Inverting Image Colours Mini Tutorial

inverted wheelThis mini tutorial is for users of Photoshop or Photopea, though the principles apply to most other non-trivial applications.

Inverting the colours in images can create some very interesting results. The first thing to understand is that the inversion will replace each colour with its corresponding opposite on the photographers colour wheel – eg: Red will convert to Cyan, Green to Magenta, Blue to Yellow etc.

The original for this is at the end of the page.

Next, the photo must be suited to colour inversion. Only experience will really help you recognise an image’s potential for colour inversion, but as a rough guide the result will be most dramatic if the image has plenty of contrasting areas and if it is very dark or very light. However, if you aren’t sure, it can’t hurt to try!



The Simplest Methods of Inversion:

  • Select the Original Image Layer (Background) and Press Cntrl I.This is really a destructive approach as it works directly on the original image and should therefore be avoided.


  • Create a new ‘Invert’ Adjustment Layer (Invert 1), or duplicate the original layer by pressing Cntrl J, in either case, then
  • Switch off the original layer and invert (Cntrl I) the duplicate layer.This is a better approach as it preserves the original image, but If you’re inverting a complex composition with several adjustment layers, then it is not ideal.

A more ‘rigorous’ approach.

  • Start with the original image (Background)


  • Cntrl J to duplicate it (Background Copy)


  • Switch off Background


  • Prepare your image using whatever Adjustment Layers are required – those shown in the image are examples only.



  • Group all Background Copy and all Adjustment Layers eg: in the example select Brightness/Contrast 1, hold down the Shift key and select Background Copy and press Cntrl G – that will create a group.
  • You can then create a Invert Adjustment Layer.


Following this method means you can go back into group, select any adjustment layer and make any modifications you want without affecting the original Background Layer. Once you have finalised the image, you can then save it as a PSD if you think you may like to go back and do further refinements, or you can right click anywhere in the stack and select ‘Merge Visible’ – as your original image is switched OFF it will not be affected.

Throughout we have used Cntrl which equals the Windows Control or Apple Command key functions.

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