Here is a modern version of an old effect – The Sabattier Effect. Sabattier was a French photographer who, in 1862, accidentally turned on the light while developing film and got some strange and unpredictable effects. Lots of people have experimented with the effect and one variation of it is called solarization. Photoshop and Photoshop Elements have a solarization filter but we’re going to do it differently by using the difference blend mode.
Here is the basic method:
1. Open an image.
2. Ctrl J to duplicate the layer
3. Add a New Fill Layer (Layer>New Fill Layer>Solid Color), and change the mode to Difference. Click OK.
4. Now for the fun part. When the color picker opens, click around and you’ll get some weird and wonderful effects. Don’t worry too much if you don’t like what you see – you can go back and adjust it later. (HINT: Black does nothing – the further away you get from black the more dramatic the effect.)
5. Since Difference mode tends to compress the tonal range we want one more layer. Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels. Leave the mode as Normal. Click OK and adjust the sliders to taste.
6. You can then go back and adjust the color of the Color Fill Layer and readjust the levels layer if you want/need to.
That’s the basic method but you can experiment with more color fill, gradient and pattern layers with the blend mode set to difference. The possibilities are endless and the results unpredictable.