How do I copy a layer in Photoshop in the traditional method of selecting an area and CtrlC while maintaining the layer and it's applied effects?

I don't want to drag and drop the layer; I prefer the way FileNew will set the size of the new canvas to the size of the selected area.

  • Can you clarify this? Your title question makes sense, but your ellaboration is confusing.
    – Eric
    Jul 9, 2013 at 13:30

4 Answers 4


Right-click/Control-click the layer (or group) you wish to duplicate.

Chose Duplicate Layer/Group...

Select New from the Document drop down and hit OK.

Choose Image -> Trim, tick the Transparent Areas option and hit OK.

One important aspect to be aware of is Global Lighting. If your layer styles are using something other than the default for Global Lighting, they may be reset to the Global Light default when doing the above. You may find it necessary to choose Layer > Layer Style > Global Light... and set that to the correct degree after creating the new document.

  • 1
    @Dominic If you copy a layer with transparency, the New file command creates a document the size of the contained pixels... not the size of the selection. Try it and see. This is what is referenced in the question. Photoshop has never sized a new document based upon transparent pixels.
    – Scott
    Jul 9, 2013 at 21:20
  • While you are right, Scott, the issue is if you select a part of a layer. With your answer you have to duplicate the whole layer, not just the piece you want.
    – Hanna
    Jul 9, 2013 at 22:23
  • True, but cropping is easier than rebuilding layer styles in many cases.
    – Scott
    Jul 9, 2013 at 22:24
  • I agree. But you can achieve both if you select the area you want, then right-clicking and selecting Layer via Copy and then following your steps.
    – Hanna
    Jul 9, 2013 at 22:25
  • @Johannes Correct, provided the layer is a raster layer. Layer via Copy will simply copy entire shape, vector, type, or smart object layers. Essentially giving you a duplicate layer with no regard to any selection.
    – Scott
    Jul 9, 2013 at 22:30
  1. Select and CtrlC
  2. Create a new document
  3. Paste in the new document -- your partial layer appears without layer effects
  4. Go back to the original document
  5. Grab the fx icon from the layers panel and drag it into the new document's window

This will apply the original effects to the copied layer part.


The instructions are still valid, but you must have a background layer visible when making the selection because pressing CTRL C to copy will create a clipboard object that will crop itself to the size of the pixels within the selected area. Therefore, if the selected area has transparencies to the left and right of the image, it will crop away transparencies up to the first pixels encountered along the x and y axes.

Thanks to Scott for clarification on that.

  1. Select the area you want the canvas size to be and press SHIFT CTRL C to copy merged. Ensure you have a background visible. Select Canvas Area

  2. Create a new document with the size of the Clipboard image you've just created. It should automatically set the width and height to be the size of the clipboard object. Create New Canvas with Size of Clipboard Object

  3. Go back to the original file and select the layer/s you want, select multiple layers by holding CTRL. Right click one of the layers and select Duplicate Layers from the menu that appears. Select Layers and Duplicate

  4. Select the new document you just created from the drop down list and press ok. Select the new canvas to copy to

This way is slightly faster and more useful with multiple layers. When the layers are duplicated they will carry all of their styles and effects with them.


If this is something you do often, I think it would be best to create an action for this.

But basically, what you'll want to do is select the area from a layer that you wish to copy over, like you normally do. (Note: if you don't want a piece of the layer, but rather the entire layer just follow Scott's method)

Now right-click and say Layer via Copy, now follow Scott's method

Right-click/Control-click the layer (or group) you wish to duplicate.

Chose Duplicate Layer/Group...

Select New from the Document drop down and hit OK.

Choose Image -> Trim, tick the Transparent Areas option and hit OK

Something to keep in mind is that the layer effects may change the visual appearance of whatever you just copied because the shape is no longer the same. This is most apparent with say, a gradient overlay.

For convenience's sake, I've created the action for you. Just import the action and then after you make a selection you should be able to hit F12 and the action should run and do the rest for you.

  • thats great thanks :-) next step, learn about actions !
    – Toni Leigh
    Jul 9, 2013 at 22:51
  • Yeah, there's plenty of online help for that, I personally had to Google a little bit to figure out how to export my action for download, but in the end actions are great timesavers for stuff you do over and over again.
    – Hanna
    Jul 9, 2013 at 22:53

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