Cross-processing is a film technique that consists in deliberately processing photographic film in chemicals intended for a different type of film. Discovered by accident, there are as many possibilities as there are types of films and depending on the film you use and the lab you use to develop, you´ll get completely different results. In general, the results are extremely high color saturation (the color cast will depend on the film used), very high contrast and a lot of film grain. Because results can be inconsistant, it can be more of a hit & miss technique. In this tutorial, I´ll show you the most common cross-processing effect using Photoshop where you have total control for consistant results and creative freedom.
The first thing we need to do is to bring up our Curves Adjustment window by clicking on the “new layer adjustment” icon at the bottom of your Layers Palette.
From the drop down menu we will be able to navigate through our different channels to effect the colors of the overall image. Lastly we will select the RGB channel to handle contrast and saturation.
Here´s what the three color channels should look like. If you can´t get them to look just right, don´t worry about it. With the curves adjustment you can control how much of a specific color affects your overall image. Because results with film is usually inconsistant, there really isn´t an exact color scheme so go crazy! I have included my curves adjustment as a preset for you to download in any case.
Finally, your RGB channel should look something like this. Depending on your image, you might want to add or decrease contrast by creating a slight “S” curve.
Remember you can dial the effect back using the opacity level if you find the result too overpowring. This depends entirely on the effect you desire. If you´re really adventurous, you can even use a blend mode to mix the colors in but be careful with the adding too much contrast!
You can save this Curves Adjustment as a preset if you want. That way, everytime you want to use it all you have to do is select this Curves Adjustment from the dropdown menu in your Curves window and you won´t have to go through this process again unless you want to tweak the color a bit. Do this by going to the top-right corner of the Curves window and selecting “Save Curves Preset”.
Call it Cross-processing and that´s it!
The last thing we need to do to this image to make it look realistic is to add some film grain. To do this first we need to merge your background image with your curves adjustment layer. The shortcut for doing this quickly is simply pressing Shift + CTRL + Alt + E. Turn that fresh new layer into a smart object by going to Filters > Convert for Smart Filters. Next, go to the top menu and select Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Because this is a small web image, with an amount of 3% I´m set but if your image is large you will need a higher amount. Make sure to set “monochromatic” to avoid colored grain and select Gaussian in the Distribution Box for a more natural looking grain texture.
That’s all there is to it! I hope you found the tutorial useful. You can download the Curves Adjustment preset Here.
Here´s your before and after: