How to Unscramble a Swirled Photo

By Steven French

In order to conceal a person’s identity in a photo or block out an unwanted element, people may sometimes use the “swirl” or “twirl” effect on a part of the image. This distorts the pixels to such a degree that you cannot decipher the identity of the person or the element being distorted. By reversing the same effect, you may be able to unscramble the image and see the element that is being obscured.

Photoshop Express

Step 1

Visit the Photoshop Express site from your web browser (photoshop.com/tools). Click “Start the editor” to open the interface.

Step 2

Click “Upload photo” and navigate to your image file. Double-click to open it in the editor.

Step 3

Click “Distort” in the tools pane on the left side, then click the “Twirl” icon in the upper toolbar.

Step 4

Click and drag the portion of the image that has been swirled to select it.

Step 5

Click and drag the “Angle” slider to attempt to reverse the swirling effect.

Adobe Photoshop

Step 1

Click the rectangular marquee tool and click and drag to select the portion of the image that has been swirled.

Step 2

Click “Filter,” then choose “Distort” and “Twirl.” This will open the twirl dialog box.

Step 3

Adjust the “Angle” slider to attempt to reverse the swirling effect and click "OK" to save your settings.

Photoshop Elements

Step 1

Use the selection tool to select the portion of the image that has been swirled.

Step 2

Click “Image,” then choose “Transform” and “Distort.”

Step 3

Drag the slider to adjust the amount of distortion to attempt to reverse the swirling effect.

Tips & Warnings

  • If an image has been drastically swirled, it may not be possible to reverse the effect completely.