Move, copy, and delete selected pixels

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Learn how to move, copy, and delete selected pixels in your image

Move a selection

  1. Select the Move tool  .
  2. Move the pointer inside the selection border, and drag the selection to a new position. If you selected multiple areas, all move as you drag.

    Photoshop move a selection
    Original selection (left), and after you move the selection with the Move tool (right)

Copy and paste selections

You can use the Move tool to copy selections as you drag them within or between images, or you can copy and move selections using the Copy, Copy Merged, Cut, and Paste commands. Dragging with the Move tool saves memory because you don't use the clipboard.

When you paste a selection or layer between images with different resolutions, the pasted data retains its pixel dimensions. This can make the pasted portion appear out of proportion to the new image. Use the Image Size command to make the source and destination images the same resolution before copying and pasting, or use the Free Transform command to resize the pasted content.

Depending on your color management settings and the color profile associated with the file (or imported data), you may be prompted to specify how to handle color information in the file (or imported data).

Understanding the Copy and Paste commands

Copy

Copies the selected area on the active layer.

Copy Merged

Makes a merged copy of all the visible layers in the selected area.

Paste

Pastes a copied selection into another part of the image or into another image as a new layer. If you have a selection, the Paste command places the copied selection over the current selection. Without an active selection, Paste places the copied selection in the middle of the view area.

Paste In Place

If the clipboard contains pixels copied from another Photoshop document, pastes the selection into the same relative location in the target document as it occupied in the source.

Paste Into or Paste Outside

Pastes a copied selection into or outside another selection in any image. The source selection is pasted onto a new layer, and the destination selection border is converted into a layer mask.

Copy a selection

  1. Select the area you want to copy.
  2. Choose Edit > Copy, or Edit > Copy Merged.

Copy a selection while dragging

  1. Select the Move tool  , or hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) to activate the Move tool.
  2. Hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS), and drag the selection you want to copy and move.

    When copying between images, drag the selection from the active image window into the destination image window. If nothing is selected, the entire active layer is copied. As you drag the selection over another image window, a border highlights the window if you can drop the selection into it.

    Photoshop Drag a selection into another image
    Dragging a selection into another image

Create multiple copies of a selection within an image

  1. Select the Move tool , or hold down Ctrl (Win) or Command (Mac) to activate the Move tool.

  2. Copy the selection:
    • Hold down Alt (Win) or Option (Mac), and drag the selection.

    • To copy the selection and offset the duplicate by 1 pixel, hold down Alt or Option, and press an arrow key.

    • To copy the selection and offset the duplicate by 10 pixels, press Alt+Shift (Win) or Option+Shift (Mac), and press an arrow key.

      As long as you hold down Alt or Option, each press of an arrow key creates a copy of the selection and offsets it by the specified distance from the last duplicate. In this case, the copy is made on the same layer.

Paste one selection into or outside another

  1. Cut or copy the part of the image you want to paste.
  2. In the same image or another, select the area you want to paste into or outside. If you’re pasting outside, select an area smaller than the copied selection.

  3. Do either of the following:
    • Choose Edit > Paste Special > Paste Into. The contents of the source selection appear within the destination selection.

    • Choose Edit > Paste Special > Paste Outside. The contents of the source selection appear around the destination selection.

    The Paste Into or Paste Outside command adds a layer and layer mask to the image. In the Layers panel, the new layer contains a layer thumbnail for the pasted selection next to a layer mask thumbnail. The layer mask is based on the selection you pasted into: the selection is unmasked (white), the rest of the layer is masked (black). The layer and layer mask are unlinked—that is, you can move each one independently.

    Photoshop Use the Paste Into command
    Using the Paste Into command

    A. Window panes selected B. Copied image C. Paste Into command D. Layer thumbnails and layer mask in Layers panel E. Pasted image repositioned 

  4. Select the Move tool , or hold down the Ctrl (Win) or Command (Mac) key to activate the Move tool. Then drag the source contents until the part you want appears through the mask.

  5. To specify how much of the underlying image shows through, click the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers panel, select a painting tool, and edit the mask:
    • To hide more of the image underlying the layer, paint the mask with black.

    • To reveal more of the underlying image, paint the mask with white.

    • To partially reveal the underlying image, paint the mask with gray.

  6. If you are satisfied with your results, you can choose Layer > Merge Down to merge the new layer and layer mask with the underlying layer and make the changes permanent.

How to copy and paste between applications

You can use the Cut, Copy, or Paste commands to copy selections from Photoshop and paste them into other applications, or to paste artwork from other applications into Photoshop. The cut or copied selection remains on the clipboard until you cut or copy another selection. You can also copy artwork between Photoshop and Illustrator by dragging and dropping.

In some cases, the contents of the clipboard are converted to a raster image. Photoshop prompts you when vector artwork will be rasterized. The image is rasterized at the resolution of the file into which you paste it. Vector Smart Objects are not rasterized.

  1. In the supporting application, select your artwork, and choose Edit > Copy.

  2. In Photoshop, select the image into which you’ll paste the selection.

  3. Choose Edit > Paste.

  4. In the Paste dialog box, select from the following Paste As options:

    Smart Object: Places the artwork in a new layer as a Smart Object.

    Pixels: Rasterizes the artwork as it is pasted. Rasterizing converts mathematically-defined vector artwork to pixels.

    Paths: Pastes the copy as a path in the Paths panel. When copying type from Illustrator, you must first convert it to outlines.

    Shape Layer: Creates a new shape layer that uses the path as a vector mask.

    Note: When copying artwork from Adobe Illustrator, the default clipboard preferences in Illustrator may prevent the Paste dialog box from appearing in Photoshop. Select AICB in the File Handling and Clipboard area of the Preferences dialog box in Illustrator if you want the Paste options to appear when you paste the artwork into Photoshop.

  5. If you chose Paste As Pixels in the previous step, you can choose Anti-aliased in the options bar to make a smooth transition between the edges of the selection and the surrounding pixels. You can also use Matting commands if you have already merged data and are trying to re-extract the rasterized data.

  1. Do one of the following:
    • (Win) Choose Edit > Preferences > General.

    • (Mac) Choose Photoshop > Preferences > General.

  2. Select Export Clipboard to save any Photoshop contents to the clipboard when you quit Photoshop.

To copy artwork from Illustrator, do one of the following:

  • Drag one or more Illustrator vector objects into an open image in Photoshop. This creates a vector Smart Object layer in the image. Choose Layer > Smart Objects > Edit Content to reopen the content in Illustrator for editing.

  • To copy the vector object as a path in Photoshop, hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) as you drag from Illustrator.

  • To copy the contents of the currently selected layer in Photoshop to Illustrator, use the Move tool to drag the content from the Photoshop window into an open Illustrator document.

Delete or cut selected pixels

Choose Edit > Clear, or press Backspace (Win) or Delete (Mac). To cut a selection to the clipboard, choose Edit > Cut

Deleting a selection on a background layer replaces the original color with the background color. Deleting a selection on a standard layer replaces the original color with layer transparency.

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