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How to Mirror an Image in Photoshop (Step By Step)

How to mirror an image in Photoshop (quick guide)

Photographers and photo editors often need to mirror an image in Photoshop. Perhaps they’re doing a photo composite or a pattern. Or maybe it fits with the graphic needs of a magazine or a poster.

Whatever the reason, if you need to flip an image, simply follow the step-by-step guide I share below! I also show how you can create a pattern using the mirror effect. Sounds good? Then keep on reading.

What is a Photoshop mirror effect?

Mirroring an image in Photoshop involves flipping it horizontally or vertically to create a reflection.

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

But the mirror effect takes this further; it’s when you use a mirror technique to create patterns or kaleidoscopic images, like this:

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

A mirror effect is very artistic, and it can be a great way to have plenty of creative fun in Photoshop!

When should you mirror an image in Photoshop?

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

You might mirror an image in Photoshop for many reasons. The first and most practical one is to correct an image that you may have done through a mirror (e.g., a selfie).

But there are also more creative reasons for mirroring an image. If you simply flip your photo – without creating any doubling or kaleidoscopic effect – you can create a sense of unease in the viewer. Try flipping a portrait, and you’ll instantly notice how swapping the sides of the face will make your subject look very different. You can also mirror images that feature reflections, flipping the “real” object and its reflection.

If you want to make your images look more surreal, you can create a mirror, but then combine the mirrored and original versions in the same file to produce interesting patterns.

Finally, you can multiply your flipped images to create a kaleidoscopic effect. This is great if you’re after abstract art, patterns, or graphic work.

How to create a mirror image in Photoshop

It’s very easy to mirror an image in Photoshop. Here are two easy techniques:

1. Flip Canvas

This feature works when you want to mirror a single-layer document, such as a JPEG. It’s also useful if you want to flip all the layers of a document at once.

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

Simply go select Image>Image Rotation>Flip Canvas Horizontal or Flip Canvas Vertical. (The axis that you choose depends on the effect you’re trying to achieve.)

How to mirror an image in Photoshop
Notice how both the image and the text layer were mirrored.

If you want to mirror a layer separately from the rest, see the next technique:

2. Flip

This technique is different from the Flip Canvas option shared above because it allows you to mirror individual layers.

First, click on the layer you wish to flip, then select its contents using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Cmd+A. Alternatively, click Select>Select All.

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

Then choose Edit>Transform>Flip Horizontal or Flip Vertical.

Alternatively, tap Ctrl/Cmd+T. The marching ants from the selection will disappear, and a border with handles on each side will appear in their place (indicating that the Transform tool is active).

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

Right-click inside the image to open the menu. Choose Flip Horizontal or Flip Vertical. To save the effect, click the checkmark at the top of the window.

How to mirror an image in Photoshop
Notice how the image layer flipped but the text layer remained the same.

Note that you can also do this with a single-layer document. When you first open your image in Photoshop, the Transform tool won’t be available because the layer will be locked. But you can unlock it by clicking (or double-clicking) on the lock icon on the right side. This will open a dialog box where you can rename the layer. Click OK, then follow the rest of the steps as if you were working with more than one layer.

(It’s worth noting that on single-layer documents, Flip and Flip Canvas offer the same result.)

Mirror reflections: A step-by-step example

Now that you know how to mirror an image, it’s time to create an artistic pattern.

Start by opening your image in Photoshop. You can choose any photo, but if it already has a clear pattern, you’ll often get better results. Abstract images work very well, too. For this example, I’m using a photo of a palm tree that was captured from below:

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

When you first open your image, it’ll appear as a locked layer called “Background” (see the example above). To create interesting mirroring effects, however, you need to unlock it. Double-click the image layer in the Layers panel; this will open a dialog box where you can rename the layer:

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

I’d suggest calling it Layer 1 because, in a moment, you’ll create another layer to go underneath. Alternatively, you could name it “Original” or choose another name that makes sense to you.

Then click OK. You’ll see that the layer is now unlocked and has your chosen name.

Next, create a new empty layer by clicking on the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel or by selecting Layer>New>Layer in the Photoshop menu. Name the new layer “Background” or “Layer 0” – whichever you prefer. Drag this new layer beneath your original layer.

You’ll need to increase the size of the canvas so that it has room for mirrored images. Click on Image>Canvas Size:

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

The most traditional way to create a mirroring pattern is with four versions of the original photo. (You flip it on one axis, then you flip it on the other.) To do this effectively, you’ll need to double the size of your canvas both vertically and horizontally.

So change the Canvas Size units to Percent. Then type “200%” in the Width and Height boxes. Click OK.

Now click on your foreground layer, then drag the image to one of the canvas corners. (Pick the best corner based on how you want your pattern to look.) I want the palm tree trunks to converge in the center while covering the border with leaves, so I’ll drag the photo to the top right corner:

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

Now you have to duplicate and flip the layer. Duplicate it by dragging the layer to the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layer panel or by selecting Layer>Duplicate Layer.

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

Now, select the duplicate layer by tapping Ctrl/Cmd+A. Then select Edit>Transform>Flip Horizontal.

You’ll now have a mirrored layer, which you can drag to the corner opposite the first layer:

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

Next, head to the Layers panel and select both image layers. (To select multiple layers, hold Ctrl/Cmd as you click.)

Click on Layer>Duplicate Layers. Your Layer panel should now be populated with four separate images. With the two newest layers selected, choose Edit>Transform>Flip Vertical. The layers will flip, and you can drag them to cover the rest of the canvas:

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

That’s it! You’ve made a pattern with mirrored images. To create a bigger pattern, simply increase the canvas size and repeat the process. You can also scale the pattern and use the Rotate tool to make a more complex image. Experiment with different blending modes, too!

How to mirror an image in Photoshop

Pro tip: The more layers you use, the more important it is to keep a tidy Layers panel. Therefore, it’s useful to name layers as you create them. You can also group or merge the layers as you go along.

How to mirror an image in Photoshop: final words

As you can see, mirroring an image in Photoshop is pretty easy; it only requires a few clicks.

So have fun. Try creating different mirror patterns, and see what you can come up with.

Now over to you:

How do you plan to use the mirror effect? Share your thoughts (and images!) in the comments below.

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Ana Mireles
Ana Mireles

is a photographer and artistic researcher. She has been awarded and exhibited in Mexico, Italy, and the Netherlands. Through theory and practice, she explores the cultural aspect of photography, how it helps us relate to each other, the world, and ourselves. She has also a passion for teaching, communication, and social media. You can find more about her and her work at her website or acquire some of her works here.

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