Bleach bypass

This will work with most photos, although the most usable photos with little tweaking are bright, non-contrasty photos.

I saw a few photos in a bleached style which I really loved and after some experimentation and souring the web, I’ve come up with a good Photoshop technique for this style of picture

This will work with most photos, although the most usable photos with little tweaking are bright, non-contrasty photos.

1. Open up a photo (always a must!), for this one I’m using the photo I’ve been working on:

2. Just for the sake of tidyness, create a new layer group (Layer-> New-> Group). It keeps everything in one place for later work.

3. Next, you need to create a black and white layer (Layer-> New Adjustment Layer). In PS3, I use a B&W adjustment layer with a blue filter. In PS2, the channel mixer in monchrome with 0/0/100 red, green and blue will produce an identical effect.

4. Right-click on the black and white layer, select layer properties and set it to “Soft Light.” This gives main part of the look.

5. You can see now that the image is much darker and contrasted:

6. Next, create a Levels adjustment layer and use the following input settings: 31, 1.31 198:

7. Finally, create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and drop saturation by 50.

And voila, the final look:

It probably looks a little underwhelming here, but you can do things like paint in the eyes to brighten them using a mask, adjust opacity or setting of any of the layers – you have a huge amount of things you can play with and adjust.

Try it. :]

For the lazy of you I’ve created an two actions, one for PS2 and one for PS3

As an aside, here’s the final image when I finished with it:

Probably the final photo



Commented Sunday January 14, 2007 at 22:42

were you repeating yourself for emphasis? ;]


Commented Monday January 15, 2007 at 12:05

I you


No Fishing at return to pearse

Commented Monday April 16, 2007 at 18:57

[...] First attempt at Bhalash’s Bleach Bypass technique. Tags: returntopearse, return to pearse, photos, ireland, greystones, wicklow, dublin, harbour, boat, fishing, canon eos 400d, ef 50mm f/1.8 II [...]

FarEast PhotoWorld

Commented Thursday May 3, 2007 at 11:15

gud info … mlm nie bley try ;)

Byron Marmol

Commented Wednesday October 24, 2007 at 15:58

I liked the tutorial, but I would like to add some opinions to make this more helpful, I hope I don’t offend anyone.

For bleach bypass, the lighting is very important, if you’re not using strobe lighting, then your highlights need to be prominent (I don’t know if that’s the word I was looking for) not to blown, and the shadows not to dark, but the silvered effect in film came from the lighting, as bleach bypass was a technique that skipped the bleaching step and leaved the silver nitrate to give that spectacular look.

When using photoshop, sometimes what may help is the use of an additional layer, a duplicated layer. Maybe you could try this and compare results.

Add some grain to the background as the original film technique had always some grain on it.

Duplicate your background (your image was already edited correctly with the basics).

Desaturate the new duplicated layer almost to -100, leave a little bit of color on that one.

Now, incease its contrast by using curves, edit each channel, red, green and blue (if you’re going to be working on CMYK, first edit it on RGB and after that change the mode to CMYK) because bleach bypass sometimes have a blue-greenish tone, but just sometimes, or depends on the style of the photographer.

After applying curves to the desaturated duplicated layer change its blending mode to overlay and play with that layer’s opacity to see how it works better for you.

Also, you can add a lower layer, you have to turn the background to a layer by double clicking it on the layers palette, then add a new layer and put it under the background layer, fill it with gray 50% and add some halftone pattern, add some little points to it and lower the original image’s layer opacity just a little bit, set it to 95% aprox.

Hope it works for you, have a nice day.


Commented Thursday October 25, 2007 at 21:14


I’ll try your Photoshop techniques before I comment on them, but for now I’ll say that you’re perfectly right about shadows and highlights. I don’t shoot in a studio environment, which makes capturing a suitable photo something harder, but I try to process toward suitable highlights and shadows.

One thing that makes doing this easier is HDR composition: In architectural and landscape photos, I can use Photoshop to compose a very bland HDR – no shadows, no highlights – which I will then run again through Photoshop to bleach. It’s something I haven’t done in some months, but here is one example from earlier in the year in Ireland:

Charleville Chapel


Commented Thursday November 15, 2007 at 06:14

Yes, I don’t work architectural nor landscape photography that much to use bleach bypass on them, but that photograph you have there is really good and I like the tonal range a lot, love it.

And yes, you’re right about the contrast that the bleach gives to the photographs, low contrast photographs get a good look with the bleach process in digital, increases saturation as well, but it depends, again, in what looks better for the photograph’s autor.
(sorry, my english is bad, haha)

I have something that can look like a bleach bypass picture, a portrait that still has detail on the blacks and the highlights aren’t harsh on the model’s skin. This one doesn’t have any grain, but it was retouched using the bleach bypass process in PS.


Commented Friday November 23, 2007 at 11:53

Great tutorial, the link to the downloadable action does not appear to work for me?


Commented Monday November 26, 2007 at 02:12

I think I may have removed the archives in a cleanup of my /files folder.

During the week I should have both a new set of actions and additional actions for watermarking online, depending on when the parts on I have on order from Apple arrive.

’tis not the best of solutions, but I simply don’t have access to my FTP right now.

Daniel Iannini

Commented Thursday December 20, 2007 at 15:47

Hi Mark, Thanks a lot for the tutorial, been working on it and having fun, but if you could upload the action again it would be great. Thanks again and good luck.


Commented Thursday January 24, 2008 at 07:20

You’ve made that child look terrifying.

Say something witty:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>