Today’s Question: Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of photos that have a mirror image effect, which produces a really interesting effect. The left and right half of the image are the same, but mirrored images of each other, producing unique shapes in the overall photo. Can you tell me how to create this type of effect in Photoshop?
Tim’s Quick Answer: There are, of course, a variety of approaches you could take to producing this type of effect. The approach I generally use is to duplicate one half of the image, flip that duplicate, and then move it into the appropriate position to create the mirrored effect.
More Detail: With this effect it can be important to choose the right image to work with. I find that in general the effect works best when there is more than just a key subject in the photo, and where the various “shapes” found within the image will help make it obvious that there is a mirrored effect.
I’ve shared an example of the effect referred to here in my Instagram feed. You can find that image here (and don’t forget to follow me!):
If, for example, I were to take a photo of a single building set against a clear backdrop, then creating the mirrored effect referenced in the question wouldn’t be very obvious. One of the key requirements, in my mind, is that when you use this effect it is immediately obvious that there is something unusual about the photo, but that it isn’t immediately obvious what that “something” is.
Once you’ve found a photo to work with you can open it in Photoshop and select one-half of the image. I recommend using the Rectangular Marquee tool to create the selection. If you choose the “Fixed Size” option from the Style popup, you can specify a height and width value as a percentage. For example, if you want to create a mirrored effect in the horizontal orientation, you can set the Width value to 50% and the Height value to 100%.
With the Width and Height set as percentages, you can click just outside the image to create the selection. Clicking just outside the left side of the image with the values noted above will cause the left half of the image to be selected, and clicking just outside the right side will cause the right half to be selected.
With the selection active, make sure the Background image layer is active on the Layers panel. Then choose Layer > New > Layer via Copy from the menu to duplicate the selected pixels onto a new layer.
You can now flip the new layer you’ve created to produce the mirrored pixels. On the menu you can choose Edit > Transform, and then either “Flip Horizontal” or “Flip Vertical” depending on the direction of the mirror-image effect you’re creating.
Finally, choose the Move tool from the toolbox and drag the flipped layer to the opposite edge of the photo. This will cause the edge of the new layer to align at the center of the image with the same pixels, forming a mirrored-image effect through the rest of the photo.