Invert colours to create intriguing effects.

Discover what happens to a photo when you invert the image colours and learn how to create the effect for yourself.

A colour-inverted photo of a snake on a tree branch

Explore colour inversion.

Colour inversion traces its roots to analogue photography. Inverting a traditional black-and-white film negative turns the dark areas light, transforming the negative into a recognisable image.

 

With digital photography, colour inversion is now mainly used to create a fun aesthetic. Plus, the process for inverting photos in Adobe Photoshop is simple, making it a quick way to create unexpected imagery.

An aerial photo of a beach
An aerial photo of a beach with its colours inverted

What happens during colour inversion.

Compare black and white to colour.

When you invert a black-and-white photo, the white pixels become black pixels. But if you invert a colour image, the inverted photo will have a flipped colour scheme. Photoshop will flip every colour to its opposite on the RGB or CMYK colour wheel. This means a vivid blue ocean becomes bright orange and a lush green field becomes magenta. 

A colour-inverted photo of flowers

Create imaginative art.

Inverted photos show an image of the world, but in a totally unexpected way. This makes them perfect for abstract photography, photo collages and fine art. They can also evoke a spooky, creepy or mysterious atmosphere, making them great for Halloween aesthetics. 

 

Rework film negatives.

You can also use the Invert tool in Photoshop to transform your black-and-white film negatives into recognisable photos. With this process, you can adjust a photo like you would in the darkroom, but without all the chemicals. Use a scanner or digital camera to capture the negative you want and follow the steps below to invert the grayscale image and perfect its contrast and brightness.

 

How to invert your photos.

You can invert colours in Adobe Photoshop for many creative purposes. Follow this tutorial to invert colours in any image.

 

1. Open the image.

Go to Photoshop and open your photo file.

 

2. Add a new Invert Layer.

To add a new layer, click into the Layers Panel and then choose Invert from the drop-down menu. You can also create this window by choosing Layer › New Adjustment Layer › Invert from the top menu bar. This immediately flips all the colours in the image.

 

3. Create dimension.

Simply inverting the photo can make the colours look flat. To fix this, go to Layer › New Adjustment Layer › Levels. From there, you can adjust the Levels sliders to add dimension. You can also add and adjust a Brightness/Contrast layer to make the image high contrast.

 

4. Adjust your levels.
View your histogram to get a sense of your full tonal range. Move your Shadows, Midtones and Highlights sliders to add the final adjustments to your photo. From there, you can easily save your photo as a PNG, SVG or JPG.

A colour-inverted photo of lines on a footpath and a person walking over them

Take your photos further.

Photo inversion is a simple, fun way to create unique images, but you can also combine effects to make something truly unexpected. Use your inverted photo to create a double exposure and push your artistic vision into a whole new abstract world.

 

Or you can swap the colours in your photos and then invert the images. This will make your inverted colours appear even more mysterious. With the tools in Photoshop, you can transform your landscape images into alien realms or your portraits into colourful pop art. 

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