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The Move Tool

Portable pictures...

Move Tool The move tool is one of Photoshop Elements' most integral parts, used in all sorts of operations. Not just for moving things, it has basically replaced what was called the "Free Transform" tool in some previous versions of Photoshop. It is simple to operate, but has some extra functionality which people miss.

When Nothing is Selected

When no selection has been made, (using a selection tool such as the marquee or the lasso), the move tool is very simple to use. Hold the left mouse button down and drag, and the currently selected layer will move where you drag. Right clicking allows you to quickly switch between layers which contain some object at the point you click.

The tool has two options, "Auto Select Layer", and "Show Bounding Box". When Auto Select Layer is turned off, the tool will always drag your current layer. If you turn it on however, and click to drag something on a different layer than the currently selected one, it will automatically detect this, and change that to be the current layer.

The Show Bounding Box option simply toggles whether or not the object being moved has a box displayed around it. This is especially useful for two reasons. If Auto Select Layer is turned on, then you can see exactly what you are dragging, and how much of it if applicable. Secondly the bounding box enables many of the more advanced features detailed below, so it is advisable to keep this turned on.

With a Selection

When a selection is present, the move tool acts on this selection. The Auto Select Layer option is now effectively redundant. Moving works exactly the same.

Shift It!

Shift is a very useful key where the move tool is concerned. Holding down shift while you move an object will force it to move along a straight line. It will snap to the horizontal, vertical, or two diagonal lines emanating from its original position. Shift also has other implications for the extra features, as we are about to see.

Other Functions

As well as moving an object, the move tool performs several other functions. Resizing, rotating, and in fact the full "Free Transform" functionality, can all be achieved right here.

Before performing any of these functions, click the object you want to change, making sure the Show Bounding Box option is selected.

To resize the object, left click on one of the eight squares around the edge of the bounding box, and drag to the new size. If you resize using a corner square, then holding shift will maintain the aspect ratio of the bounding box, therefore not warping the objects original proportions.

To rotate the object, hold your cursor just outside the bounding box by one of the squares. You may see the cursor switch to straight arrows, these are also for resizing so ignore them. Just outside a corner square however the cursor should switch to a curved arrow, and when you see that you can click and drag to rotate the object. In this instance, holding shift will snap the rotation to the nearest 15 degree angle. This means that every right-angle turn is split into 6 sections effectively.

Free Transform

There is one final important functionality. After first clicking once to select an object for moving, you can switch to free transform mode. You can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+T, or on the Image menu, select 'Transform', then 'Free Transform'. A full explanation of this mode can be found in another tutorial.

If In Doubt ... Mess About!

If you thought the move tool was just for moving objects, then it is genuinely worth getting to know it a bit better. There is only so much an article can say though, my advice, try it out! Load up a blank file, create a couple of layers each with a paintbrush squiggle on them, and mess about for a bit. You get to know things very quickly just by experimentation.

If there is any other functionality which you feel I have missed, or something else about the move tool that should be included in this article, then feel free to let me know. Just use my contact form.

Kind Regards

Robert Redwood Robert Redwood - Bio
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