Color Solarization in Photoshop Elements

A groovy "Old School" darkroom special effect

One of the reasons I loved my black-and-white darkroom as a kid was that it was fairly easy to set up and use.

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 I could work by amber safelight, and while the chemistry did give off a certain fragrance, my workspace, which had minimal ventilation, could handle it, and so could I. Color was another story: It required a darker, green safelight that really didn’t help much, and the temperature-sensitive chemistry was much more toxic and required good ventilation (which I didn't have). So, I didn’t do color, and missed out on the benefits of color printing.

And that meant I didn’t get to experiment with color effects. But now I can. Here’s a quick guide to making a color solarization, and then using some Photoshop Elements sliders to take it to the next level of funkiness.

Oops, my camera went off: I must’ve hit the shutter release by accident, although the off-kilter aspects of this shot are actually a bit intriguing. With large, contrasty areas, this is a good photo to play with.














Just as I did with my black-and-white solarization, I simply went to Filter > Stylize > Solarize and got this first pass. Note the outline around the shadow!

I opened the Levels Adjust window. Note how the curve indicating pixel density is only on the left side of the image!

I moved the right slider to the left edge of the curve. This improved contrast but the image is too light.

I then moved the center slider a bit to the left, until I was happier with the overall brightness. And that’s pretty much how to make a color solarization.


But wait. There’s more!

I wanted to explore a little, so I went Enhance > Adjust Color > Hue Saturation and started playing with the Hue and Saturation sliders. As you can see, I went a little wild and came up with this otherworldly scene.

And so we come to our final result: A color solarization on acid? Call CSI!


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