I am attempting to align the horizontal centers of background box here with the bookmark icon and associated text (all three are on separate layers).

The problem I'm having is that when I select all layers and click Align Horizontal Centers, the icon and text shift left to align with the box, whereas I would like the box to shift right to align with the icon/text.

I believe it is possible to set a "key/reference layer" in Illustrator which will make other layers align to it, but how can the same be done in Photoshop?

enter image description here

3 Answers 3


To align a set of layers horizontally where you want one layer to be the reference point (in your case icon / text) and the other layers to adjust horizontally to that you have to tell Photoshop that this specific layer should not move. To do that you simply select the layers you want to align, Ctrl + Click on the layer thumbnail of the layer you don't want to move (e.g. icon layer in your case) to make a selection, and then you click the Align horizontal centres button. Now all layers will move horizontally to correspond to the horizontal centre of the icon.

If you want to align something with respect to several layers at once (without grouping, merging etc.) it is also possible to Ctrl + Shift + Click on the thumbnails.

  • This worked perfectly, with the one exception that the icon/text were on separate layers, so I was only able to align to one of them. This was fine in this case, but assume I wished to align to both layers, I would need to Ctl + click all relevant thumbnails, since it won't work for a group? Mar 21, 2013 at 3:27
  • I actually tried this and it didn't work - it just selected one after the other - and grouping them was no good, either, as I couldn't select the group. I'm sure I'll find a workaround if I ever find this truly necessary, but please let me know if you happen to know of a quick solution! :) Mar 21, 2013 at 9:38
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    @zakgottlieb Glad it worked out for you. I believe I have a solution to that problem you mentioned, it's merely a question of how you order the selection and the alignments. You want to align three elements, what you do is that you align two elements first (icon and text), then aligning the third element will produce the same result no matter if you align it to the icon or the text, because the icon and the text already have the same horizontal centre. There is no need to "select both" because selecting one or the other will still produce the same result. Let me know if you don't follow. =) Mar 21, 2013 at 11:42
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    You mean, this problem can be solved by using common sense?! Amazing :) Thank you for the fourth time. Or fifth, perhaps. Mar 21, 2013 at 15:06
  • @zakgottlieb haha! well yea, one could put it that way. =) Mar 21, 2013 at 15:33

This worked:

  1. If you want to center the elements to the centerline of your canvas, hit Ctrl+A
  2. If you want to center to an off-center element make a marquee selection, PS will use its center point to align (vertical or horizontal, depending on what you're trying to center
  3. Now, Ctrl+Click (or Shift+Click) the elements you want centered.
  4. Press V to get the Move Tool and click the align button up top that you want (vertical or horizontal)
  5. Your elements should be centered according to where your marquee selection's center point is.



This doesn't work for some files and for the love of anything I can't find out why. I have been searching for years now.

In some files, I just cannot align any layers to the base layer which is locked or to any other layer, even if I lock it.

What happens is the base layer moves. If I try to center align a layer to the center of the image and I select the background layer which is locked the align and distribute options are greyed out.

I have done this before in other files but for some reason won't work in some files.

If I unlock the layer then the background layer will move and center align with the other layer which obviously makes a huge mess.

The only option to align is to move the layers I want to align to the center and then if I am lucky enough it will align with the background layer.

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