Back in the days of film photography, inverting colors was much more challenging. It was a painstaking process that required specialized knowledge of handling and working with film, developing chemicals, and a dark room. Luckily, it’s much less complicated today, thanks to the advent of digital photography!
Sure, inverting colors on a digital photo could still seem daunting. If you aren’t particularly tech-inclined, it may even feel like an impossible task. But the truth is, it’s simpler now than it’s ever been before. Nowadays, countless tools and apps make inverting colors a breeze — and you can use them on your computer or your mobile devices.
This guide will show you how to invert colors on a picture using various methods and tools. We’ll tell you how you can do it all step-by-step to make it easier for you to follow along.
What is Color Inversion?
Color inversion means taking an image and flipping its colors to their color wheel opposites.
The color wheel, initially invented by Isaac Newton, shows the relationship between all the colors on the visible spectrum. When you say you want to invert an image, that usually means changing the existing colors to their negative colors.
The example above is an oversimplified inverted color chart, but it nevertheless acts as a great illustration of colors opposite each other. In the wheel, you’ll see that blue is directly opposite to light orange. Purple is opposite to yellow-gold, red is directly across from green, and so on. Thus, if you invert a blue image, you’ll likely see it turn to light orange.
But what about black and white images? An inverted color wheel can’t help you there, after all. What happens when you flip the image without actual inverted colors to work with?
Well, you’ll still see the image flip — but instead of seeing colors change, you’ll see light sections turn dark and vice versa.
Why Do People Want Colors Inverted In Photos?
There are a few reasons why you may want to invert the colors in your photos, such as aesthetics, accessibility, or utility. Let’s look at them in closer detail below.
Some people may believe the misconception that a colorblind person sees no color at all and that they see the world in black and white. However, the truth is color blindness can vary by type. The type of color blindness a person has can determine which colors they struggle to see. Thus, inverting colors can help a colorblind person see details they might have missed otherwise.
Inverting colors can also help other visually-impaired individuals. The inversion process can enhance contrast and bring out more details, enabling people to see the image or more easily distinguish its details.
Additionally, some people may invert an image’s colors to reduce eye strain. The reduction comes from the fact that some images will effectively darken when inverted.
Many may find that changing an image’s colors to contrasting or complementary counterparts can add interest to an otherwise plain or dull photo. Others may find that the color change can create a fun or eye-catching effect that could be great for use in graphic design. Then, of course, some people simply find they like the effect’s aesthetics!
Isolating Details for Other Uses
Sometimes, you may need to extract details from a picture. A great example of this would be if you needed to copy the text from an image for whatever reason.
A task like this could be simple, depending on image quality. If the text is on a plain background and is well-contrasted, you wouldn’t need to do anything else! However, if the picture isn’t as clear or the colors aren’t the best, inverting these colors can help you isolate the text for copying.
How to Invert Colors on a Picture: Step-by-Step
It’s now much easier to invert a photo’s colors, thanks to the digital tools at your disposal. Although there are countless tools available for you to use, we’ve selected a few for the step-by-step guides below.
How to Invert Colors on Windows
You can use numerous apps to invert photo colors on Windows. However, one of the easiest free methods to do so is using Microsoft Paint, an app included with your installation of this operating system.
To use Microsoft Paint to invert your image’s colors, follow the steps below.
- Open Microsoft Paint.
- Import your image by going to the top menu bar and clicking “File” > “Open.” Alternatively, you can use the Ctrl + O keyboard shortcut to bring up the file open menu.
- Once you import your image, select the whole photo using the Ctrl + A keyboard shortcut. If you have selected your photo correctly, you will see dashed lines bordering your photo.
- Right-click on the picture to bring up the context menu. Then, simply click the “Invert Color” option.
- And that’s it! Now, all you need to do is save your photo. You can do so by clicking on “File” > “Save” on the top menu bar.
How to Invert Colors on Photos on Mac
You might be glad to know that the Preview app built into your Mac includes features that allow you to invert a photo’s colors. You don’t need to do anything special, just follow these simple steps below.
- Open the Preview app on your Mac. Once open, you’ll see a dialog box through which you can import your photo. Navigate to and open the image you’d like to invert.
- From the top menu bar, go to “Tools” > “Adjust Color.”
- The Color Adjustments panel will pop up. From this panel, look for the color adjustment graph and look for the adjustment sliders (encircled in the image below).
- To invert your image, drag the leftmost slider all the way to the right.
- Then, take the rightmost slider and move it all the way to the left.
- That’s it — your image is now inverted and ready to save and use! To save, go to the top menu bar, and click on “File” > “Save.”
Note: If you simply close Preview, the image will also auto-save, so make sure that you are satisfied with your work before you exit the app!
