Cross Processing with Adobe Photoshop – Ashley McNamara Photoshop Tutorials

My liquify tutorial was such a big hit I thought I would follow up with one of my favorite processing techniques called Cross Processing.

“What is Cross Processing?”

Back in the film days (that was eons ago right?)  cross processing was when you purpously processed a film in the wrong chemicals,  for example, processing negative color film  in E-6  chemicals. In the digital world while you are not technically cross processing you can achieve somewhat of the same look in photoshop using curves.

Today I am going to teach you a very simple way to get that cross processed look.


 Step 1. With your image open, create a new adjustment layer, you can do this by selecting layer, new adjustment layer, and then curves.



 Once you select “Ok” as pictured in the  box above you are presented with the ever intimidating curves box. Don’t be afraid… move on to step 2.


 Step 2.With the curves box open select the red channel in the channel drop box (highlighted in the box below) or if you’re feeling fancy you can click ctl+1.


Once your red channel is open make a slight “S” curve by bumping the highlights up and the shadows down and when you are done with your adjustment leave your curves window open and proceed to step 3.


The result so far looks like this.


Step 3. With the same curves window still open select the green channel (ctl+2) and repeat step two by making that same S curve. Just like in step two when you are done with your adjustment leave your curves window open and go to step four.


When adding the green S curve my image now looks like this..


step 4. Now this is where things get funky. With the same curves window open select the blue channel (ctl+3)  and make another S curve but this time in the opposite direction. (bumping the highlights down and the shadows up.)


Once you’re done with all of your adjustments if you select RGB in the channel drop box your adjustments should look something like this. When you are done looking at all of the pretty colors you can click “ok” to view your photographic masterpiece.  Tada! How simple was that?

Because we made this adjustment on another layer you are free to adjust the opacity of the curves layer to your liking so if you went a little crazy with your S curve that is ok. Be sure to flatten your image by going to Layer and Flatten before saving.


Now that I have made all of my adjustmnts my image looks like this.




 Fun Tip: To achieve a different look click on the curves layer in your layers palette and select color or luminosity from the drop box.


Here is your new look by selecting color.


Here is your new look by selecting luminosity.


Technical note: I processed this photo using Photoshop CS3 if you would like to automate this process in photoshop be sure to check out my action page!

Have a question or an idea for the next tutorial? Leave a note in the comment box!

  • Awesome. Thanks for sharing. I think the only other thing I wish I could see was the before & after side by side.

  • I have added a side by side image. Thank You!

  • Ann

    Great tutorial, so simple, easy and super results! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Ashley you are simply amazing and wonderful, thanks for sharing with everyone

  • Dana

    Just wanted to say thank you! This makes them so simple and the results do so much goodness for my photo. Thank you Thank you!

  • You have to be the most awesome person ever. Thank you for your help and your actions!!! It is so refreshing that you share your tricks of the trade–we newbies appreciate it.


  • Yayahh! I was so excited when I saw the new post on your blog today! I own your actions and love them. I also think your tutorials rock! Thank you so much for taking the time. I would love for you to do one on eyes.

  • Angie

    Hi Ashley, Just wanted to say “thank you” for the tutorial. Lisa Macksoudin sent me in your direction after I came across her blog and commented on her processing. I have lightroom and PSE6 with my MAC so I don’t think I can play this much with my processing, but I am going to check it out. Thanks again for sharing!

  • Marrianne Russell

    Thanks for sharing this. It will be great to edit some of my images this way! Thanks again!

  • gkm

    Just wanted to say thank you! This will be an usual tip for me. thanks

  • You you could change the post name title Cross Processing with Adobe Photoshop – Ashley McNamara Photoshop Tutorials | Ashley McNamara Photography | San Francisco Bay Area Photographer to something more specific for your webpage you create. I enjoyed the the writing however.

  • Anna

    WOW, you’re an amazing photographer and so generous for sharing this tip with us newbies! I really can’t wait to try this! THANK YOU SO MUCH!