Visual Effects of Psychedelics

In the Tree by Eddie Calz -

This article breaks down the subjective visual effects of the psychedelic experience into simple and easy to understand descriptions with accompanying image replications. This is done without resorting to metaphors, analogies, or personal trip reports.

These descriptions are not specific to any particular substance but are applicable to the effects which commonly occur in various forms under the influence of almost any psychedelic compound. This includes, but is not limited to, both classical and research chemical psychedelics, such as:

LSD, Psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, Ayahuasca, Mescaline, 5-MeO-MiPT, 2C-B, LSA, AL-LAD, ALD-52, 1P-LSD, 2C-B-Fly, 2C-C, 2C-D, 2C-E, 2C-P, 4-AcO-DMT, 4-HO-MET, 4-HO-MiPT, 5-MeO-DMT, DPT, and DOC.

The article begins with a description of the simpler effects and works its way up towards more complex experiences as it progresses. Individual effects are also summarized with a link to their full article.


Visual Enhancements

Visual enhancements are any subjective effect which improves one's ability to perceive the external environment through their sense of sight.

Acuity enhancement

Full article: Acuity enhancement
Acuity enhancement is a heightening of the clearness and clarity of vision. This results in the visual details of the external environment becoming sharpened to the point where the edges of objects become perceived as extremely focused, clear, and defined. The experience of acuity enhancement can be likened to bringing a camera or projector lens that was slightly blurry into focus. Acuity enhancement is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as colour enhancement and pattern recognition enhancement. It is most commonly induced under the influence of mild dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.

Colour enhancement

Full article: Colour enhancement
Colour enhancement is a perceived intensification of the brightness and vividness of colours in the external environment. During this experience, reds may seem “redder”, greens may seem “greener", and all colours will likely appear much more distinct, complex, and visually intense than they comparatively would be during everyday sober living. At higher levels, this effect can sometimes result in seeing colours which are perceived as surreal or seemingly impossible. Colour enhancement is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as acuity enhancement and pattern recognition enhancement. It is most commonly induced under the influence of mild dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.
Tree bark by Chelsea Morgan - This replication serves as an image example for colour enhancement, as seen within tree bark.

Magnification

Full article: Magnification
Magnification is the experience of distant details within one's visual field appearing closer and more "zoomed in" than they actually are due to both visual enhancements and hallucinatory effects. This can give the perception that one is seeing objects from greater distances than is usually possible within everyday life. At its lower levels, this can allow people to see nearby objects (such as within reaching distance) as much closer than they really are, resulting in the perception that their visual capabilities have been enhanced. At its higher levels, this can induce the perception of seeing distant objects as if they were right in front of the user despite their distance. These distances can range from several feet to hundreds of meters. Since this is most likely a physiological impossibility, it suggests that higher level magnification may actually be a seamless hallucinatory state in which the details of distant visual input are predictively simulated in a realistic and convincing manner. Magnification is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as acuity enhancement and pattern recognition enhancement. It is a rare effect that is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.
Magnified flower by StingrayZ - This animation serves as an example of magnification, as seen on a flower.

Pattern recognition enhancement

Pattern recognition enhancement is an increase in a person's ability and tendency to recognise patterns (usually faces) within vague stimuli. This innate ability which human beings possess in everyday life is referred to by the scientific literature as pareidolia and is a well-documented phenomenon. Common examples of this include spotting faces in everyday objects, such as the front of a car, or seeing different objects in clouds. During this experience, pareidolia can be significantly more pronounced than it would usually be during a sober state. For example, remarkably detailed images may appear embedded in scenery, everyday objects may look like faces, and clouds may appear as fantastical objects, all without any visual alterations taking place. Pattern recognition enhancement is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as acuity enhancement and colour enhancement. [6] [7] It is most commonly induced under the influence of mild dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.
The Forest has Eyes by Bev Doolittle - This replication serves as an image example for pattern recognition, as seen in the form of faces within forest scenery.