Here’s a helpful tip: You can adjust the final result by moving the middle slider around to increase or decrease the contrast in your image.
How to Invert Colors on a Picture Using a Free Online Tool
Many free online tools will allow you to edit your image for free. One such tool is available from ImageOnline.co, which offers a variety of tools for you to use at no cost and all within your browser. These tools require no specialized skills — simply upload the photos, invert, and download the finished result!
To use this tool to invert your photo, follow the instructions below.
- Navigate to the ImageOnline.co website.
- Click on “Upload Image” and select your photo.
- Once uploaded, click on “Convert Image” to finish the process.
- Click on “Download Image” to save your finished image to your device.
How to Invert Colors on Pictures on Mobile (Android/iPhone)
If you need to flip a photo’s colors on mobile, one of the best things you can do is download an app with this specific functionality. You can try an app like PhotoDirector, which is available on Android and iOS. We recommend PhotoDirector as one of the best iPhone apps for inverting image colors.
To invert an image’s colors on iPhone and Android, follow the steps below.
- Download an editing app like PhotoDirector and install it on your phone. Once installed, open the app. Note that PhotoDirector offers a premium subscription, but you can continue using the app for free (with ads).
- On the app’s homepage, look for the “Edit” button. Tap it and allow the app permission to access your phone’s gallery.
- Once you have provided permission, select the image you wish to invert.
- On the bottom toolbar, tap on the “Effects” button. If you cannot find it, swipe left on the bar to scroll through all the options.
- In the menu that pops up, tap on the “Invert” button. This will automatically invert your image’s colors without further input!
- Once your image is inverted, the last thing to do is tap the check mark on the top right of your screen!
- To save or export your image, simply tap on the save icon next to the three dots icon located on the top right of the app.
Related: How to Hide Photos on iPhone
Apps for Inverting Image Colors
If you want to use a different app to invert image colors, consider one of the options below. We’ve included apps for computers and mobile to ensure you have a few to choose from!
- Adobe Photoshop – Photoshop has been a popular graphic design tool for decades. This robust tool comes with all the bells and whistles, including an easy way to invert your image’s colors. Flipping a photo’s colors can be as simple as pressing the ctrl + i or cmd + i keyboard shortcuts. Adobe Photoshop is available on desktop computers and requires an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.
- Rawpics.io – This website offers a few tools, though the invert image web app is one of the best. Using the app is generally free, but there are some limitations. If you’d like to be able to edit unlimited images, you’ll need a $1.99/month or $16.59/year subscription.
- Negative Image – This app is available on the Google Play Store. It’s free and allows users to invert an image’s colors on their Android phone quickly. However, you might want to know that there have been a few complaints about the obnoxious number of ads you’ll see during use.
- GIMP – GIMP is a full-featured graphic design app, much like Adobe Photoshop. This open-source (free) app allows you to do many of the things Adobe Photoshop can do, including inverting image colors. Unfortunately, this app isn’t the easiest and may require you to put in a fair amount of effort to push through the initial learning curve. GIMP is available for download on various platforms on computers.
- Paint.NET – This software is available entirely for free and has many features just like GIMP and Photoshop. The only difference is this app is only available on Windows machines, so if you have a Mac you’ll need to look elsewhere. To invert your photo’s colors, go to “Adjustments” > “Invert Colors.” The ctrl + shift + i shortcut on your keyboard will also work the same.
- IrfanView – This app is another graphic design tool for Windows machines. It’s freeware when used non-commercially. To invert your photo colors, simply use the Negative feature (so named because it looks like a film photo negative).
- Affinity Photo 2 – Affinity Photo 2 is a direct competitor to Adobe Photoshop. It’s relatively affordable and offers a robust feature set that competes with the industry standard. However, instead of a subscription, you can purchase Affinity Photo 2 through a one-time purchase. Affinity Photo 2 is available on Windows, Mac, and even the iPad. If you need more design tools, you can purchase the Affinity Universal License, which will give you access to all three of their apps on all available platforms.
Inverting colors can transform an image’s look and feel entirely. Whether you need to do it for aesthetic reasons and visual effects or to enhance visual clarity and accessibility, there are now countless tools at your disposal.
We hope that this guide on how to invert colors on a picture has helped you find a method that works for you! With a bit of patience and some extra practice, you’d be surprised how simple the inversion process can actually be!
If you need to add your inverted images to Google Sheets, consider checking out this tutorial on how to insert images in a cell on Google Sheets. Alternatively, to learn more about editing photos, check out this Adobe photoshop course, which teaches you to add motion to photos, edit using AI, and more!
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Chriselle has been a passionate writer for over 10 years, working with many publications worldwide. She currently writes for Productivity Spot, The Grad Cafe, and Hackr.io, among others.