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!
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:
Let's get started!
Step 1: Open your image
Start by opening your image into Photoshop. I'll use this image from 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:
To fix that, simply unlock the Background layer by double-clicking on the layer's name:
Then in the New Layer dialog box, rename the layer "Photo" and click OK:
And back in the Layers panel, the layer has been renamed "Photo" and the lock icon is gone:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Then in the New Guide dialog box, select Vertical for the Orientation, enter 50% for the Position, and then click OK:
Photoshop places a vertical guide through the 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:
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:
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:
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:
A selection outline appears around the image:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
And in the Layers panel, the selected area appears on a new layer named "Layer 1" above the "Photo" 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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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: