Mirror Image Effect With Photoshop

How to Mirror an Image in Photoshop

Learn how to create a classic mirror image effect in Photoshop with this easy step-by-step tutorial. For Photoshop CC 2020 and earlier!

Written by Steve Patterson.

In this tutorial, I show you how to mirror an image in Photoshop by flipping one side of your photo to create its own mirror reflection. This popular effect is often used in album covers and movie posters. Plus it's a lot of fun and is super easy to create. As always, I cover every step along the way so everyone can follow along.

For best results with this tutorial, you'll want to be using Photoshop CC 2020. But most of the steps are compatible with earlier versions of Photoshop, and I'll point out the differences as we go along.

Here's an example of what the final mirror image effect will look when we're done:

The final mirror image effect created in Photoshop
The final result.

Let's get started!

Download this tutorial as a print-ready PDF!

Step 1: Open your image

Start by opening your image into Photoshop. I'll use this image from Adobe Stock:

The original photo that will be mirrored in Photoshop
The original photo. Credit: Adobe Stock.

For help with opening images, see my Getting Images into Photoshop complete guide.

Step 2: Unlock and rename the Background layer

In the Layers panel, the image appears on the Background layer. And by default, the Background layer is locked, indicated by the lock icon. This means that Photoshop will not let us move the image around:

Photoshop Layers panel showing the image on the Background layer
Photoshop's Layers panel.

To fix that, simply unlock the Background layer by double-clicking on the layer's name:

Double-clicking on the Background layer's name in Photoshop's Layers panel
Double-clicking the name "Background".

Then in the New Layer dialog box, rename the layer "Photo" and click OK:

Renaming the Background layer in Photoshop
Renaming the Background layer "Photo".

And back in the Layers panel, the layer has been renamed "Photo" and the lock icon is gone:

The Background layer has been renamed and unlocked
The layer is now unlocked.

Related: Learn all about Layers in Photoshop!

Step 3: Add more canvas space

Next, we need to add more canvas space on both sides of the image. For that, we'll use Photoshop's Canvas Size command.

Go up to the Image menu in the Menu Bar and choose Canvas Size:

Selecting the Canvas Size command in Photoshop
Going to Image > Canvas Size.

In the Canvas Size dialog box, first make sure that the Relative option is checked. Then set the Width to 100 Percent and the Height to 0 Percent. This will double the width of the canvas without changing the height.

To divide the new space equally between both sides of the image, make sure the center square in the Anchor grid is selected. Then click OK to close the dialog box:

Adding more canvas space with Photoshop's Canvas Size dialog box
The Canvas Size settings.

The new canvas appears as a checkerboard pattern on both sides of the photo. The checkerboard pattern means that the areas are transparent, which is fine. We'll be trimming away any canvas we don't need at the end of the tutorial:

More canvas space has been added to both sides of the photo in the Photoshop document
The result after adding more canvas space.

How to fit the entire canvas on screen

If the canvas is now too wide to fit on your screen, go up to the View menu in the Menu Bar and choose Fit on Screen:

Selecting the Fit on Screen command in Photoshop
Going to View > Fit on Screen.

Related: Add a border to your photos with the Canvas Size command!

Step 4: Add a guide down the vertical center

The next step is to find the exact vertical center of the document, and we can find it by adding a guide. Go up to the View menu and choose New Guide:

Selecting the New Guide command in Photoshop
Going to View > New Guide.

Then in the New Guide dialog box, select Vertical for the Orientation, enter 50% for the Position, and then click OK:

Adding a vertical guide through the center of the Photoshop document
Adding a vertical guide.

Photoshop places a vertical guide through the center of the document:

The result after adding a vertical guide through the center of the Photoshop document
The guide marks the exact vertical center of the document.

Step 5: Select the Move Tool

Think of the guide we just added as the "flip point" for the mirror effect. In other words, everything on one side of the guide will be mirrored on the other side. So to create the effect, we need to drag everything we want to mirror over to the same side.

To do that, select the Move Tool from the toolbar:

Selecting the Move Tool in Photoshop
Grabbing the Move Tool.

Step 6: Drag your subject to one side of the guide

Then click and drag the image left or right depending on your subject. As you drag, press and hold the Shift key on your keyboard to limit the direction you can move. This makes it easier to drag straight across.

In my case, since the woman in the photo is facing the right (her left, our right), and since I want to keep as much of her guitar in the effect as possible, I'll drag most of the image over to the right of the guide:

Dragging everything in the image that will be mirrored to one side of the guide in the Photoshop document
Dragging the section to be mirrored over to same side of the guide.

Here's a closer view of the image, and notice where my guide cuts through it. Everything to the right of the guide will be mirrored on the left. And the part that's still on the left will be tossed away:

A closer view of how the guide divides the image and where it will be mirrored in Photoshop
A closer view of how the guide now divides the image.

Step 7: Select the image

Next, we need to select just the image itself, not the empty transparent areas on either side of it.

