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!
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:
And here's how the mirror effect will look when we're done:
Let's get started!
How to mirror an image with Photoshop
Step 1: Unlock the Background layer
We'll start in the Layers panel where we see the image 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:
Then in the New Layer dialog box, rename the layer "Photo" and click OK:
And back in the Layers panel, the Background layer is now the "Photo" layer and the lock icon is gone:
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:
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:
Click OK to close the dialog box, and Photoshop adds the new canvas space on the left and right of the image:
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:
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:
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:
Then in the New Guide dialog box, set the Orientation to Vertical and enter 50% for the Position:
Click OK to close the dialog box, and Photoshop divides the document in half by placing a vertical guide through the middle:
Step 4: Select the Move Tool
Select the Move Tool from the Toolbar:
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:
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:
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:
A selection outline appears around the image:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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 the layer "Mirror". Press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to accept it:
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:
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:
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):
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:
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:
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 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:
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:
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:
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:
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