How To Use The Move Tool in Photoshop (Complete Guide)

The Move Tool is one of the most fundamental tools in Photoshop that you truly can’t live without in the program. Although it seems quite basic on the surface, there are a handful of lesser known ways you can use and take advantage of this tool to streamline your projects. So here you’ll get an in-depth look at how to use the Move Tool in Photoshop, so you don’t miss any of its helpful uses!

Where To Find The Move Tool In Photoshop

Just like all other tools in Photoshop, the Move Tool can be found in the toolbar. Unless you’ve customized your workspace, the toolbar can be found on your screen’s left edge.


The Move Tool is always easy to spot since it’s positioned at the top of the toolbar, represented by the four-way arrow.

Simply click on this icon to begin using the Move Tool!


If you aren’t one for clicking, try the keyboard shortcut to select the Move Tool instead.

What Is The Move Tool In Photoshop

Just as the name says, the Move Tool moves things around your canvas. Whether that be layers, text, or selections, this tool has you covered. It can also be used to align layers to your canvas or an active selection.

In a nutshell, the Move Tool can be used with the following:

  • Entire Layers: Whether it be smart objects or a regular layer, the Move Tool can select and reposition an entire layer at once.
  • Text Layers: The Move Tool can reposition any text layer simply by clicking and dragging the text to a new position.
  • Selections: Any selection can be repositioned with the Move Tool, but the selected layer behind the selection will come with it.

How To Use The Move Tool In Photoshop

Let’s go over the different ways you can start using the Move Tool more effectively in your workflow.

– Moving Layers With The Move Tool

Since just about anything can be moved with this tool, how can you make that happen?

First, you need to select a layer!

Fortunately, selecting a layer is easy. There are actually two different ways you can do it with the Move Tool.

The first way is by clicking on the layer you want to move in your layers panel.

Once you’ve selected a layer and your Move Tool is active, you can click and drag it to a new position.


The second way is to auto-select layers. With this method, you don’t need to choose layers on your layers panel; instead, you can click on them on your canvas!

To enable auto-select, check off the ‘auto-select’ option in your top settings bar while the Move Tool is active.


Once that’s done, you can click on anything in your canvas to start moving it around!

– Resizing Layers With The Move Tool

Besides moving a layer from point A to B, the Move Tool in Photoshop can scale your layers.

Before you can do this, you need to make sure the ‘Show Transform Controls’ option is selected. This option is found in your settings bar while the Move Tool is active.


With the transform controls selected, any selected layer will have a box around it with eight anchor points.

These anchor points can be clicked and dragged to scale the size of the layer.

If you click and drag on any of the anchor points, your layer will change size. Depending on which anchor point is clicked, the layer will scale up or down from that position.

Once happy with your scaling adjustments, make sure to click the checkbox or press enter to commit to the changes!


– Aligning Layers With The Move Tool In Photoshop

It’s all great and dandy that you can move and scale layers freely with the Move Tool in Photoshop, but what about specific alignments? Luckily you can align any layer you’d like to either a selection or your entire canvas!

Aligning Layers To Your Canvas

The easiest way to align a layer is to the canvas as a whole. This means that your layer will align itself according to the width and height of your entire image.

To do this, first, click on the three dots found in the Move Tool settings bar. If you don’t see this bar, make sure your Move Tool is selected.


This will bring up additional alignment options that will likely be greyed out at first.

That is until you change the ‘Align To’ option to ‘Canvas’.

Now you can pick any of the alignment options to align your layer with.

Aligning Layers To A Selection

After you’ve created a selection, you can use it as a guide to align your layers with. To do this, once again, click on the three dots in the settings bar.

This time change the ‘Align To’ option to ‘Selection’.

Now your alignment options will align your layer according to the shape and size of the active selection.

The Move Tool Alignment Options Explained

With the alignment options found within the Move Tool in Photoshop, there are a few odd-looking icons. At first, these icons may look pretty foreign and hard to understand. To help make aligning layers easy, let’s break down each alignment option in Photoshop.

Horizontal Alignment Options


Align Right Edges: Matches up the right edge of your layer to the right edge or your canvas or selection.


Align Horizontal Centers: Positions the middle of your layer with the horizontal center of the canvas or selection.


Align Left Edges: Lines up the left edge of your layer with the left edge of your canvas or active selection.

Vertical Alignment Options


Align Top Edges: Aligns the top edge of your layer with the top edge of your canvas or selection.


Align Vertical Centers: Places the middle of your layer with the vertical center of your canvas or selection.


Align Bottom Edges: Lines up the bottom edge of your layer with the bottom edge of the canvas of selection.

Move Tool Shortcuts & Additional Tips

Now you have a handle on how to use the Move Tool in Photoshop. Let’s take it one step further with additional tips and shortcuts to help you make the most of this tool.

1. Toggling The Move Tool

The Move Tool in Photoshop is usually only used for a quick repositioning adjustment. So wouldn’t you say it’s a bit annoying to have to select the Move Tool, then a layer, then reposition?

Luckily there’s a way to toggle the Move Tool while using any other tool in Photoshop.

Just hold the Command (Mac) or Control (PC) key to quickly bring up the Move Tool. Now you can reposition a layer and go back to your adjustments with one simple shortcut!

2. Duplicate And Move Layers

If you need to duplicate a layer and reposition it simultaneously, there’s another easy shortcut for that.

Just hold the Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) key and click and drag the layer on your canvas. This will duplicate your layer and allow you to reposition it. Best of all, the original layer remains untouched.

3. Right-Click Method For Selecting New Layers To Reposition

Rather than choosing a layer to move from the layers panel, you can right-click on your canvas to select layers. With your Move Tool active, right-click on your canvas and choose from any of your layers.

Whichever layer you click will now be selected and is ready to be repositioned!

4. Nudging Layers For Subtle Adjustments

Not every repositioning adjustment needs to be that noticeable. Maybe you just need your layer a few pixels over to the left. While using a mouse, these small adjustments are extremely challenging.

That’s where nudging comes in to save the day.

With any layer selected by the Move Tool, use the arrow keys to nudge your layer in any direction. This is an easy trick to really refine a layer’s positioning.

So that’s everything you need to know about how to use the Move Tool in Photoshop. There’s a lot more to this tool than what first meets the eye. Although some may dismiss the Move Tool as only good for one job, it has a variety of great uses. Best of all, it’s very intuitive once you learn the basics and is a simple tool for any beginner to master.

– Brendan 🙂

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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