How to Flip a Selection in Photoshop

Is it possible to flip just one element in a photo? Come on, folks, it’s Photoshop, anything is possible. 

Hello! My name is Cara and you might have seen me around here before. A few weeks ago, I showed you how to flip an entire image in this tutorial. Hint: it’s really easy!

Today, I’m going to show you another easy trick to flip just a single element in the photo. Read on to learn how to flip a selection in Photoshop!

Note: the screenshots below are taken from the Windows version of Photoshop CC. If you are using the Mac version, they will look slightly different.

Step 1: Make the Selection

Today I’ll be working with this image that I got from I want to flip the butterfly so it’s coming in at the flower from the other side. 

The first thing to do is make a selection. Photoshop is pretty powerful and there’s a lot of contrast between that butterfly and the background, so I’m going to use the automatic selection tool in Photoshop.

Choose any of the selection tools from the toolbox on the left (I chose the Quick Selection tool). Then click Select Subject up in the options bar.

Photoshop will automatically pick out and create a selection around what it thinks is the subject. It did pretty well, but it also selected a couple of parts of the flowers. 

I already had the Quick Selection tool at hand, so I used it to remove the sections I didn’t want to be selected. To do this, hold down the Alt key while dragging over the selected parts to deselect them. 

Step 2: Put the Selection in Transform Mode

With the selection active, go up to Select on the menu bar. Choose Transform Selection from the dropdown menu. Now I can use the Transform commands on the Edit menu to manipulate the butterfly how I want.

Step 3: Flip the Selection

To flip the selection, go to Edit in the menu bar. Hover over Transform and choose Flip Horizontal. Alternatively, you can choose Flip Vertical if you want to flip the selection up and down instead. 

Now the butterfly is facing the other direction. But you might notice that there is a hole where the butterfly originally was.

You can use the content-aware fill tool to fill in the space. I did this by making a loose selection around the empty space with the Lasso tool. Then right-click within the selection and hit Fill.

Choose Content-Aware from the dropdown box and click OK.

The program then fills in the space using information from the pixels around it. Not too shabby!

How to Invert a Selection

Some of you might be wondering how to flip the selection itself, as in select everything but the original selection. This is called inverting a selection in Photoshop and is simple to do.

With the selection active, go to Select in the menu bar and choose Inverse or hit Shift + Ctrl + I (Shift + Cmd + I) on the keyboard

This will invert the selection to select everything in the image but the original selection. 

Super simple, right? Happy flipping! And if you’re interested in learning more about how to mirror or reflect an image, check it out!

About Cara Koch
Cara fell in love with photography circa 2014 and has been exploring all corners of the imagery world ever since. When she felt limited by Lightroom, she dove headfirst into Photoshop to learn how to create the images she wanted.

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