Can’t Move Layer in GIMP? How To Fix it

Moritz Haag
Last updated April 1, 2022
GIMP Can’t Move Layer

Layers are an integral part of any elaborate photo editing project, which is why learning them and becoming adept at using them can be a great boon for anyone learning how to use GIMP.

While multiple layer handling on GIMP is far from perfect, it is still easy to learn how to move one layer around. It is also possible to move multiple layers at once. Read on for our GIMP tutorial below.

How to GIMP: Moving a Layer Using the Move Tool

The Move tool option is the most effective and seamless method of moving GIMP layers when image editing. The Move tool option can be found at the top of the GIMP toolbox. If you are a GIMP user who prefers shortcuts, you can use the extremely user-friendly and obvious keyboard shortcut “M.”

A major reason why users are unable to move layers at certain times has to do with the peculiarity of GIMP. The Move tool, for instance, enables you to move a selection or move a layer. If you cannot move your layer, it could be that your Move Tool has been switched to a Move Selection Mode. This is a prevalent reason why users cannot move layers. If you are having issues, you need to check that the Move Tool is set to Move layer and not Move Selection.

Moving a Layer Using the Move Tool

One important factor concerning the Move Tool that might not be obvious is that the Tools Options menu located at the bottom left provides various options within the menu. Finding this out might take a bit of time, particularly for those new to the GIMP interface.

Move Selection mode

When you select the Move Tool, it is on the Move Selection mode by default. This means that even if you attempt to move your GIMP layers from one position to another during your session, it will not be possible to do so at all, not even by one pixel.

To move your layers around, you have to change the Move Tool into a different mode, the Move Layer mode. The way to do this is to select the tiny layers icon.

Move Layer mode

The above screenshot shows that the Move Layer mode has been activated on the Move Tool submenu.

It is also possible to let GIMP select the layer you intend to move. However, this is not advisable unless the objects in your layers have been clearly defined and separated.

How to Move Multiple Layers in GIMP

While the layer handling in GIMP leaves a lot to be desired, there are ways around it, and you can still move various layers simultaneously. This is one of the very few alterations you can make to numerous layers at the same time when using GIMP. The hope is that an updated iteration of GIMP will completely revamp how layers are handled.

Nevertheless, you still have to make use of what you have, and that is the Layers Panel. This panel enables you to link various layers together. It can be found in the lower right corner of the GIMP workspace.

How to Move Multiple Layers in GIMP

Linking layers is a simple process, even though it might not be clear by simply viewing the Layers palette. Every layer has a tiny eye icon to show if the layer is not hidden. Just beside the eye icons is a small gap. By clicking the gap, you get a chain-link icon.

Layers can also be linked by simply double-clicking on the thumbnail. Doing this brings up the Layer Attributes tool. From there, you can select the Linked label. However, this process isn’t as quick as using the Layers palette shortcut (Ctrl + L or Command + L on macOS).

Layers palette shortcut

If you mistakenly close the Layers panel, you can simply re-open it by clicking the Windows menu, selecting Dockable Dialogues, and selecting Layers (as shown in the screenshot above).

Another process to link your layers is by accessing the Layer Attributes dialogue. Keep in mind that this option is extremely slow compared to the one above. If you are simply linking the layer, this is not the step to take. All you have to do is double click on the layer thumbnail located in the Layers panel.

Alternatively, you could choose to right-click the layer and select Edit Layer Attributes. This should link your layers and ensure they can be moved as a single object when the Move Tool is active.

Remember that the key to moving any layer, whether a single layer or a layer group, is to make sure that the Move Layers menu is activated in the Tools Options panel.

Getting More Precise Movements

For users that want a more accurate way of moving a layer than GIMP’s Move Tool can provide, there are a few methods to achieve this.

If you check the Layer Attribute’s panel, you can alter the Offset Y and Offset X properties for that layer, which is typically calculated in pixels. You need to also make sure that the Lock position and size option are not active. If the option is active, you will be unable to move the layer using the Move Tool, let alone the Offset X and Y parameters.

Getting More Precise Movements

Also, note that negative values allow you to offset your layer way above the left and upper borders of the canvas. But only a single layer can be moved this way, which may not be suitable in certain instances.


If you can’t move your layer, the first thing you should do is to check if you have the layer you intend to move selected. If you don’t, that might be the issue.

If the layer is selected, you should go to the Layer Attributes window and check if the Lock position and size option has been activated. If activated, it will prevent any sort of movement. Deselect it and then try again.

Remember, the Move Tool is multifunctional; it works for multiple layers as well as a single layer.