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How to Copy Layers in Photoshop

Published: 18/05/2021

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The ability to copy layers is among the numerous design flexibilities that Photoshop offers. Using this feature will speed up your workflow, saving precious time and effort to create similar layers for each document. I will walk you through how to copy layers in Photoshop so that you don’t have to make them from scratch.

How to Copy Layers in Photoshop Using Multiple Methods

Layers are an essential feature of Adobe Photoshop. Basically, they are floating sections of an image, which can be edited individually. You can work on a layer and add effects to it without altering other elements on your document.

While working with multiple images or graphics, you may feel the need to replicate a layer. Maybe you want to use the same layer on another section of the same image. Or, you might want to use it on another image.

There are various methods that you can use to copy and paste the layers on the same document, as well as on a different document. I have covered all of them to facilitate the layer copying process for you.

Duplicate a Layer Within an Image

If you want to copy a layer on the current image that you are editing, there are three ways to do it.

  1. Select a layer that you wish to replicate from the Layers panel. Go to the Layers menu, and select Duplicate. Name the duplicated layer with a different name to distinguish it from the original layer and select Ok.
Duplicating a layer within an image in Photoshop
  1. Select a layer in the Layers panel. Right-click on it and select Duplicate. Give a name to your duplicate layer and click on Ok. 
  2. You can also create a copy through drag and drop. Simply select the layer, drag it, and drop it on the New Layer button on the bottom of the Layers Panel. 

Duplicate a Layer onto Another Image

To copy a layer from one document to another, you can use the duplication method, which ensures that your layer will be copied to the correct destination image. 

  1. Select the source image from which you want to copy a layer. 
  2. Open the destination image where you wish to paste the layer. It will open in another tab. 
  3. Come back on the source image again. Choose the layer that you intend to copy from the layers panel.
  4. Go up to the Layers menu, and select Duplicate.
  5. When the duplicate layer dialog box opens, choose a name for your duplicate layer. You can use the default name that Photoshop gives to the copied layer or go with a different, more descriptive name. 
Duplicating a layer onto another image in Photoshop
  1. Next, choose the destination image on which you want to paste the layer.
  2. Photoshop will automatically paste the duplicated layer onto the other image once you click on OK.

Drag and Drop a Layer onto Another Image

When both your source and destination image are open in separate tabs, copying and pasting the layer can be done using drag and drop. 

  1. Select the layer you want to duplicate from the layers panel in the first image. 
  2. Select the Move tool from the toolbar on the left hand side.
  3. Click on the layer in the document area, and drag it to the destination image tab.
  4. Photoshop will switch documents once you reach the other tab. 
  5. Now hold down the SHIFT key, and drag the layer on the center of the destination document. 
  6. Release the mouse button to drop the layer. 

Note that holding down the SHIFT key while dragging is essential to paste the layer in the same position as it had on the source image. The only requirement for that is that your source image and destination image must have the exact pixel dimensions.

Copy a Layer Using the Edit Menu

One more way to copy the layer and paste it onto another image is using the Edit menu commands. 

  1. Choose the layer from the Layers panel of the original image. 
  2. Now go to the Select menu, and click on “All” to select all the pixels present in the layer.
  3. Go to the Edit menu, and select Copy.
  4. Open the destination image if you haven’t done it already.
  5. Go to the Edit menu once again, and press Paste.
Copying a layer using the Edit Menu in Photoshop
  1. The layer will be pasted on the new image and will be listed in its layers panel.

Copy a Layer Using the Move Tool

A straightforward way to copy and paste a layer is by using the Move tool for selection. This method allows dragging the layer from the document window and pastes it on the other image without any hassle.

Once on the source document, activate the Move tool from the toolbar. Select a layer, and while holding down the Command key on Mac, or CTRL key on Windows, drag the layer across the other tab on which your destination image is opened.

Adjust the position and size of your new layer according to the new dimensions. 

Create a Keyboard Shortcut to Copy Layers

To accelerate your workflow in Photoshop, you can easily create keyboard shortcuts for functions that you carry out frequently. If you notice that you copy layers quite often while using Photoshop, it is a good practice to create a keyboard shortcut for it so that the task can be done effortlessly.

You can access the keyboard shortcut creation via the Edit menu. Go to Edit, and select Keyboard shortcuts. Choose Application menus from the drop-down menu, and choose Duplicate Layer from the options in the list.

Assign a key combination for this function and close the dialog by clicking OK.

Record an Action to Copy or Duplicate Layers

Another way to create a shortcut for duplication is by creating an action. In this way, you will save a lot of time copying layers and pasting them again and again on other documents.

  1. Click on the Windows menu, and choose Actions from the drop-down menu.
  2. Once the Actions palette opens, click on the “Create a new action” icon.
Recording an action to copy or duplicate layers in Photoshop
  1. Select the name for the action (Duplicate layer in my case).
  2. Select a function key and SHIFT or CTRL / CMD.
  3. Record the action by clicking on the Options button from the upper right corner of the Action palette.
  4. Choose the Insert menu option. 
  5. Now record the action by selecting Layers > Duplicate Layer. Click on OK.
  6. Use the action you have created to carry out the layer copying task quickly.
Using the action to carry out the layer copying task


Layers are one of the essential attributes in Photoshop that give you more control over each element. Learning to work with layers is the key to increase your design capability and use the software to its full potential. I hope the methods explained above to copy the layers will help to speed up your Photoshop workflow.


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