Mirror Image Effect With Photoshop

How to Mirror an Image in Photoshop CC

Learn how to create a classic mirror image effect in Photoshop with this easy, step-by-step tutorial. Now fully updated for Photoshop CC 2019!

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 Photoshop effect is often used in album covers and movie posters, and as we'll see, it's super easy to create. As always, I cover every step along the way so even if you're new to Photoshop, you can easily follow along.

I've updated this tutorial to reflect recent changes to Photoshop as of Photoshop CC 2019. There are only a couple of important changes and I'll point them out as we go, along with the original steps for anyone still using Photoshop CS6.

Here's the image I'll be starting with:

The image that will be used for the Mirror Image Effect in Photoshop
The original image that will be mirrored. Photo credit: Adobe Stock.

And here's how the mirror effect will look when we're done:

Photoshop mirror image effect
The final result.

Let's get started!

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How to mirror an image with Photoshop

For this tutorial, you will need Photoshop CC and you will want to make sure your copy is up to date.

You can also follow along with my video of this tutorial on our YouTube channel. Or download this tutorial as a print-ready PDF!

Step 1: Unlock the Background layer

We'll start in the Layers panel where we see the image on the Background layer:

Photoshop Layers panel showing the image on the Background layer
The Layers panel showing the photo on the Background layer.

By default, the Background layer is locked, which means that Photoshop won't let us move the image around. To fix that, unlock the Background layer by double-clicking on the layer's name:

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

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

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

And back in the Layers panel, the Background layer is now the "Photo" layer and the lock icon is gone:

The Background layer in Photoshop has been renamed and unlocked
The Background layer has been renamed and unlocked.

Learn more: Learn how to use layers in Photoshop!

Step 2: Add more canvas space on the sides of the image

Next, we need to add more canvas space on both sides of the image. 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, make sure 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 but leave the height at the original size.

To add the new space to both sides equally, make sure the center square in the Anchor grid is selected:

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

Click OK to close the dialog box, and Photoshop adds the new canvas space on the left and right of the image:

The Photoshop document after adding more canvas space on the left and right of the image
The result after adding more canvas space.

How to fit the 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.

And now we see the entire canvas. The checkerboard pattern on either side of the image means that the new space is transparent. But we won't see any of that in the final effect because we'll be trimming away anything we don't need:

Fitting the entire canvas on the screen in Photoshop
Fitting the canvas on the screen in Photoshop.

Do more with Canvas Size: How to add a border to your photos!

Step 3: Add a vertical guide down the middle

We need 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, set the Orientation to Vertical and enter 50% for the Position:

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

Click OK to close the dialog box, and Photoshop divides the document in half by placing a vertical guide through the middle:

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 4: Select the Move Tool

Select the Move Tool from the Toolbar:

Selecting the Move Tool in Photoshop
Grabbing the Move Tool.

Step 5: Drag your subject to one side of the guide

Think of the guide we just added as the "flip point" for the mirror effect. In other words, everything we place on one side of the guide will be mirrored on the other side.

So with the Move Tool selected, press and hold the Shift key on your keyboard and drag everything you want to mirror over to one side of the guide, either left or right depending on your subject. Holding the Shift key limits the direction you can move the image, making it easier to drag straight across.

In my case, since the girl 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 most of the image to one side of the guide
Dragging everything I want to mirror over to right.

Here's a closer view of the image to make things easier to see. Notice where my guide cuts through the image. Everything to the right of the guide will be mirrored on the left. And the remaining part that's still on the left will be tossed away:

A closer view of how the guide divides the image.
A closer view of how the guide now divides the image.

Step 6: Select the image

Next, we need to select just the image itself, not the empty transparent areas on either side of it. In the Layers panel, press and hold the Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key on your keyboard and click on the layer's preview thumbnail:

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 use Photoshop's selection tools!

Step 7: Select 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, which means we need to reshape, or transform, our selection outline. 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 8: Drag the side of the selection outline over to the guide

This places transform handles (little squares) around the selection outline. You'll find one 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 handle on the left of the image. If you're mirroring everything on the left of your guide, then you'll want the handle on the right of your image:

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

We need to drag this handle over to the guide. But as of Photoshop CC 2019, Adobe has changed the way the Transform command works. If you're using CC 2019 (or later) and you just start dragging the handle, you'll end up dragging every handle at the same time.

To drag just that one handle, press and hold your Shift key, and then drag the handle over to the guide. If you're using an earlier version of Photoshop, you can just drag the handle without holding Shift:

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.

Release your mouse button and you'll see that the shape of the selection outline has changed. Only the area you're mirroring remains selected. To accept it and close out of the Transform Selection command, press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard:

Only the side of the image that will be mirrored is selected in Photoshop
The side that will be mirrored is now selected.

Learn more: Free Transform features and changes in Photoshop CC 2019

Step 9: Copy the selection to a new layer

We need to copy the selected part of the image to a new layer. Go up to the Layer menu in the Menu Bar, choose New, and then choose 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 the layer "Mirror". Press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to accept it:

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

Step 10: Select the Free Transform command

To create our mirror image effect, all we need to do at this point is flip the contents of the "Mirror" layer. 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 11: Drag the reference point over to the guide

This places the Free Transform box and handles 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 target symbol in the center of the Free Transform box.
The reference point in the center of the Free Transform box.

Not seeing the reference point?

If you're not seeing it, it's because the reference point is now hidden by default as of Photoshop CC 2019.

To show the reference point, go up to the Options Bar and click the Toggle Reference Point checkbox (the first checkbox from the left):

The Toggle Reference Point checkbox in Photoshop CC 2019
The Toggle Reference Point checkbox (new in CC 2019).

Moving the reference point to the guide

Then click on the icon 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 12: 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 13: 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 14: Trim away the extra space on the sides

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

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

In the Trim dialog box, choose Transparent Pixels at the top. And make sure that all four checkboxes (Top, Bottom, Left and Right) are selected at the bottom:

The Trim command dialog box in Photoshop
The Trim dialog box.

Click OK to close the dialog box, and Photoshop trims away the transparent areas on both sides, leaving us with our final mirror image effect:

Photoshop mirror image effect
The final result.


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