PS4SL Tutorial: Cross-Processing

PS4SL Tutorial: Cross-Processing

Are you tired of your Second Life snapshots looking like junk? Yes? Good, because I’m tired of looking at your junk-ass pictures! Ok, seriously, they’re not THAT bad, but they could be better. This is the first in what I hope is a long series of tutorials to take you from Zero to Hero in Photoshop.

Keep this in mind: These are not tutorials on how to take better snapshots INSIDE Second Life. Stillsky and I assume that you are already familiar with and somewhat comfortable using, at the very least, the basic sky and Windlight settings. These tutorials are designed to enhance well-taken snapshots, nothing more!

Why the tutorials series, guys?

Great question! Stillsky and I don’t agree on a lot of things when it comes to Photoshop, but the one thing we do seem to agree on is that the internet is inundated with overly-complex and bloated tutorials that take a million steps to accomplish things that could easily have taken 5 or fewer steps. And while hard drive space and memory is cheap enough to come by, and most people seem to be rocking decent enough computers to handle heavy files inside Photoshop, it still seems silly to go ham when you really don’t have to. Our goal is to show you ways to achieve great results in as simple a way as possible with as few steps as possible.


To understand cross-processing, it helps to know regular processing first! Once upon a time, cameras used film. When exposed to light via camera, film would capture the image invisibly. The film would then need to be processed chemically to get those images from invisible to visible! Since there were/are a variety of different films, it makes sense that there were/are a variety of chemical processes for those films. The two we need to be concerned with here are the processes for color negative film and color transparency (or slide) film, the processes for which are called C-41 and E-6 respectively.

If, by now, you’re assuming that cross-processing is taking one film and processing it with another film’s chemicals, you’re right! Why would you want to do this though? Cross-processing film produces some really wild color and contrast shifts you wouldn’t get if processed normally. The most common cross-processing used today is processing color transparency film with the color negative chemicals, and that’s the process we’re going to work on today. Check out some of the wonderful results you can get with cross-processing film HERE.

Digital Application

Clearly, we’re not working with film. We need to use Photoshop to recreate some of the outcomes you checked out in that link above. I’m sure you noticed that the results were all a bit different, but there were a few things that seemed fairly consistent: whole shifts in color balance (usually blues, greens, sometimes purples and reds), lots of saturation, and lots of contrast! So those characteristics are what we will aim for in our tutorial.

Photoshop comes equipped with the perfect tool for this cross-processing transformation we’re going to be applying: the curves adjustment tool!

The curves tool displays the entire tonal range of your image and allows you to place points to adjust the shadows, midtones, and highlights to your liking. You can make these adjustments on the composite RGB channel, or each of the individual color channels. You can also control the image’s contrast with curves as well. This is why it is such the perfect tool for the digital cross-process! Let’s get started!

The curves adjustment tool does come with presets, like almost every other tool within Photoshop. One of these presets is called Cross Process, but it is hot garbage on most images. I would avoid it if I were you!

The Generic Version

This is a pretty wide-spread version of the curves cross-processing technique. It is applicable to most images, but the results will vary greatly depending on the images you use. Here are the adjustments inside of the curves tool:


So what exactly did we just do? First, inside the Red Channel, we raised the amount of red apparent in the highlights and lowered the amount apparent in the shadows. We then did the same thing inside the Green Channel, lifting the highlights and lowering the shadows. Lastly, in the Blue Channel, we did the opposite of the first two channels. We lowered the amount of blue apparent in the highlights and raised it in the shadows.

And here’s the result:


The Stillsky Studio Version

Our version isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing like the above version. Oh no! The true joy of using curves is playing around with the curves! We’ll show you three ways to do this, each with a great end result. There are other variations besides these three, we’ll leave that for you to figure out. Just look at what we do inside each of the channels and move the points more or in the opposite direction and see what you come up with!

First, we’ll show the Purplish Version. This one is very similar to the generic version, but there’s more red apparent in the highlights:




Next up is the Greenish Version



And finally, the Bluish Version



Wrapping Up

So with just one tool, the Curves Adjustment, we were able to tackle both the saturated color shifts and intense contrast characteristics of the film cross-processed look. That’s really all there is to it! Hope you enjoyed, and hope you get some use out of this!

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