What Happens if You Photocopy a Mirror?

We’ve seen photocopiers copying both white and black documents, also colored ones are available too. In most cases, we scan documents and copy them.

However, if you copy a chips packet, the machine will respond the same way just like it does with a document. But what if we photocopy a mirror?

The result might turn out different. The reason is that mirrors have reflective elements that prevents it from copying the shiny effect on a piece of paper.

So, you might wonder, what happens then if it’s put into a copy machine? Does the photocopy turn out all black? All white? We won’t be surprised if you assume that the light reflection comes out in rainbow colors.

Well, the answer is a bit tricky. Of course, it depends on various variables such as the type of photocopier, the coating on the mirror, etc.

We’ll be providing you the answers in detail, starting from how does a mirror work, how does a copy machine work, what is the process, and so on. We expect that you’ll get your answer correctly in this article. 

How Does a Mirror Work?

Mirrors are magical. You stand in front of a mirror and see the exact copy of yourself. Even if you’re moving, it reflects the same movements. Wonderful, right? So, how is it constructed?

It may appear to be built on a very complex structure, but in reality, it has a super simple composition. What we actually see is the principles of lighting doing its wonderful job. 

So, basically, a mirror is made of glass with a thin layer of metal backing. The metal is either aluminum or silver; each mirror has its own type. After that, in the end there is a layer of paint that protects the metal from any type of damaging. 

The glass layer isn’t the most important component here, but it helps to absorb the light and reflect it on the metal surface.

Usually, light reflects straightforward on a smooth surface if the angle of light absorption and reflection is exactly to the same degrees. Hence, the colors that we observe is the maximum reflected light on a specific object.

Now let’s learn how light behaves while we scan and copy something in a photocopier. It’ll help you to understand what happens if you photocopy a mirror.

How Does a Photocopier Machine Work?

A photocopier has several functions. We’ll just focus on the scanning process here because that’s the only thing we need to know for copying a mirror in the machine. So, without any unnecessary introduction, let’s hop on to the basics:

Step-by-Step Scanning Process

  1. Let’s start analyzing the matter by understanding the scanning principle by photocopying a document. The first thing you need to do is placing a piece of document on top of the glass bed of the machine and press on to the “scan” button. 
  2. From outside, you’ll see a light source has moved all through the document from one side to the other. 
  3. The illumination causes a reflection of the document in an angled mirror keeping the same speed just as the light source. 
  4. There is a fixed mirror on the inside of the machine that is attached at the other end of the scanner. It captures the film from the first mirror by a CCD or, a charge-coupled device. This can be saved to the hard drive of your computer as well. 


When the document is illuminated by the light source, the white areas reflect the light on the photoconductive drum, causing it to discharge.

In contrast, the black portions that cannot be reflected in the drum remain negatively charged. That’s why the writing on the document cannot be reflected and thus comes out in a black font out of the photocopier. 

Photocopying A Mirror 

So now we know how mirror works and a photocopier works. Let’s dive into the one question you’ve been thinking all this time, “What happens if you Photocopy a Mirror?”

Think this, you replace the document with a mirror in the photocopier, what will the fixed mirror capture while scanning?

As mirrors are perfectly reflective with no specularity and opaqueness, obviously, it will capture the inside base of the scanner that is being reflected in the mirror.

The base is black colored, so that scan will also capture a dark reflection and as a final result you’ll get to see a black area on the piece of paper that you’ve inserted.

This usually happens if you try to photocopy a rear-coated mirror. However, a front-coated mirror creates an optical distance in the photocopier which leads them to copy a blank (white) paper. 

By a little experiment we actually came up with three possible answers to the question, “What happens if you photocopy a mirror?”.

If you place the mirror in such position that the detector and the light source are out of the line, then the copy will be completely black. An inline position will give a result of a copy in saturated white.

Last but not the least, a diffusion illumination will occur if the detector is a CCD camera. It’ll leave the image out of focus. 

Final Thoughts 

It’s really interesting how mirror photocopies can turn out different than what we expected. The prime reason of the copy differences is related to the type of mirrors.  We believe, this article has answered to all of the questions arose on your curious mind.

We tried to explain the core concepts of how a mirror and a photocopier machine works in the easiest way.

You can actually try photocopying a mirror yourself at home too. It’s super fun and enjoyable. You’ll be left with joy once you get to see the result in your own eyes!

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