How to Use Alignment Tools Over Layers in Photoshop?

If you’re stuck trying to align each element in a pattern, you can save your time using the alignment tools in Photoshop. There are many ways in which you can do this. Read ahead to find out.

You will need first to pick out any shape that you like to learn how to align. The tool that is used to create a shape is called the shape tool. This can range from a circle to a line. Here, you will use Photoshop to draw various colored circles for a color palette pattern.

You can then align them accordingly.

Using Photoshop to Align and Distribute Layers

To begin, you will have to create a shape, say a circle using the shape tool. Fill in with a color to create a pattern like a color palette as you align.

You can go ahead and duplicate this circle and position each one as you go. However, as you duplicate several elements, they will appear to be all over the place. Once you have the required number of circles for the palette’s first row, you can now align them.

Yes, you can go ahead and use the arrow keys to get each element to sit just where you want. However, if you have several elements, you will only be wasting your time attending to each of them separately.

(Source : Google Images)

Instead, you can go ahead and use the Align and Distribute tools on Photoshop. First, you will have to select the move tool. You will see a set of icons appear on the Options bar at the top of the page at this point.

Select all the layers of the elements that you want to align with. You can select the bottom one, click on shift, and click on the topmost layer. All of them will be selected in this way.

Aligning Elements

(Source : Google Images)

The first six elements that you see here are the Align options. You will find Align Top Edges, Align Vertical Centers, Align Bottom Edges, Align Left Edges, Align Horizontal Centers, and Align Right Edges. Each of these will use either the centers or the edges to align your elements.

Now you can use the vertical centering option on the Options bar in Photoshop. You can also align the elements based on their top edge or bottom edge if you like.

Distribute Elements

You can also distribute them based on their centers so that the space between each is uniform. In the layer tab, you can group the aligned elements into a row and then duplicate it.

(Source : Google Images)

Now you can use the Distribute icons on the Options tab to complete this. You have the Distribute Top Edges, Distribute Vertical Centers, Distribute Bottom Edges, Distribute Left Edges, Distribute Horizontal Centers, and Distribute Right Edges options.

You can use the duplicated row to create the next row of the color palette. You can go ahead and change the colors in each circular element.

In this way, you won’t have to repeat the process for each aligned row. You can go ahead and use the duplicated pattern to align several elements into a coherent form.

You can hence use Photoshop to distribute the layers and space between them.

Free Transform Hacks

You can also go ahead and align your elements using another method. You can use any element you like and the colors that you want.

Instead of duplicating it, you can use the keyboard shortcut Command + Option + T. You will see the duplicate appear over the older one. You can space it as you like. As you hover over the element, you will see how many pixels it is.

If it is 40 pixels, you may want to place the duplicated element 20 pixels from the original one. Go ahead and place it as you like.

Do note that both of these elements are on the same layer this time. This is because you have selected the shape tool. You can go ahead and now press Command + Option + Shift + T, and the exact distance between the two elements and their alignment will be replicated.

Keeping this intact, you can press enter as many times as you like to get an aligned pattern with duplicated elements. Once you have the first pattern ready in a row, you can duplicate the row into a new layer.

You can place this at a certain distance from the first layer of aligned elements. However, using this method, you won’t be able to change each element’s color but only of the entire row of elements.

This is because you have added each of the aligned elements on a single layer.

Whether you’re designing something complex like product sales pages or even a simple flier design, this technique will give you more control over your layers.

Creating Multiple Layers Using the Move Tool

If you want to change the colors of your elements after transforming them, here’s a simple trick. Before you use Command + Option + T on the first element, switch your cursor to the move tool.

(Source : Google Images)

With this, each duplicated element through Command + Option + Shift + T will be a new layer. You can group these on the layer tab and duplicate the entire group. In this way, a new row of elements will be created. Each will have its layer, and you can hence go ahead and change their colors.

This is a great option if you want to create patterns were the same objected is repeated several times. You can do this with circles or even with lines.

Depending on the design, you can use either the move tool or the shape tool. Simply put, the move tool will put each element in a different layer so that it can be edited for color.

The shape tool, on the other hand, will keep all the elements in the same layer. Each element cannot be edited further in this way.


You now know that you can use Photoshop to align several elements that you like. You won’t have to drag and drop each of them. Instead, by using the Align and Distribute tools on Photoshop, you should have your design ready in no time.

Use the move tool if you want each layer in an element. You may use the shape tool if you want all uniform elements in one layer.

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