Cross-processing, where film meant for one type of chemistry, like E-6, is processed in
chemistry meant for another film, like C-41, has been a staple of film photographers for years.
When properly done, results looked sort of normal, but with color changes that made them
“edgy” and cool.
While I’ve frequently been quite impressed with
cross-processed images, I’ve never been happy with
the finality of it. Once you commit to the procedure,
there is no turning back. Your pictures can never
look “normal” again.
With that in mind, here’s my version of digital
cross-processing. Unlike the chemical process,
which limits the number of “looks” to the varieties of
film and developers, variations on my technique are
To begin, we need to pick one color from within
the image to influence its final look, and change a
correctly white balanced image to a “tungsten film
shot with daylight” look:
Duplicate the Layer.
When film balanced for tungsten light was
photographed under daylight conditions, the results had a heavy cyan cast. With your image open, select the Color Picker and
type in 00ADEF in the box at the bottom. Click OK
and the Foreground color will be Photoshop’s vision
of pure cyan.
Use the double
arrow on the Toolbox to
exchange the Foreground
and Background colors
Eyedropper, select the color
found in a bright section of
skin tone. If you’re working
on a still life or other nonhuman
image, pick a color
that you’ll be comfortable
Go back to the Toolbox and select the
Foreground color. When the Color Picker opens
you’ll see the exact color you chose. Move the cursor
on a straight line to the right to get a stronger hue
Fill the Duplicate Layer (Layer 1) at 50%
(Edit > Fill). Select Foreground Color, set the Blending
Mode selection in the Fill box to Color, and check the
“Preserve Transparency” box.
Alter the Hue and Saturation of the
Layer. (Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation)
Slide Hue to -50 and Saturation to +30.
Duplicate Layer 1 (“Layer 1 copy”) and
use Edit > Fill once again. Select Background Color,
which will use the skin tone variation chosen in
in the earlier step in which you moved the cursor to the right, and the same settings as the step following that.
You can stop here, if you wish, or take it a
few steps further by doing any of the following:
• Select Layer 1 copy, slide the Opacity at 65%
and set its Blending Mode to Darken (also try
Lighten). Call up the Hue/Saturation window
and walk the Hue slider back and forth until you
find a combination you like.
• Change Layer 1 copy’s Blending Mode to Hue, with an Opacity of 75%. Select Layer 1 and call up the Hue/Saturation window. Walk the Hue slider as before.
• Reselect Layer 1 copy and call up the Hue/
Saturation window and work the slider magic
one more time.
The possibilities, as they say, are endless because
you don’t have to stop here. Try additional layers in
other Blending Modes or go back to the start and
choose a different color for your first fill. Try Fill and
Opacity percentages different from my guidelines.
As with all of my techniques, I encourage you to
play and expand on them.
To find the exact opposite of any sampled color,
• At any time in the procedure, use the
Rectangular or Elliptical Marquee and draw a
small shape on your image.
• Fill that selection with the sampled
Foreground color. The Blending Mode should
be Normal, fill at 100%, do not select Preserve
• Image.Adjustments > Invert to
reverse the color.
• Sample the new color with the
Eyedropper tool. The new color will show up on
the Toolbox as a new Foreground color.
• Select the Color Picker and make
note of the color’s number.
• Back up on the History Log and
reselect the last thing you did before you drew
the marquee. Everything you just did on the
picture will disappear but you’ll have the color
information you need.
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Printed with permission from Focal Press, a division of Elsevier. Copyright 2007. Photoshop Effects for Portrait Photographers by
Christopher Grey. For more information on this title and other similar
books, please visit www.focalpress.com.