Visual Distortions

Visual distortions are any subjective effect which alters and changes the perception or appearance of pre-existing visual data without adding any entirely new content.

After images

Full article: After images
After images are visual perceptions which continue to appear in one's vision after exposure to the original image has ceased. During this experience, moving objects can produce a trail of overlayed, still images behind their path of motion. This creates a series of overlayed images of a moving object across one's visual field which become more faded the longer the duration since the object occupied that location in space. For example, common manifestations of this effect include seeing faded images left in the path of moving objects or being able to see a residual image of the external environment for several seconds after one closes their eyes. After images are often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as tracers and drifting. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.
After images by Chelsea Morgan - An image example of after images as seen following behind a moving hand.

Colour shifting

Full article: Colour shifting
Colour shifting is when various objects within the external environment shift and change their colour through a continuously repeating cycle that occurs in a fluid motion across the surface of the object. For example, moss on a rock could visibly shift from green to red to blue to any other colour and then back to green again in the style of a smooth and seamless animated loop. It is particularly strong and likely to occur if the objects original colour was bright or out of place. Colour shifting is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as colour enhancement and colour replacement. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.
Uv mandela by Anonymous - This animation serves as an example of psychedelic colour shifting, as seen within a mandela tapestry.

Depth perception distortions

Depth perception distortions are alterations in how a person perceives the distance of various objects within their visual field. During this state, the various layers of scenery can become exaggerated, skewed, or completely rearranged. An example of this could be the swapping of layers in a given environment, in which objects in the background begin to appear as if they are in the foreground and objects in the foreground appear as if they are in the background. In other instances, the same distortion is applied to the entire visual field, such as everything appearing small and distant or large and near. Another example is the complete loss of depth perception. This occurs when the different sections of a scene appear to unify into a flat 2-dimensional image regardless of their actual distance from each other and the observer. Depth perception distortions are often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as perspective distortions and drifting. They are most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.

Drifting

Full article: Drifting
White wolf drinking water by Anonymous - This animation serves as an example of visual drifting in the style of texture flowing.
Drifting is the experience of the texture, shape, and general structure of objects and scenery appearing progressively warped, melted, and morphed across themselves. These alterations gradually increase in intensity as a person stares, but are temporary and will reset to their normal appearance the moment a person double takes. At lower levels, drifting will manifest as a subtle bending or morphing of the textures and objects within a person's external environment. At higher levels, drifting becomes powerful enough to drastically alter and transform the shape of specific objects within a person’s external environment. The particular style of this visual effect depends on the specific continuously changing direction, speed, and rhythm of the distortion. This results in a small variety of different manifestations which includes morphing, breathing, melting, and flowing. Drifting is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as texture liquidation and tracers. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.

Environmental patterning

Environmental patterning is the experience of certain textures or objects such as carpets, clouds, and dense vegetation drifting into increasingly complex geometric patterns that are always clearly comprised of the original material which they are manifesting from. These structures tend to be primarily symmetrical in nature, but also include form constants, fractals, and disorganised geometric patterns. Environmental patterning is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as symmetrical texture repetition, geometry, and drifting. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.
Patterning clouds by Jumproper - This animation serves as an example of environemtal patterning, as seen within clouds.

Recursion

Full article: Recursion
Recursion is a visual distortion which partially to completely alters the appearance of one's external environment by repeating specific sections of itself across itself in a self-similar fashion. It results in the appearance of fractal-like patterns which often zoom into or away from the original image. This effect typically occurs spontaneously and rarely sustains itself for more than several seconds. Recursion is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as geometry and symmetrical texture repetition. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.
Recursive cat by Anonymous - This animation serves as an image example of a psychedelic recursion, as seen within a cat face.