To select the image, press and hold the Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key on your keyboard, and with the key held down, click on the layer's preview thumbnail in the Layers panel:

Clicking the layer preview thumbnail in Photoshop's Layers panel
Holding Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) and clicking the preview thumbnail.

A selection outline appears around the image:

A selection outline appears around the photo.
The image is now selected.

Learn more: How to make selections in Photoshop!

Step 8: Choose the Transform Selection command

We've selected the entire image, but what we really need to select is just the side we want to mirror. This means we need to reshape, or transform, our selection outline. And for that, we'll use Photoshop's Transform Selection command.

Go up to the Select menu in the Menu Bar and choose Transform Selection:

Choosing the Transform Selection command in Photoshop
Going to Select > Transform Selection.

Step 9: Drag the side of the selection outline over to the guide

Transform handles (little squares) appear around the selection outline. There's a handle in each corner, plus one at the top, bottom, left and right.

The handle we need is the one opposite the side we're mirroring. In other words, since everything I want to mirror is to the right of my guide, I need the left side handle. If you're mirroring everything on the left of your guide, then you'll want the right side handle:

Clicking the left transform selection handle in Photoshop
Look for the transform handle opposite the side you are mirroring.

In Photoshop CC 2019 or CC 2020, press and hold the Shift key on your keyboard, and then click on the handle and drag it over to the guide. For earlier versions of Photoshop, drag the handle without holding Shift.

When you get close enough to the guide, the handle should snap into place:

Holding Shift and dragging the transform selection handle over to the guide in Photoshop
Holding Shift and dragging the side handle over to the vertical guide.

To accept it and close the Transform Selection command, press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard. And now, only the area that will be mirrored remains selected:

Only the side of the image that will be mirrored is selected in Photoshop
The selection after transforming it.

Learn more: Free Transform's new features and changes in Photoshop CC!

Step 10: Copy the selection to a new layer

Copy the selected part of the image to a new layer by going up to the Layer menu in the Menu Bar, choosing New, and then choosing Layer via Copy. Or press Ctrl+J (Win) / Command+J (Mac) on your keyboard to select the same command with the shortcut:

Selecting the New Layer via Copy command in Photoshop
Going to Layer > New > Layer via Copy.

And in the Layers panel, the selected area appears on a new layer named "Layer 1" above the "Photo" layer:

The Layers panel showing the selection copied to a new layer
The selection has been copied to a new layer.

Double-click on the name "Layer 1" to highlight it, and then rename it "Mirror". Press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to accept the name change:

Renaming the new layer 'Mirror'
Renaming the new layer "Mirror".

Step 11: Select the Free Transform command

All we need to do at this point to create the mirror image effect is flip the contents of the "Mirror" layer. And for that, we'll use Photoshop's Free Transform command.

Go up to the Edit menu and choose Free Transform. Or press Ctrl+T (Win) / Command+T (Mac) to select Free Transform from the keyboard:

Selecting the Free Transform command in Photoshop
Going to Edit > Free Transform.

Step 12: Drag the reference point over to the guide

The Free Transform box and handles appear around the contents of the layer (similar to the Transform Selection handles we saw earlier).

See that little target icon in the center of the box? That's the transformation reference point. In other words, the point around which the transformation takes place:

The Free Transform reference point in Photoshop
The reference point in the center of the Free Transform box.

Not seeing the reference point?

If you are not seeing the reference point, go up to the Options Bar and click the Toggle Reference Point checkbox. Note that this only applies to Photoshop CC 2019 and 2020:

The Toggle Reference Point checkbox in Photoshop
The Toggle Reference Point checkbox.

Moving the reference point to the guide

Then click on the reference point and drag it left or right (depending on your image) so that it snaps into place over the handle that's on the same side as your guide:

Dragging the transform reference point to the side handle in Photoshop
Dragging the reference point to the side handle.

Step 13: Flip the image horizontally to mirror it

With the Free Transform command still active, right-click (Win) / Control-click (Mac) inside the Free Transform box and choose Flip Horizontal from the menu:

Choosing the Flip Horizontal command in Photoshop
Choosing the Flip Horizontal command.

This flips the image horizontally and creates the mirror effect. To accept it and close out of Free Transform, press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard:

The result after flipping the image horizontally in Photoshop
The result after flipping the image horizontally.

Step 14: Clear the guide

We don't need the guide anymore, so to remove it, go up to the View menu and choose Clear Guides:

Selecting the Clear Guides command in Photoshop
Going to View > Clear Guides.

Step 15: Trim away the extra space on the sides

And finally, to remove the extra canvas space on the sides of the image, go up to the Image menu and choose Trim:

Selecting the Trim command in Photoshop
Going to Image > Trim.

Then in the Trim dialog box, choose Transparent Pixels at the top and make sure Top, Bottom, Left and Right are all selected at the bottom. Then click OK to close the dialog box:

The Trim command dialog box in Photoshop
The Trim options.

Photoshop trims away the transparent areas on both sides, leaving us with our final mirror image effect.

If you need to crop the effect, check out my How To Crop Images in Photoshop complete guide:

Photoshop mirror image effect
The final result.