When I try to align various layers in GIMP 2.8, sometimes the align tool selects the entire image, not the layer I clicked on.

It doesn't matter how many times I try, and closing/reopening doesn't solve the problem. I've not yet discovered any regularities, it just seems to happen at random regardless of layer contents, size or position. It even happens with layers I'd previously aligned without issue.

Why does GIMP do this? Can it be fixed?

  • After selecting the tool, you must CLICK on the layer you want to align even though it is already the active/selected layer! very unintuitive x)
    – jave.web
    Commented Feb 7, 2021 at 21:27

6 Answers 6


I had been having this problem FOREVER and I just found a solution, even though the person I was talking to about the move tool made me actually figure out the problem.

The alignment tool is selecting the top most layer where ever you click, regardless of what layer you have selected/transparencies. Try hiding the layers above what you are trying to work on, or move it to the top, use the tool, then move it back down.

  • 3
    This is the correct answer -- and thanks so much for it!
    – Thomas
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 18:21
  • Has this behavior been changed in gimp 2.8.20 ?
    – SkyHiRider
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 8:44
  • 3
    oh my god... finally. I don't understand why they make it this way. Thank you Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 14:01
  • 3
    After two days of banging my head, this works! Thank you! Who would design a tool to work so differently from EVERY OTHER TOOL in the program? Sigh.
    – SMBiggs
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 0:06
  • 1
    It also doesn't select right layer if it's in a group. It's necessary to move layer out the group before selecting... damn, it's so annoying thing!
    – 4xy
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 14:31

I personally find the align tool to be very little intuitive. I cannot reproduce your scenario, and the only thing I could imagine for the behavior you describe is if your target layer would have a lot of transparent detail, and would be hard to click on it (like in a layer with text with a small font). However, clicking repeatedly on the layer position could fix that - so I don't think that is your case.

Otherwise, what you are describing is just a bug in the program, that should be reported on the http://bugzilla.gnome.org tool, so that GIMP developers could know about it and fix in a comming release.

However, if you detail your use cases for the tool, I can try to come up with a script that would be useful for you right now, apart from the align tool. Such a script would require one to pick layers on the layer dialog, instead directly on the canvas, but it would work.


In Gimp 2.8, use the Align tool and try to click on a Layer from a Layer Group. The entire image is selected instead of the clicked layer. This detail was probably forgotten when the Layer Group feature was implemented.

As a workaround, temporarily move your layers outside of the layer group, align them, then move them back in the layer group.

  • Hi ovidiu, welcome to GDSE and thanks for your answer. If you have any questions, please see the help center or ping one of us in the Graphic Design Chat once your reputation is sufficient (20). Keep contributing and enjoy the site!
    – Vincent
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 9:09
  • 2
    Late comment: no, when you click on a layer in a group, it selects the whole group, not the whole image. The true purpose of groups is to control composition, it wouldn't make much sense to align layers individually in the group.
    – xenoid
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 9:30
  • 1
    @xenoid, there's no need to try to rationalize every weird behavior of GIMP as a planned feature - as a developer of the software, I can tell you that some of that is really just bugs :) Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 16:29
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    @MichaelSchumacher Then you have to find a way to select a group. Maybe ideally we want both, and there is an implementation gap, but the current behavior isn't wrong.
    – xenoid
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 19:42
  • This solved it for me. Thank you! I suggested an improvement to your post to make it stand out more.
    – Canned Man
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 16:35

This is still not fixed in 2.8.22. I finally managed to align all of my layers by aligning the top one, hiding it, then doing the next one down. It is a very tedious process if you have a lot of layers (fortunately I only had 6), but at least I got it done.


I had this issue too. All you need to do is make sure none is selected then click the actual layer on the image "not the layers box" then select your alignment.

  • 1
    And you did try this with a layer group, and managed to have an individual layer in that group selected by the align tool? Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 9:01

As correctly noted in this answer, the alignment tool selects the top most layer where ever you click, no matter what layer you choose.
The best way to solve this problem for me is using the Crop to content action for all layers so they take up as little space as posible. After that the selection of the alignment tool works more accurately.

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