Flipping Part of an Image


Today’s Question: In Photoshop, is there a way to copy a portion of the image, and then “flip it” (left to right) for pasting elsewhere in the original image?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, indeed. You can simply create a selection of the desired area, create a new layer based on a copy of the selected area, flip horizontally or vertically with the Transform commands, and then use the Move tool to move the new layer into the desired position.

More Detail: It is quite easy to duplicate a portion of a photo and then flip that new layer and move it into a new position. One common use of this capability is a “mirror image” technique, which can be quite interesting. You can see a sample image I created using this technique on my Instagram feed here (be sure to follow me!):


The basic process is very straightforward. Start by creating a selection of the area you want to duplicate and flip. In the example image above, that would involve a rectangular selection of one-half of the image. You can then copy the selected pixels to a new layer by choosing Layer > New > Layer Via Copy from the menu (or by pressing Ctrl+J on Windows or Command+J on Macintosh).

To flip this new layer you can simply choose Edit > Transform from the menu, followed by either Flip Horizontal or Flip Vertical based on the direction you wish to flip. With the sample image linked above the Flip Horizontal command was selected.

You can then use the Move tool to move the new layer to a different location within the image. In the case of the “mirror image” technique, for example, I would have selected and duplicated the right half of the image, flipped the layer horizontally, and then moved the new layer to the left half of the image. But of course you could move the new layer to any position you’d like within the image. If for any reason you need to drag the new layer to a position that falls outside the existing image area, you can simply choose Image > Reveal All from the menu to enlarge the canvas so you can see the entire image area.

For readers who subscribe to my Pixology magazine, you can find more details about this technique in the article “Step by Step: Mirror Image”, featured in the August 2016 issue.