Photoshop Pasting Without a New Layer

February 11, 2004 - 3:00am ||| 0 Comments | Add new

Is it possible to copy and paste something in Photoshop without creating a pain in the butt new layer every dang time you do so? Why yes, Virginia, it is, in a way.

Say you're editing an image, and you just want to move or clone a portion of it to another place in the image.

If you make a selection, then do a Copy/Paste, your selection appears on a new layer automatically. If you're not paying attention to your Layers palette (you might not even have it open), you'll end up with a new layer each time you paste something, making it difficult to edit without some additional steps.

Of course, you could just get in the habit of pressing Command/Control-E (for Merge Down) after you've positioned what you've pasted, but why tax your brain.

Instead, you could just "float" your selections into place. This was how old-school Photoshop users moved pixels around before the Layers feature was added. A lot of users forget they can still float stuff in Photoshop. (And the online help file doesn't mention it at all.)

Here's how:

Make a selection of what you want to Cut/Paste or Copy/Paste. With the selection tool still active, hover over the selection area.

To Copy/Paste it, press Command-Option (Control-Alt on PC), then the mouse button. Keep everything pressed while dragging the copy of your selection to where you want to "paste" it to in a different place of your image. You don't have to position it perfectly at this point, just drag it a little bit if you want.

If you want to "move" (cut) pixels from one place to another on the same layer, rather than clone (copy) them, just use the Command/Control modifier alone, no Option/Alt key.

Either way, after you've dragged a bit, release the keys and mouse button. Your selection is now floating above the layer, still selected. You can move it around some more by dragging without having to switch tools or press modifier keys. (The cursor looks like the Layer Move tool when a floating selection is active.) You can even use the arrow keys to nudge it around.

When you're happy with its position, Deselect (Command/Control-D) and the floating selection merges into the same layer.

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