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How to Add an Image to an Existing Layer in Photoshop

Published: 15/06/2023

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Layers enable you to create composite images, add graphics shapes and put text in your real estate photos. Another thing you can do is add pictures to existing layers. This guide explains how to add an image to an existing layer in Photoshop.

How to Add Image to Existing Layer in Photoshop

To add an image to an existing layer in Photoshop, you first have to drag and drop the picture into the Photoshop window, position it, and press Enter to place it. Next, press Shift and click the new image layer and the layer you want to combine. Press CTRL/CMD + E to merge the layers.

There are various methods of adding images to an existing layer. Although these methods help you achieve the same result, the difference lies in how they affect your layer. Where some of these methods are destructive, others are non-destructive. Go through this tutorial and use the technique that best suits your editing goals.

Method 1: Adding an Image Using the Drag and Drop Method

This is the easiest way of adding an image to an existing layer in your Photoshop project. Let’s go over this process step-by-step to understand it in detail.

Step 1: Find the Image

The first thing you need to do is find the image you want to add to your layer. 

  1. Select that particular image.
  2. While holding down the mouse button, drag and drop it onto your Photoshop workspace.
  3. As you drop the image, Photoshop will add it as a new layer to your project.

Step 2: Add the Image to the Existing Layer

You can use multiple methods to add the image to the existing layer. Here, I will be using the Merge Layer option of Photoshop

  1. You can do this easily by pressing the CTRL key and selecting both layers. Now, right-click on any of the selected layers. As you do that, a menu will appear.
  2. Click on Merge Layer from the menu to add your desired image to the existing layer in Photoshop.

Method 2: Adding Images Using the Copy and Paste Method

The other method of adding an image to an existing layer in Photoshop is copy-and-paste. It uses the generic copy-paste method with a few tweaks per Photoshop requirements.

Step 1: Open Up the Project

Launch Photoshop and open up your project on it. Once you have the layer that you wish to add an image to, locate the image you want to add.

  1. Go to File, and click Open. Alternatively, press CTRL + O. This will open up your windows explorer. 
  2. From here, find your desired image and double-click on it. Your image will now be a separate document within your Photoshop project. You can see it in a different tab.
Adding Images to an existing layer by the Copy and Paste Method

Step 2: Select the Picture to Copy It

Now, select this image and copy it. You can do this by using any one of the methods below:

  1. Pick up the Object Selection tool from your toolbar. Click on the image and then press CTRL + A. This will select your whole image. Now, press CTRL + C. This will copy the image.

Another option:

  1. Go to the menu bar present at the top of your Photoshop interface. On the menu bar, click on Edit. From the drop-down menu, select Copy
  2. Now that you have copied the image, it is time to paste it on the layer where you want to add it. So, open up the other tab where your layer exists. 
  3. Find the menu bar at the top of your Photoshop screen and then go to Edit, and click on Paste. Alternatively, you can press CTRL + V
  4. You will now see that your image is in a different layer. In addition, the image is now within the same project yet lies in a different layer. 
  5. To add it to the existing layer, follow the procedure of merging layers. To do this, press the CTRL key and select the layers of your image and the existing one. 
  6. At this point, right-click on any of the selected layers and click on the Merge Layers option on the menu.
Pasting an image to an existing layer

Method 3: Adding Images Using the Smart Objects Method

This is the third way of adding images to an existing layer. Smart Objects are a handy feature of Photoshop that acts as a “container” for your layers to be added into. Every layer within a Smart Object will be kept together, although you can still edit them individually.

Adding images using the Smart Object method
  1. To follow this procedure, you must start with any of the two methods explained above. Use the drag-and-drop or copy-and-paste methods to bring your image within the same document.
  2. After adding your required image, you will see two different layers on your layers panel. One of these layers is of the new picture you added, and the other is the existing layer where you want to add your image.
  3. Hold down the Shift key, then click between the layers you want to combine. Now, right-click on the layers, which will open a pop-up menu.
  4. From this menu, click on the Convert to Smart Object option

As a result, you will see that the two layers get combined into one. You should also see a Smart Object icon right in the corner of the combined layer thumbnail.

Smart object icon right in the corner of the combined layer thumbnail.

Method 4: Adding an Image With the Clipping Masks Method

There may be some scenarios when you want to add an image inside a shape within another layer. When faced with such a situation, you will need a different method of merging or using Smart Objects. Instead, you will have to use the feature of Clipping Masks in Photoshop.

Adding an image to an existing layer with the Clipping Masks method
  1. Bring your image within the same document as the existing layer. You can do this by following the drag-and-drop method or the copy-and-paste method.
  2. Ensure that your image layer is placed directly above the layer of shapes you want to add.
  3. Now, right-click on the image layer. You will then see a menu.
  4. From this menu, select the Create Clipping Mask option.
  5. You should see a small downward arrow beside the image layer thumbnail. This means the newly added images will only be visible in the existing shape layer.
A small downward arrow placed beside the image layer thumbnail

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can You Position an Image After Adding It to Another Layer?

If you want to position an image after adding it to another layer, the easiest way is to use the Move tool. Pick the Move tool from the toolbar and then drag the new image until you can set it at the location you want.

Can I Use Any Shortcut to Merge the Layers?

Yes, you can use the keyboard shortcut to merge the layers in Photoshop. First, select the two layers and press the key CTRL + E. This will easily merge the two layers into one.


Adding images to an existing layer in Photoshop is very useful and easy. The methods mentioned above are pretty straightforward and help you achieve the same result. Learning to work with layers is surely the way to go if you want to be fluent in Photoshop.


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