How To Invert Colors In Photoshop

Knowing how to invert colors in Photoshop allows you to create a negative of your image. While this technique was designed during the film camera era, it’s still a popular editing technique used today. Inverting the colors of your image can lead to some eye-catching effects for your designs.

Inverting colors is simple and quick, but here are a few tips and tricks to take the effect further and create unique results with layer masks and selections.

How To Invert Colors In Photoshop

To invert the colors of a photo in Photoshop, simply click on the image layer and press Control + I (Win) or Command + I (Mac) to invert the colors. Alternatively, select the image layer and go to Adjustments > Invert for the same result. This shortcut also works to invert layer masks.

Step 1: Understanding Color Inversion

Inverting the colors of your image will change your light-colored pixels to dark-colored pixels and vice versa. For example, inverting black-and-white shapes will turn black pixels into white and white pixels into black. 

This concept works for every color on the spectrum. Inverting the colors of your image will change the color of each individual pixel into the opposite color. 

Step 2: Unlock Your Image Layer

Before you invert the colors for your image, you must make sure that your image’s layer is not locked in the Layers panel. If there is a little Lock icon on your image’s layer, click on it to unlock the layer.

Step 3: Invert The Colors Using The Menu Path Or Shortcut

With the layer unlocked and selected in the Layers Panel, go to Image > Adjustments > Invert

A faster way to invert your colors is to select your layer and press Control + I (Win) or Command + I (Mac).

The colors in your image will invert to the opposite colors.

How To Invert A Layer Mask’s Colors In Photoshop 

One of the most powerful and often overlooked tools in Photoshop is the layer mask. You can do a lot with layer masks, including hiding and revealing subjects and backgrounds by inverting the colors of your layer mask.

For example, let’s say you have an image that you already cut a subject out using a layer mask. 

Click on the layer mask in the Layers Panel and press Control + I (Win) or Command + I (Mac).

Inverting the color of the layer mask reveals what was hidden and hides what was previously visible.

This effect is also reflected in the mask of your layer in the Layers Panel. 

Using this technique also works when selecting subjects using a quick mask. If you’ve already selected your subject, you can invert what is selected in your quick mask. 

You would do this by clicking on the Quick Mask Icon, making sure that your Foreground Color is Black.

Then, grab the Brush Tool (B)

Paint over the subject that you want to be selected with your brush. Your subject will be covered in an opaque red color. 

Once your subject is selected, press Control + I (Win) or Command + I (Mac) to invert the colors of your mask. Now, everything except your subject will be covered in the opaque red color. 

To make the selection official, click on the Quick Mask Icon again. You can now make whatever edits you need to, depending on your project. 

How To Selectively Invert Colors In Photoshop 

Sometimes, you don’t want to invert the color of your entire image but instead invert a specific area of your image. You can do this by placing a duplicated layer above your original one, inverting the new layer, and then selecting and hiding the areas you need to on the original layer. 

Step 1: Duplicate Your Layer And Invert The Copy

The first thing you need to do is duplicate the layer you wish to invert the colors on. Click and drag your layer onto the New Layer icon in the Layers Panel

Now that you have a duplicated layer, you need to invert the colors of the entire copied image. To do this, click on your new layer and press Control + I (Win) or Command + I (Mac)

You will see that your layer has been inverted in the Layers Panel. Now, the next step ensures that whatever pixels you erase on the top layer will reveal the pixels on the bottom layer. 

Step 2: Add A Layer Mask

Since both of your layers are set up, we need to be able to hide a large number of pixels all at once. You can do this with a layer mask. 

To add a layer mask, select your layer and click on the Layer Mask Button. You will see a white layer mask pop up next to the layer. 

Step 3: Setup Your Foreground Color To Black

When it comes to using a layer mask, the general rule goes, “white reveals, black conceals.” So, if you paint on a layer mask with black, you will hide the pixels on the top layer, making it possible to see the pixels on the layer below. 

So, for this process to work, set the Foreground Color to Black.

Step 4: Fill Your Selection With Black On The Layer Mask

Now that your layers are set up and your Foreground Color is set to black, it’s time for you to select the area you want to erase from the layer mask. 

You can select the area using the Quick Selection Tool or the method in the previous section using a Quick Mask.

Then, click on the layer mask and press Alt + Delete (Win) or Option + Delete (Mac). What this will do is fill your selection with your Foreground Color. Since you clicked on the mask itself, the color black conceals the selected pixels on the mask. 

Doing this will create a hole in your mask the size of your selection. 

The hole you just made in your mask makes it possible to see the pixels of the layer below it. Giving the illusion in your image of your subject being surrounded by inverted colors. 

To deselect your selection, go to Select > Deselect or press Control + D (Win) or Command + D (Mac)

It’s also easy to see what your image would look like if your subject was inverted and the rest of the image was normal. 

To do this, click on your mask again and press Control + I (Win) or Command + I (Mac). This inverts the colors of your mask so that your subject is white and the rest of the image is black. 

Your image itself will now have an inverted subject and a normal background. 

Experimenting with your colors by inverting them can result in some amazing effects!

Article By

Brendan Williams

Hey, I'm Brendan! I'm a professional photographer and photo retoucher who has spent the majority of his career shooting or retouching outdoor lifestyle and social media campaigns for brands like G-Adventures, xoxo Bella, P&G, Fitbit, Chevy, Tourism California, and more. These days I primarily focus my efforts on this site, creating guides and tutorials that I wish I had earlier in my career. Each week I publish new tutorials on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva to help you unlock new skills and bring your creativity to new levels! Everything you learn here is backed by real experience, so you can finally skip the fluff and focus only on what matters.

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