Bleach Bypass is a fun way to add contrast and moodiness to an image. Because of the way it renders luminance, it tends to flatter skin tones in that it will push the highlights a bit which, if controlled, can produce nice, smooth skin.
Used in color film processing where the bleach portion was skipped, resulting in the emulsion retaining the silver and color dye in the process, it produces high contrast images with muted colors. Digitally, it can be reproduced by layering a black and white duplicate over the color image and adjusting the blend mode in photoshop…
We start with the original image…
1) Open your desired image in Photoshop and duplicate the background layer by either dragging the layer over the “Create New Layer” icon at the bottom of the layers palate, OR by pressing:
- COMMAND (CONTROL – PC)
- + J.
2) Desaturate the duplicated layer. The quick and easy way to do this is by pressing:
- + COMMAND (CONTROL – PC)
- + U
(You can alternatively fine tune this by converting the duplicated layer to Black and White through whichever method you feel suits the image best.)
3) Set the duplicated, desaturated layer’s BLEND MODE to “OVERLAY” and you’re set.
4) Adjust the ‘Bleached’ layer’s opacity to suit and you’re golden.
You can download this action for free from Presetpond.com HERE (you’ll need to ‘sign up’ to gain access to all the free stuff; very, very well worth the 30 seconds necessary to create a profile in my opinion).
To turn this into your own action with which to replicate this very effect, start from the beginning, create and record your own action following the steps above. If you’re not entirely sure how to record an action in Photoshop, I went into detail in another free Photoshop action post HERE.
Digitally replicating the bleach bypass method is a popular effect and has many variations. It’s a simple way to create a very different look for images. Portraits are an obvious candidate, but try this on any image that may benefit from a little punch in contrast and attitude.
As always, we’d love to see your results in our Flickr group pool!
Happy shooting and for more, free Photoshop type tools, try these posts: