How to Link Layers in GIMP

Master this (almost) hidden feature

What to Know

  • In a GIMP document, locate the Layers dialog in the lower right corner of the screen.
  • Select the Link Layers box next to each layer you want to link. It changes to a chain icon, indicating the layer is linked.
  • Move or apply any supported transformations to the linked layers. Unlink the layers by selecting the chain icons.

This article explains how to use GIMP's Layers palette beginning with locating the almost hidden Link Layers option. It includes information on linking and unlinking layers and what transformations you can apply to the linked layers.

How to Link Layers in GIMP

You link two or more layers together so you can apply transformations equally to each layer without having to merge them first. This gives you the flexibility to make later transformations independently. While Link Layers allows you to move, resize, rotate and flip layers in unison, it only applies to these types of transformations. You can't apply a filter to several linked layers simultaneously. You either need to apply the filter to each layer independently or merge the layers first.

It is easy to link layers once you know how, but because the buttons are unmarked initially, you can easily overlook them.

  1. Open GIMP with your project that has multiple layers.

    GIMP project open with layers screenshot
  2. Turn your attention to the Layers dialog. It's in the lower right of your screen by default. Select the Link Layers boxes next to each of the layers that you want to bind together. It's the empty box directly to the right of the eye icon. The icons look like chains when enabled.

    A screenshot of GIMP with the Link Layers button highlighted
  3. With the layers linked together, select either layer and drag it. You'll see all the layers you linked move in unison.

    GIMP move linked layers screenshot
  4. Try removing the links by selecting the chain icons again. Then, start moving one of the layers again. Notice that it's independent again now.

    GIMP move non-linked layer screenshot

If you're familiar with linking layers in Adobe Photoshop, this technique will be a little alien, particularly as there is no option to have more than one group of linked layers at any time. In most cases, however, this shouldn't be an issue unless you regularly work with documents with large numbers of layers.

Using the option to link layers will give you the flexibility to apply transformations quickly and easily to multiple layers, without losing the option to apply changes to individual layers later on.

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