, pulling the shadows down and bringing up the highlights.

How To Cross Process in Photoshop

Now we’re going to reverse things. Switch from Green to Blue. This time we are going to drag the shadows point up and the highlights down. You’re doing just the opposite of what you did before with the Red and Green curve adjustments.

How To Cross Process in Photoshop

When you cross process in Photoshop it is best to go back and forth making slight adjustments to each curve until you are happy with the look of your image. That’s one of the reasons why I instructed you to use an adjustment layer for this Photoshop tutorial. As you work on the image, you will at some point go back and re-adjust your curves and adjustment layers make this easier to do.

Cross Process in Photoshop – Before & After

How To Cross Process in Photoshop
Image © Randy McKown

I went with a more subtle cross processed effect for this Photoshop tutorial. However, cross processing can also have very dramatic effects. This all varies from image to image and on your personal creative tastes.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, use it in moderation and don’t go overboard until it looks like your entire portfolio was shot with a tacky mobile phone app. I recommend starting out subtle and then experimenting with more drastic adjustments once you have the “new toy” concept of cross processing in Photoshop out of your system.

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