Symmetrical texture repetition

Symmetrical texture repetition is the perception of textures becoming mirrored repeatedly over their own surface in an intricate and symmetrical fashion that is consistent across itself. This maintains the same level of detail no matter how closely one attempts to look at the distortion and tends to remain most prominent within one's peripheral vision. It usually manifests itself in rough textures such as grass, carpets, tree bark, and asphalt. During this state, if one stares at a fixed point the symmetrical texture repetition may progressively increase and further tesselate into more complex forms. However, this progression of complexity will usually reset back to baseline as soon as one double takes. Symmetrical texture repetition is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as pattern recognition enhancement and transformations in a manner which can result in the appearance of a huge array of abstract forms and imagery embedded within the symmetry. It is most commonly induced under the influence of mild dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.
Chelsea Morgan by Grass - This replication serves as an image example for symmetrical texture repetition, as seen within grass.

Texture liquidation

Full article: Texture liquidation
An image example of texture liquidation as seen on a sunflower.
Texture liquidation is the experience of the texture, shape, and general structure of objects and scenery appearing progressively simplified, smudged and stylized in such a way that one's external environment begins to take on the general appearance of a painting or cartoon. Texture liquidation is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as acuity enhancement and drifting. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.

Tracers

Full article: Tracers
Tracers are the experience of trails of varying lengths and opacity being left behind moving objects in a manner that is similar to those found in long exposure photography. These can manifest as exactly the same colour of the moving object which is producing it or can sometimes be a randomly selected colour of their own. A relatively consistent way to reproduce this visual effect is to simply move one's hand in front of their face or throw an object under the influence of a moderate dose of psychedelics. At lower levels, tracers typically act partially transparent trails which disappear quickly and drag closely behind moving objects. At higher levels, tracers become mostly solid in appearance and almost completely opaque with increasingly distinct and sharp edges. They also become slower to fade from a person’s vision and can remain in the air for up to several seconds. Tracers are often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as drifting and after images. They are most commonly induced under the influence of mild dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.
Tumbling dice by Rosendahl - This replication serves as an image example for tracers, as seen within a pair of tumbling dice.

Geometry

Full article: Geometry
Switch by Sam Perkins - This image serves as an example of a single frame of typical level 4 psychedelic geometry.
Geometry is the experience of a person's field of vision becoming partially or completely encompassed by fast-moving, colourful, and indescribably complex geometric patterns, form constants, shapes, fractals, and colours. Geometry is rarely motionless and is generally extremely fast-moving, and self-changing in regards to its shape and style. During this process, the geometry naturally drifts laterally or radially across the visual field to create overlapping webs of geometric patterns which transition through many distinct states, all of which are visible within a single perceptual frame. At lower levels, geometry will display itself as a translucent sheen that is seen as overlayed onto the person's environment and closed eye vision. At higher levels, the geometry will become increasingly complex and intense until it has begun to block out and replace the external world. The visual perception of a person's environment begins to be replaced by geometry, with objects and scenery either transforming into complex geometric structures or simply being blocked out and covered by them. Geometry is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as internal hallucinations, environmental patterning, and drifting. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.
LSD in Hastings Country Park by Josie Kins - This replication serves as an image example for level 4 open eye psychedelic geometry.

Hallucinatory States

Hallucinatory states are any subjective effect which changes the perception or appearance of pre-existing visual data by adding entirely new content in a manner which is similar to that of dreams.

