Cross Processing for Vintage Views


I love the look of vintage photographs, even if they’re really new photos that have just been processed to have that retro feel. I’ve been wanting to edit some images to give them that classic, antiqued look—but I didn’t know where to start. Lucky for me, a friend forwarded me a link to a recent tutorial on “Curvy Cross Processing” from Layers Magazine.

“Curvy Cross Processing in Photoshop CS3” is a tutorial by Mark Fleming (who’s also created another tutorial on HDR). What I love about this tutorial is that it’s simple. Really simple. The tutorial uses curves to adjust the RGB channels to create the right amount of saturation and contrast that gives an image a characteristic retro feel.

The photo above is one I took a couple of years ago at Knoxville’s historic Gem Theater. I thought this would be a good image to play with. It’s actually a photo of a display at the entrance of the building that houses old tickets stubs and signs. Below, on the left, is a photo before I processed it. To the right is the post-processed image.


To sum up the tutorial, Fleming first suggests that you start with an image that has a high contrast. From there, you create a curves adjustment layer to start creating the cross processed look.

Inside that curves adjustment layer you will select each channel individually from the drop down menu, begin with the Red Channel.

The basic rule of thumb is to raise the red and green in the highlights, and to drop the red and green in the shadows. The reverse is true in the blue channel.

Drop the blue in the highlights and raise the blue in the shadows.

Note as you work through the previous steps that much of the adjusting is based on your own personal preference. Each of your adjustments is up to you and should match your vision of how the image should look.

At the conclusion of these steps, the result will resemble a twisted helix.

Once you have completed your desired adjustments to each channel, click ok to immediately change the blending mode to color.

As a final touch, you may choose to add even a bit more contrast. It is surprising just how much contrast a cross processing layer will pull out of your image.

And that’s it. It’s so simple! (Why didn’t I think to do this in the first place?)

I think my first try at cross processing was successful. I might have oversaturated the reds and yellows a bit. But hey, gimme a break. It was my first time! I do like the look of the tickets in the processed version. And I guess I could tone down the red/magenta. But at any rate, I can’t wait to start doing this to more images. To see how well the curvy cross processing is going (or not going), feel free to check out my Flickr page. I’ll post them as I do them.

Thanks to Layers Magazine and Mark Fleming for the cool tutorial. And thanks to my friend Raven for finding it and sharing it! Now it’s your turn to try it out!