How to Mirror an Image in Photoshop
To mirror images refers to flipping them so that everything is reversed – just like in real life when you reflect something in a mirror.
This can be useful in any number of situations. For example, if the photo was taken in front of a mirror and you want to reverse it back; or if you need to place a logo or some text onto an image and the negative space is on the wrong side.
You can also use this technique for creative purposes. You can use it when you’re doing composites and you need to add a reflection to one of the elements.
You can even mirror an image to give a surreal effect to your photograph.
Another possibility is to go abstract and use a mirrored picture to create beautiful patterns. Whatever the reason, it’s always useful to know how to flip images in Photoshop, regardless of whether you’re a professional or an amateur.
In this article, I’ll show you how to mirror an image in Photoshop, how to flip only a part of it or a specific layer, and how to rotate a photo.
How to Flip, Mirror and Rotate Images in Photoshop
As I mentioned above, flipping and rotating an image in Photoshop can have different applications. Each one will need a different technique depending on your needs.
Here I’ll show you a few ways of doing it; after that, it’s up to your imagination what you can create.
1. How to Flip the Whole Image
Let’s start simple. Let’s say that you just want to flip the entire image in Photoshop.
I’ll use this example where the product was photographed in front of a mirror. As a result, the brand is difficult to read and you have to flip the image.
This is a simple, everyday example of why you might mirror an image in Photoshop, and it’s really easy to do.
Step 1: Rotate / Flip Canvas
If you’re flipping an entire canvas without any layers (or you have a background layer only), all you need to do is open the menu Image, Image Rotation, Flip Canvas Horizontally.
Note that depending on your needs you might want to flip your image from the other axis and then you should use Flip Canvas Vertically from the same menu.
Step 2: Save
That’s it, your image is now mirrored. If you don’t need to keep the original version then you can use the Save command.
If, instead, you want to keep both of them, go to Save As and name this version differently.
2. How to Flip a Single Layer
If you’re working on a multi-layered document and you want to flip only one of the layers, then you can’t use the Flip Canvas technique.
If you do it, then the entire document gets flipped, regardless of the layer that was selected. So, let’s see how you can flip an image without affecting all the other layers.
I’m going to use this photo as an example of how to duplicate the subject on a different layer and flip it to create a mirror image that serves as a reflection.
Step 1: Add a Layer
You can use any layer that you’re working on in Photoshop. It can be an imported image, a logo, or anything you want.
In my case, I’m going to copy-paste the subject in a separate layer. To do this I’m just going to select it and then use the Layer via Copy command.
Step 2: Transform / Flip
Make sure you’re on the correct layer that you want to flip. You can double-check this in the Layers panel.
Then go to the menu Edit, Transform, Flip Vertical (or Flip Horizontal according to what you’re looking for).
Alternatively, you can use the Photoshop keyboard shortcut by pressing Cmd + T. This will activate the Free Transform command.
You’ll see that the layer gets a rectangle around it with handles. You can click and drag those handles if you want to do the flip manually.
Otherwise, you can right-click inside the rectangle and choose Flip Vertical (or Flip Horizontal). You’ll now have a mirror image that can be used as a reflection.
Step 3: Continue Editing
That’s it, you can continue editing your composite. If you’re doing a reflection like mine, you can use a Layer Mask to apply a Gradient. This will create a more realistic effect.
Step 4: Save
If you want to save your composite with the separate layers in a way that it remains editable, I suggest you save it as a PSD file.
If you want to save some storage space and you’re satisfied with the final result, you can go to the menu Layer, Flatten Image. Then you can save it as a JPEG.
3. How to Rotate an Image in Photoshop
When you flip an image horizontally or vertically in Photoshop, it ends up completely reversed – the same as it would look if you held it up to a mirror.
Instead, if you rotate, the elements of the image remain as they are. You would only be adjusting the angle around a specific axis.
Imagine that you fix your image with a pin in the center and then you start turning it clockwise or counterclockwise by one of the corners. That is to rotate an image.
This can be very useful to straighten the horizon of a photograph. Very often this happens if you are shooting handheld. Let me show you how to fix it in Photoshop.
Step 1: Add a guide
If you want to rotate an image to straighten it, then you’re going to need a guide. If you’re doing it arbitrarily, then you can skip this step and move directly to the next.
To draw a guide you need to have the rulers activated in Photoshop. If you don’t have them already, you can do it in the menu View, Rulers.
Then, click on the ruler and drag onto your image – this will pull a guide out. When you reach the point you need, just let go of the mouse.
Step 2: Convert to Layer
Your image by default is open in Photoshop as a locked background layer. As a result, you won’t be able to transform it.
To unlock it you need to click on the lock icon next to it in the Layers panel. This transforms it into a new layer.
By default, it will be called ‘Layer 0’, but you can rename it if you want (simply double click on the layer name in the Layers panel and you’ll be able to edit the text).