Autonomous entity

Full article: Autonomous entity
Parabollic vehicle of conception by Namaste (Trifoliata Mystica) - This replication serves as an image example of a psychedelic autonomous entity.
An autonomous entity is the experience of perceived contact with beings which appear to be sentient and autonomous in their behaviour. They will frequently act as the inhabitants of a perceived independent reality. Although many entities seem largely unaware of a person’s presence they are often precognizant of a person's appearance into their realm and usually choose to interact with them in various ways. The behaviour of a typical entity can vary wildly and seems to depend heavily on one's current emotional state. For example, while many entities will act as loving beings, teachers, or healers in certain contexts they are equally capable of acting as indifferent, uncaring or even as malicious tormentors. Entities under the influence of psychedelics usually appear as if they are comprised of condensed psychedelic geometry. They can take any form but subconscious archetypes are present and commonly include: Humans, shadow people, bodiless super intelligent humanoids, aliens, elves, animals, giant spheres, insectoids, beings of light, anthropomorphic beings, plants, conscious inanimate objects, fictional characters, cartoons, robotic machines, gods, demigods, goddesses, bio-mechanical intelligences, hooded figures, demons, indescribable monstrosities, spirits, angels, shamans, ghosts, souls, ancestors, fantastical or mythological beasts, glitch creatures and more. It is worth noting that the content, style, and general behaviour of an autonomous entity is often largely dependent on the emotional state of the person experiencing it. For example, a person who is emotionally stable and generally happy will usually be more prone to experiencing loving, kind, and healing entities. In contrast, however, a person who is emotionally unstable and generally unhappy will usually be more prone to experiencing hateful, sinister, and mocking entities. This experience is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as geometry, internal hallucinations and delusions. It is most commonly induced under the influence of heavy dosages of hallucinogenic compounds, such as psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants.

Internal hallucination

Parabollic vehicle of conception by Adam Scott Miller - This image serves as an example of visionary art which attempts to accurately portray and replicate the experience of psychedelic level 5 geometry combined with level 3 internal hallucinations.
An internal hallucination is the perception of a visual hallucination that exclusively occurs within an imagined environment which can typically only be viewed with closed eyes, similar to those found within dreams. This is in stark contrast to external hallucinations, which display themselves seamlessly into the external environment as if they were actually happening. At lower levels, internal hallucinations begin with imagery on the back of a person's eyelids which do not take up the entirety of one's visual field and are distinct from their background. These can be described as spontaneous moving or still images of scenes, concepts, places, and anything one could imagine. The imagery is manifested in varying levels of realism, ranging from ill-defined and cartoon-like in nature to wholly realistic. They rarely hold their form for more than a few seconds before fading or shifting into another image. It is worth noting that this level of intensity occurs in a highly similar manner to that of hypnagogia, the state between sleep and wakefulness. At higher levels, internal hallucinations become increasingly elaborate as they eventually become all-encompassing, fully-fledged 3D scenes which surround the person in a similar manner to that of dreams. This can create the feeling that one has "broken-through" into another reality. The things which occur within this perceived alternate reality can be anything but fall under common archetypes, such as contact with autonomous entities alongside a wide variety of imagined landscapes, memory replays, and scenarios. Internal hallucinations are often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as geometry, external hallucinations and delusions. They are most commonly induced under the influence of heavy dosages of hallucinogenic compounds, such as psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants.

Transformations

Full article: Transformations
Transforming statues by Anonymous - This animated .gif accurately demonstrates the smooth and fluid-like transitions of an object as it morphs between a variety of other forms.
Transformations are the experience of a perceived visual metamorphosis that specific parts of one's external environment undergo as they shapeshift into other objects. For example, people who undergo this effect will often report seeing parts of their environment shifting into completely different things. These transformations have a huge variety of potential artistic styles and differing levels of detail, realism, and animation. These hallucinations are progressive in nature, which means they form by arising from patterns or objects and then, over a period of seconds, the object smoothly drifts in a fluid-like motion into an entirely new form. This is significantly enhanced and fueled by the separate visual effect of pattern recognition enhancement. It causes vague stimuli and objects to transform into incredibly detailed versions of what they were already perceived as being. At lower levels, the process of transformation can require some minimal amount of focus and concentration to sustain. Losing concentration for an instant can cause the image to fade away or shift into another image. Holding the eyes still will usually increase the intensity of the progressive transformation. However, at higher levels, this becomes completely unnecessary. Transformations are often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as drifting, pattern recognition enhancement and external hallucinations. They are most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.

See Also