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.

1 Answer 1


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.

  • For me the "pick a layer or guide mode" does not select the clicked layer in Layers panel, it just switches to it with mouse down and switches back to previously selected layer on mouse release.
    – Ejaz
    Sep 16, 2020 at 21:55
  • @Ejaz: Yes, that's how it's supposed to work. It's just temporarily showing you which layer you're moving. (If you change the move tool to "move the active layer" mode, then clicking in the image window will not change the selected layer at all, regardless of where you click, but will simply move the layer you already have selected.) Sep 16, 2020 at 22:26
  • I'm sure it is how it is supposed to work. It works even better when you have a layer nested in groups with other hundred layers. Why would anybody like to select a layer by clicking on it, they only want to see the name of the layer and then scroll to it manually.
    – Ejaz
    Sep 17, 2020 at 12:11
  • Nothing personal @Ilmari , I guess I'm not masochist enough for gimp.
    – Ejaz
    Sep 17, 2020 at 12:14
  • 1
    @Ejaz: I can see how that could be useful if you have so many layers. FWIW, I Googled for it, and it's apparently possible to enable the behavior you want in GIMP preferences (under "Tool Options"). Sep 17, 2020 at 18:38

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