3 Basic Ways to Flip and Rotate Images in Photoshop

Photoshop is the most powerful image editing tool on the market. The ways that you can bend pixels to your vision and will are staggering.

When you first starting using Photoshop, it can be overwhelming. So, before you dive right into the ocean of tools at your disposal, let’s start with the basics.

There are three basic ways to rotate and flip images in Photoshop. Let’s break them down.

Option 1: Flip Canvas using Image Rotation

When you start a new Photoshop file or work with an image you have opened, it is contained in a bounding box. Inside of this box is where you will edit or create your work. Anything that stretches outside of this box will not be shown in the image. This box is called the canvas.

It works, in general, much like a physical canvas. So, while a stretched canvas holds all the paint that makes up your work, the Photoshop canvas holds your pixels. If you rotate a physical canvas, everything on it will turn sideways.

The same is true in Photoshop.

Let’s take it a step further, though. Let’s say you were at a party and took an amazing photo using a selfie mirror. Since you had to use your main camera on your cell phone, your photo will turn out mirrored. That’s no good!

The tell-tale sign of a selfie mirror photo—flipped text!

Let’s use Photoshop to fix it up right quick.

First, be sure that Go to Image->Image Rotation->Flip Canvas Horizontal.

Voila! Now, the image is no longer mirrored, and everyone can read the text on her t-shirt without straining their necks to the side.

If you want to flip your image upside-down, select Flip Canvas Vertical instead. Within the Image Rotation options, you can also rotate your image clockwise or counterclockwise either by specifying a degree using the Arbitrary option. You can also rotate by 90 or 180 degrees using the Rotate 90° Clockwise, Rotate 90° Counterclockwise, Rotate 180° Clockwise, or Rotate 180° Counterclockwise options.

The key idea to remember when using the Image Rotation menu features is that it will flip or rotate everything inside the canvas, including any layers. So, if you want all your artwork mirrored or flipped, the Image Rotation menu is the way to go.

Option 2: Rotate Layers with the Free Transform Tool

When you work to combine multiple images into a single composite in Photoshop, it’s likely you’re going to run into an element that isn’t naturally facing the proper direction. In graphic design, the visual movement of an image needs to align properly with the text and shapes in your design.

Take a look at this rack card design:

Our little puppy pal up there just isn’t sitting right within the confines of the design.

When you work in layers, the transform tool will allow you to rotate or resize everything on every layer that is currently selected.

So, select the layer (or layers) you wish to work with by clicking on them. I’ll select our puppy pal friend here, in the layer called“gizmo.”

Now, press Ctrl + T (Windows) / Cmd + T (Mac). You can also access this option by going to Edit->Transform->Free Transform.

A blue bounding box will appear. With this box active, you can freely move the layer, rotate the layer, and resize the layer.

To rotate the layer, hover your mouse near a corner of the box. You will see your cursor change to a curved line with two arrows.

Hold down your mouse button, and you’ll be able to rotate the image clockwise or counterclockwise.

Now our furry friend GIzmo isn’t so skewed! Now, looking at the design, it may look better with Gizmo facing the opposite direction. Let’s flip him.

First, select the layer you’d like to mirror. Then, go to Edit->Transform->Flip Horizontal.

There we go! He flipped with ease.

So, just remember that when you want to rotate, flip, or skew selected layers (and not the full canvas), the menu of options is in Edit->Transform or you can also use the Free Transform tool by pressing Ctrl + T / Cmd + T.

Option 3: Rotate View

Finally, there are times when you’re working on a project, and you just want to see what it looks like rotated in theory. You don’t want it to stay that way! For example, if you were painting a picture in real life, you could rotate your canvas to draw a curve more comfortably.

Photoshop allows you to rotate your canvas easily as well. If you want to check the way your composition looks flipped, upside-down, or any way around, it’s easy to do.

Activate the Rotate View tool by clicking on it on your toolbar or by pressing R.

Hover your cursor over your canvas, then click. Hold down the left mouse button and move your mouse to rotate the image. Release the left mouse button when you are at the optimal view.

Once you’re finished with any looking, drawing, or touchups, activate the Rotate View tool again and click Reset View to return your image to normal.

Photoshop is a fantastic tool with endless possibilities. While it contains a lot of sophisticated, high-level tools, many jobs start with some its more humble offerings. Whether you need to flip or rotate your entire world, layer, or take a glimpse at your work tools at a new angle, Photoshop makes it easy to complete these sorts of simple tasks.

Now, go forth and do the twist, Photoshop-style.

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