How to Move a Layer in GIMP


Layers are a powerful feature of the GIMP graphics program because they let you move items independently of other items. You can achieve some interesting effects by reducing the opacity of a layer or by using the blending functions. But you need to understand the difference between moving an item around from side to side while keeping it in the same layer, and reordering the layers so they are in a different order.

Move an Item Within a Layer

  • Open the Layers dock by clicking on "Windows" in the top menu bar at the top of the image window and selecting "Dockable Dialogs". Then click on "Layers" from the menu that pops out to the side. The Layers dock will be to the right of the image window in a separate window, by default, though you can move it anywhere you want.

  • Select the layer that contains the item you want to move by clicking on that layer in the Layer dock.

  • Select the "Move" tool from the toolbar. The "Move" tool looks like a four-pointed arrow.

  • Hold the Move tool over the item you wish to move. You will know for sure you have the right layer selected if the move tool contains only the four-pointed arrow and the normal arrow cursor. If it also contains a hand pointing in a particular direction, you might have selected the wrong layer.

  • Click and drag the item to the desired location. If the layer is the same size as the entire image and if it contains transparent areas around the edge, you can select "Layer" from the top menu bar and click on "Autocrop Layer" to get rid of the outer transparent edges. Then you will see a dotted boundary around the item rather than the entire layer, making it easier to move around.

Reorder Layers

  • Open the Layers dock by clicking on "Windows" in the top menu bar, selecting "Dockable Dialogs" and then clicking on "Layers" from the menu that pops out to the side. Note the order of the layers, with the top layer being on top as if the layers were a stack of paper laying on your desk.

  • Identify the layer you want to move to a different position and click on it to select it. The selected layer will be highlighted a different color than the other layers.

  • Drag the selected layer up or down within the Layer dock until it is in the desired location.

  • Observe the desired effect on the image in the main Image window.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you believe there are transparent sections of your layer and you can't see through them, right-click on the name of the layer in the Layers dock and select "Add Alpha Channel".

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  • Photo Credit Thomas Northcut/Lifesize/Getty Images
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