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Image editors like Paint.NET do not do what I want. They force me to make each small circle, rectangle, piece of text, etc. a layer.

What I want is something like this:

  • Layer 3 - Rectangle A, some texts
  • Layer 2 - Circle A, Rectangle B, another image
  • Layer 1 (bottom) - Base image

Not like this (everything gets forced to be a layer):

  • Layer 6 - Rectangle A
  • Layer 5 - some texts
  • Layer 4 - Circle A
  • Layer 3 - Rectangle B
  • Layer 2 - another image
  • Layer 1 (bottom) - Base image

It's because sometimes I want to edit only a certain set of objects at a time, and I want to be able to select and edit only {Circle A, Rectangle B, another image}, without accidentally touching or modifying Rectangle A, some texts, and base image.

Also, sometimes I would like to move {Circle A, Rectangle B, another image} altogether, not move them one by one. Move, as in both moving up and down between layers, and moving their positions in the image canvas.

And sometimes I need to denote {Circle A, Rectangle B, another image} should be shown or hidden altogether.

A concept that {Rectangle A, some texts} belongs to a common layer, {Circle A, Rectangle B, another image} belongs to another common layer, would be great for me.

Is there any image editor that support this concept? It could be free or paid, open source or proprietary.

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    Ermm.. Photoshop... with group and/or smart objects.
    – Scott
    Oct 6, 2021 at 10:54

1 Answer 1

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I don't know about Paint.net - since I've never used it - but software such as Photoshop (not free), also GIMP and Krita (which are free), have layer groups.

With these you can basically put layers in groups and then move the group as though it was one layer.

Here's an example using GIMP's layer groups

enter image description here

If you want to move objects individually, you will need to use layers. That's how all these kinds of raster image editors work. You can of course merge layers but once you do that, the individual elements will no longer be editable separately. Also if you merge text layers, the text will be rasterized and no longer editable as text.

If you often find yourself creating artwork that consists of geometrical shapes, lines and text, you might want to try using vector software instead. Software such as Illustrator (not free), Inkscape (free), etc. With vector software you can also use groups.

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