This task should be simple but apparently isn't:

I want to add a layer with three lines of text to an image; the text needs to be centered vertically and horizontally relative to the image as a whole.

The web is full of suggestions that I seem to be misusing.

I can create a layer with the text, and autocrop it to just the text, but when I select the layer and choose the align tool the buttons on the align tool are either grayed out or seem to have no effect, whether I select the layer contents or not.

I've been expanding the layer boundary to the size of the image with the contents, but that does not work consistently.

(My goal is to create a set of simple buttons, with a shared element and different text and background for each button.)

(GIMP 2.8.16 on a Mac)

2 Answers 2


You have to click on the layer after starting the tool (the tool does not consider the active layer because it l can act on several layers at once). The tool aligns the layer borders so it's best to keep the layers at their original size.

A completely different way of doing this is to add a guide in the middle of the image (Image>Guides>New guide by percent) and use the Move tool. When you move the layer you get cross symbol at its center and this will snap to a guide.

  • We could probably make the whole image be the initial setting for the align tool - I dare to claim this should cover most of the things people want to do. There's likely much potential for improvement there (for example, try it on layers in layer groups...), and it should also be a rather easy tool to work on if someone wants to get tool-related experience in GIMP development. Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 11:10
  • Here the problem isn't the reference but the subject layer. Selecting the active layer by default would be a good idea IMHO.
    – xenoid
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 11:21
  • I haven't gone back to test the first suggestion; I ended up accomplishing my task with Snap to Guide. Still deeply counterintuitive.
    – arp
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 16:15


Write your text in a vector drawing program. If you want to use freeware, Inkscape is installable into Mac, too.

The following procedure is tested only in Windows, where it works ok:

  • prepare an empty document in Inkscape. In File > Document Properties turn the background to transparent (=checkerboard or a color that has alpha=0)
  • write your text, center it. If the text has multiple textboxes or decorative graphic objects, create a group
  • have your image in GIMP, create an empty layer, goto it
  • select all, copy
  • goto Inkscape, paste
  • select all
  • goto Object > Align and distribute, align the text and the empty photo
  • goto File > Export PNG image (NOTE: the transparency disappears if you copy in Inkscape and paste in GIMP)
  • in the export panel determine the selection as the target to be exported, give the filename and export
  • open the file in GIMP as new layer

If your GIMP image has only one layer and it's otherwise ready, only the texts are missing, you can as well copy your image into Inkscape, add the texts and save.

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