I'd like to create a new document from a group of layers. It should be the same size as the largest layer in the group, even if the current document is a lot bigger.

For example, I have a web page layout and I just want to isolate a button image that's made of several layers (which are grouped in this case, but I guess they don't need to be) and make a new document with just the button layers in it, and it should be the size of the button.

Is there an easy way to do this?

It seems like making it into a smart object and then duplicating it in a new document is one way to go, but it makes a document the full size of the original, not the size of the object.

(Note: I have seen this thread, but it doesn't answer this question: How to copy layers from one Photoshop document to another?)

1 Answer 1


The simple way to do this (Photoshop CS5/5.1) is:

Step 1: In the Layers panel, Ctl(Cmd)-click on the thumbnail of a raster or shape layer that is the full size of your button. That gives you a selection that is the exact size (and position) you want.

Step 2: Edit > Copy or use Ctl-C.

Step 3: File > New or Ctl-N, and click OK. You now have a new document that is the exact size of your layer.

Step 4: Switch back to the original document and target the layer group in the Layers panel.

Step 5: Using the move tool, drag from the document (not the Layers panel) to the tab for your new, empty document. The focus will switch automatically to the new document.

Step 6: Hold down the Shift key, move the cursor onto the new canvas, and let go the mouse button.

All of your layers will import intact. You can then delete the background layer.

NOTE 1: In the case where you have effects applied, such as drop shadows, outer glows, etc., first convert the effects to layers. (In the Layers panel, right click on the word "Effects" under the layer name, and choose "Create Layers" from the menu.) Do this first, so your new document will have the dimensions to include the whole of the glow or drop shadow.

NOTE 2: Use "COPY" or "COPY MERGED" in Step 5 if you want a flattened image in the new document. To bring in the selected layers intact, deselect, then drag from the image window (NOT the layers panel) up to the new document's tab. When the focus switches, drop inside the new canvas while holding down Shift.

If you're using CS4 or earlier, follow steps 1-3, then copy and paste the layers one at a time.

  • Thanks, this is helpful and similar to what I was doing, but I realized the problem is that I don't have raster layers for a lot of the groups I'm working with. Do you know any similar tricks that work without a raster layer? I've been duplicating the group I need into a new doc, which makes a doc the full size of the original, then cropping out the area I want manually.
    – paul
    Aug 25, 2011 at 21:56
  • It'll work as long as at least one element is the size you need. A shape layer will work the same way as a raster layer if it's the right size for the button. The key is to get your selection the right size. You could also just create the new document at the size you need, then proceed from Step 4. Steps 2 and 3 can also be combined into an action and put on a function key. I've added Shape Layer to the answer. Aug 25, 2011 at 22:48
  • +1. Step 4 was where I kept getting hung up. nice work. :) Aug 26, 2011 at 0:29
  • I see. This has almost gotten me there! Thanks for your help. The image (button) I'm trying to copy has effects on it - a stroked border and a drop shadow. So when I make the new document from the thumbnail selection, it's slightly smaller than the image in the grouped layers.
    – paul
    Aug 26, 2011 at 3:36
  • See my further addition to the answer, in that case. :-) Aug 26, 2011 at 6:13

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