Graphic Design Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for Graphic Design professionals, students, and enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a background overlay on which I have three text layers on top. Now I want to move these text layers around on the overlay, but I can't get it to work.

As soon as I click inside the text layer I can see that the background layer is catching the click, and if I drag I see that it's the background layer that is moved and not the intended text layer...

I find it very annoying, and I can't seem to figure out what I do wrong. The thing is that it seems to work sometimes, for one Click -> Drag -> Drop, but as soon as I try and move it again it just moves the background.

I have the Move Tool selected and the move is set to Move: Layer, just to be clear.

share|improve this question
up vote 32 down vote accepted

Are you sure you're clicking on the actual letters in the text? When selecting a layer to move, GIMP will pick the uppermost layer which is non-transparent1 at the point you clicked, ignoring any transparent layers that might be on top of it.

What this means is that, using the "Pick a layer or guide" mode of the move tool, you can only drag a layer around by its opaque parts. Since a text layer is typically mostly transparent, with only narrow opaque lines making up the text, this can sometimes make them tricky to move.

The general solution (besides practicing finer mouse control) is to select "Move the active layer" in the move tool options (or just hold down the Shift key when clicking), which will cause it to move the currently selected layer no matter where you click. Then select the layer you want from the Layers dialog and move it around as you like.

You can do this by: 1) selecting the move tool, and 2) in the menu bar, navigating to Windows → Dockable Dialogs → Tool Options. In the dialog box that appears, select "Move the active layer".

1) I did a few tests, and it looks like the layer needs to be at least 25% opaque at the clicked point to be draggable. Anything less is treated as transparent.

share|improve this answer
Thank you! This was driving me crazy! I'd select the layer in the Layers dialog, then try to drag it... and it would move the background, three layers below. I held down Shift when I clicked, and was able to move the currently empty transparent layer I wanted to move. – user18204 Dec 11 '13 at 4:23

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.