Step 3: Transform / Rotate
Now you can go to the menu Edit, Transform, Rotate. This will activate a rectangle with holders around the image.
Your cursor will have changed into a double-pointed curved arrow. While this is active you can just click and drag in any direction to rotate your image.
You can also do this by activating the Free Transform tool with the Photoshop keyboard shortcut Cmd + T, then putting your cursor near a corner until you see it change into the curved double-pointed arrow.
You can now click and drag to rotate. If you want to be very precise with your rotation, you can use the top bar to write the degrees you want to rotate instead of dragging manually.
Step 4: Fix the edges
As you can see, this reveals empty areas on the canvas. At the same time, the corners will be out of the frame.
There are different ways to fix this. The easiest way is to crop the image. You can do it with the Crop tool. Just grab the handles from the edges and drag them in until you’ve cut out all the empty space.
It’s also possible to rotate while you’re using the crop tool and, as you rotate, it will automatically drag the borders in. When you accept, it will rotate and crop in one.
If you don’t like the idea of cropping because you need the image to remain in the same size, you can use the Transform command again but this time choose Scale.
With this, you can pull out the corners of the image to make it bigger until the empty spaces are out of the frame.
This will keep the canvas size untouched, however, your image can lose some quality. This is not recommended if the adjustment you need to make is very big.
Finally, a third option is to use Content-Aware. With this, Photoshop fills the empty spaces by ‘making up’ new pixels with information from the surrounding areas.
This can give very good results in some cases. Use the Crop tool to Rotate, but make sure the Content-Aware option is activated on the top bar.
This way when you accept, it will rotate and fill the edges instead of cutting them. If the result isn’t very satisfying you can always fill the spaces manually with clone and healing brushes.
4. How to Rotate the Canvas in Photoshop
Now, let’s say you need to rotate the entire canvas, for example, if you want to change the orientation from landscape to portrait.
This is also simple in Photoshop.
Option 1: Rotate
If you need to rotate your image from landscape to portrait or vice versa, you need to rotate 90 degrees.
You can do this in Photoshop with a single command. Just go to the menu Image, Image Rotation, then choose the orientation you want: 90 degrees clockwise or 90 degrees counterclockwise. Apply and you’re done.
Option 2: Crop / Ratio
If the subject doesn’t make sense if you rotate it, but you still need to change from landscape to portrait, you can change the ratio and crop it.
Using the Crop tool, go to the ratio menu in the top bar. There you can change the proportion of the crop. In the example image, I’m using 8:10.
5. How to Combine Flip and Rotate in Photoshop
So far you’ve seen some applications in real-life photography for both flipping and rotating. In all those examples of how to mirror an image in Photoshop, I was looking for a realistic result.
But what about the creative side of it? You can use these tools singularly or combined to create surreal images or beautiful patterns.
Here’s an idea on how to flip an image in Photoshop for fun and creative results.
Step 1: Choose an abstract image
Choose an image that will be the base for your pattern. Usually, abstract images work best but feel free to experiment with all kinds of images.
Step 2: Duplicate layer
Create a copy of your background layer by dragging it into the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel.
Alternatively, you can right-click on it and choose Duplicate Layer from the menu.
Step 3: Expand the canvas
Go to the menu Image, Canvas Size. This will open a dialog box. Here you can choose how much you want to add or crop from your canvas.
For this exercise, you want to double the space to combine both layers and form one bigger. The easiest way to do this is to change the measurement units to percentage.
Now choose where you want this extra space to be. Because I’m starting with a landscape image, I need the space on the top or the bottom.
If your base image is portrait oriented then choose left or right. This is a personal choice depending on the image that you’re using. When you’re done click OK.
Step 4: Flip the layer
Now flip the new layer (the copy of the background) and drag it into the empty space of the canvas that you created.
Step 5: Repeat the process
Now you have a mirror picture. Join both layers using the Merge Down command that you find in the Layers menu.
Then, create a copy by duplicating this layer. Expand the canvas as you did before, but this time choose the opposite direction. If you had increased the height like me, now increase the width.
Once you’ve done that, flip the image in the new layer and drag it into the empty canvas. You should have now four versions of the original photo but each of them is flipped.
Step 5: Duplicate and Rotate
Ok, this will constitute the base pattern. You can leave it as it is if you like the effect, but if you want to make it more complex you can continue with the rotation tool.
Merge the layers and make a copy. Then, using the Rotate command, set it to 45 degrees. Now change the blending mode to the one that you like most. I’m using Lighten.
Step 6: Repeat
You can repeat this process and add as many layers as your pattern needs. There’s no limit to this, it’s all about your creativity.
How to Mirror an Image in Photoshop | Final Words
As you can see, something as simple as flipping an image or rotating it can have many uses for amateurs and professionals, for realistic purposes and creative ones.
I hope you found this tutorial on how to mirror an image in Photoshop easy to follow – and that it opened up a lot of possibilities for you!
If you have any questions, leave a comment below.