How To Copy & Paste In Photoshop

There are many methods you can use to copy and paste layers, selections, and other elements of your project in Photoshop. The methods don’t require too many steps and are pretty intuitive. So whether you want to copy and paste layers, layer styles, adjustment layers, or Camera Raw settings, this post has you covered.

How To Copy & Paste Layers

To copy and paste layers in Photoshop, click on a layer you’d like to copy. If you want to copy multiple layers, hold Command (Mac) or Control (PC) and click between your desired layers. Now go to Edit > Copy to copy your layer(s). To paste your layers in a new location, go to Edit > Paste.

Now, this is essentially the same action as duplicating a layer if you want to paste that layer within the same project. In that case, there’s a slightly easier method to try which duplicates your selected layers within a project.

To do this, first head to the layers panel.

Then click the layer(s) you’d like to copy. You can also hold Command or Control (Mac/PC) can select multiple layers at once. You can then duplicate the layer by dragging it to the New Layer button. 

It will now appear named the same as your original layer + “copy”. To rename your new layer, double-click the name and add a new one, similar to renaming a file on your computer.

Another way of creating a layer copy is to right-click the layer or the thumbnail and select Duplicate Layer.

These methods will quickly and easily duplicate a layer without naming it. However, if you’d like to duplicate and name your new layer before duplication, head to Layer > Duplicate Layer

In the window that appears, you can name the layer and click OK, and you’ll see the duplicated layer in the layers panel.

How To Copy Selections

To copy the contents of a selection in Photoshop, first, create a selection with your selection tool of choice. With the selection active, press Command + C (Mac) or Control + C (PC) to copy the selection contents. To paste the contents in a new location, press Command + V (Mac) or Control + V (PC).

Now lets’ break this down more in-depth, as well as discuss an alternate method.

As I mentioned, you must first make your selection of the area you want to copy using any of the selection tools. I used the Lasso tool, which makes freehand selections.

Now, you can copy and paste the selection by using Command + C (Mac) or Control + C (PC) and paste using Command + P (Mac) or Control + P (PC). The selection will appear as a new layer in your layers panel. If you wanted to save the actual selection to paste onto another image, you would need to use what’s known as an Alpha Channel.

The second method allows you to copy a selection and drag it around your project, or even move it between projects. This method will also save memory as you won’t be using the clipboard. 

To do this, first, make your selection. Then, select the Move tool. You can also temporarily activate the Move tool by holding Command (Mac) or Control (PC). 

With the Move tool active, hold down Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) and drag the selected area you’d like to copy to the place in your project you’d like it pasted.

To paste in a different project, drag the selection to the window of the new project. Make sure you hold Alt or Option during the entire moving process. The new window tab should turn light gray and open once your cursor hovers over the tab. You can then move the selection around and place it on the new project.

When moving a selection to a new project, you’ll notice that the selection and the project may have different resolutions. This happens because the pasted selection will keep the same resolution as the project it came from. Before copying the selection it may be worthwhile to go to Image > Image Size to change the resolution of the destination project to match the source project.

How To Copy & Paste Camera Raw Settings

Camera Raw adjustment settings can be quickly copied and pasted between multiple images by first pressing Command + C (Mac) or Control + C (PC) to copy the adjustments. Then select your next image and press Command + V (Mac) or Control + V (PC) to paste the adjustments.

If keyboard shortcuts aren’t your thing, there is another way to copy and paste your settings in Camera Raw.

First, open a RAW file into Photoshop to make Camera Raw automatically open. If you are working with an image already inside of Photoshop, go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter. Now make any adjustments to the photo that you’d like to copy and apply to another. Once you’re happy with the settings, head to the toolbar on the right and click the settings icon, which looks like an ellipsis.

From here, click Copy Edit Settings. You can also do this with Command + C (Mac) or Control + C (PC).

Next, click Open. Once you’re back in Photoshop, open up a new raw file, the one you’d like to paste the settings on. In the Camera Raw window that appears, go back to the ellipsis icon and click Paste Edit Settings. You can also use Command + V (Mac) or Control + V (PC).

The settings on this new image will match that of the first image. This is especially useful when working with multiple photos that need the same edits. Copying and pasting Camera Raw edits saves time and steps.

To help save time, be sure to select multiple RAW images for import from your computer. That way they appear in the same Camera Raw window and you can select the next image to paste your settings a bit faster.

How To Copy & Paste Adjustments Between Projects

There may be times when you’d like to apply the same adjustments to different projects. First, open the two projects you’d like to use, and make the adjustments to one of the projects. You can add adjustments using the Adjustments panel so they show up as individual adjustment layers.

Now in the layers panel, click the adjustment layer(s) you’d like to copy and paste. If you’d like to copy more than one adjustment layer, hold Control/Command as you select the layers.

The easiest way to copy these from one project to another is to drag them. Make sure the move tool (V) is activated, and with the adjustment layer(s) selected, drag them to the other project tab that you’d like to copy them to. You can leave them on the project or drag them to the layers panel, either way, they will show up in the layers panel with the same names as in the original project.

How To Copy Layer Styles To Another Layer

When you’re working with layer styles, you can also copy and paste your layer effects onto other layers to save time. This is an easy trick that prevents you from having to go through all the steps of adding the same effects manually to another layer.

After you’ve applied a layer styles effect, simply hover over the “fx” icon to the right of the layer, and press Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) as you drag this icon to the other layer. It is important to press Option or Alt, as it copies the styles; if you don’t, it will take the style from one layer and move it to the other.

Once dropped on the new layer, both layers will appear with the same styles applied.

You can rename them by double-clicking the effect name and typing a new one.

As you can see, there are many different ways to copy and paste in Photoshop. Using the different copy and paste methods will save you time and speed up your overall workflow.

Happy Editing!

Article By

Brendan Williams

Hey, I'm Brendan! I'm a professional photographer and photo retoucher who has spent the majority of his career shooting or retouching outdoor lifestyle and social media campaigns for brands like G-Adventures, xoxo Bella, P&G, Fitbit, Chevy, Tourism California, and more. These days I primarily focus my efforts on this site, creating guides and tutorials that I wish I had earlier in my career. Each week I publish new tutorials on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva to help you unlock new skills and bring your creativity to new levels! Everything you learn here is backed by real experience, so you can finally skip the fluff and focus only on what matters.

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