Using GIMP 2.6.11

My previous image-editing software of choice was Microsoft Paint, which was very intuitive: make a rectangle, click + drag to move the contents of the rectangle around.

How do I replicate this functionality in GIMP? I seem to only be able to:

  • a) move the entire layer around, ignoring the selection entirely, or
  • b) move the selection around, without moving anything that's within the selection (which is what I'm trying to do).

I have the feeling that I'm missing something extremely basic.

  • 1
    Gimp is a powerful tool, but I recommend the free Paint.net as a more suitable next step up from Microsoft Paint. Paint.net is much more like a regular Windows program in usage than Gimp. Commented Oct 28, 2012 at 1:56
  • 1
    @MatthewLock I wouldn't recommend it to beginner. After many years of using paint.net I finally got fed up with all the BS it has, lack of basic features and ignorant narcissistic devs that never listen to suggestions on forums. I moved to GIMP recently and I can't express how much better it is in EVERYTHING. UI/Features/Tools/Workflow/Formats... I would recommend newcomers to start with GIMP and not waste time on an abomination of paint.net. Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 17:21

7 Answers 7


Once you selected whatever part of the picture you want to move, press ctrl-x and then ctrl-v. This will cut and paste the selection to a new layer. Now you can use the move tool to move the new layer around.

Note: The move tool can move layers, selections, and paths. Make sure the layer option in the move tool is selected (in the toolbox).


You can also select an area, then hold down ctrl-alt and drag the selected area as described here. Once you start dragging, you can release the ctrl key to stop constraining the move to cardinal directions. After dropping the selection, you can still move it with the arrow keys.

Rotating and scaling selections seem to behave as expected (automatically creating a new layer). I'm not sure why they didn't make the move tool behave like that too.

  • 28
    I had discovered this, but it seems like a workaround rather than the primary way to do this. Is this really the only way? Commented May 5, 2011 at 19:09
  • 2
    @Raven Dreamer There are many ways to do it. Unfortunately the most intuitive way doesn't seem to work.
    – James T
    Commented May 6, 2011 at 0:38
  • 9
    @Raven Dreamer, Yeah I was confused with the ctrl-alt trick for a bit myself. It only works with the selection tools. If you are using the move tool, ctrl-alt will just move the selection instead of the selected portion of the image. Glad I could help.
    – James T
    Commented May 6, 2011 at 3:49
  • 13
    To me, GIMP is very unintuitive in many ways, and this is one of examples. Thank you for the tip. Your previous comment IS the real answer.
    – Stan
    Commented Oct 5, 2013 at 18:16
  • 6
    unreal this is so unintuitive. on mac it is shift+option+command. Commented May 15, 2014 at 23:30

The right way to do this is to use a Floating Selection. The currently accepted answer of doing a Copy/Paste creates a new layer which is undesirable in most cases.

How to make a floating selection:

  • Make your selection (e.g. press R and draw a box).
  • Select -> Float (Shift+Ctrl+L)
  • Move your Selection (Press v and then click and drag).
  • Anchor Layer Ctrl+h
  • 2
    Worked in GIMP 2.8. Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 20:21
  • 2
    I like this one, it feels less hacky, (although I'm mainly a programmer, so that stuff bothers me more than it does most)
    – Sophie
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 1:40
  • 3
    This is the proper way to do it. There's no need to mess up your clipboard.
    – gronostaj
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 0:01
  • 3
    works and clearly written. But don't seem to need step 3 anymore.
    – standgale
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 2:01
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    Basic functionality made so complicated you have to google it. wow.
    – phil294
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 16:57

The following is an updated and simplified answer to this older issue.

There are two tools being discussed: the Selection Tool and the Move Tool. One might intuitively think you use the selection tool to select, and then hop over to the move tool to move. That is not the case.

All the work is performed with the Selection Tool. Don't use the Move Tool.

Choosing the Rectangle Selection Tool, for example, one selects an area. While remaining on the selection tool, one uses CTRL+ALT to drag the selected image to a different location. Once having done so, it seems that CTRL+ALT is no longer needed for further selection movement (as of at least 10/2014, GIMP 2.8.20).

There are also hints provided in the status bar to try combinations of SHIFT,CTRL, and ALT, and indicates what will occur as you press them.

More info here: https://docs.gimp.org/en/gimp-using-selections.html

  • This doesn't work with GIMP 2.8.16 on Windows. It just moves the selection.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 12:06
  • @mitch Just tested and it works for me in 2.8.20. Before updating to this, make sure Alt isn't getting hooked by Windows and being used by something else (in which case it won't be seen by Gimp). Also, you might need to press Alt first, then Ctrl. See docs.gimp.org/en/gimp-using-selections.html. Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 2:51

Note: DO NOT select the move tool after making the selection. Instead, just press and hold ALT + CTRL and start dragging the selection.

On Windows computers: After making a rectangular or oval selection, hold ALT + CTRL to move the contents of the selection.

  • If you want to duplicate the contents of the selection, hold ALT + SHIFT instead.

On Mac computers, hold down option and command and then drag the selection.

  • Similarly, if you want to duplicate the contents of the selection, hold option + shift instead.
  • 1
    This doesn't work with GIMP 2.8.16 on Windows. It just moves the selection.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 12:05
  • This worked for me with Gimp 2.10.18 on Windows 10. But when done with the move, how do I make the marquee go away? I tried exporting while the marquee was going, and it worked, but the old selection area was in a light shadow that I had to paint away. It worked but how do I get the marquee to go away and not leave that shadow of the old selected area? Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 22:29
  • Best answer. Upvoted!
    – Thomas W
    Commented Nov 24, 2021 at 8:07

None of the suggested solutions worked for me. I eventually realized that the layer I was selecting inside of, was not the same size as the image. So when I moved my copied selection, it moved outside the layer I was on, and thus displayed as an empty selection.

Making the current layer the same size as the image solved the problem. After that copy/paste/drag worked as expected.

To Resize the Layer to Image Size: Alt + L, then click on Layer to Image Size

  • I was stuck with this problem for so long, while trying to compose a bigger image than the initially imported one. I even think this happened one other time, but I didn't have time to research. To anyone not sure if this is their scenario, note the yellow dashed line, which is the border of the layer, where the moved selection will disappear.
    – ravemir
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 15:56

For completeness, the question was also asking about the selection process. One way to select part of an image for editing is to use the magic selection wand. This works well if there is only one image on the selected layer (this is the way I tend to work so I can edit easily).

Select the layer the image to be moved is on, and use the fuzzy select wand to select what is outside the image (could be a single colour or a transparent background). Once the desired part of the layer has been selected, choose Select/Invert from the menu (this inverts the fuzzy selection from what is outside the part of the image to be moved to what is to be moved), then use ctrl/alt and the mouse to move the selected portion of the image.


Ctrl + Alt did not work for me.Neither did turning it into a floating selection for whatever reason. I may need to just fiddle with it but I was in a hurry.

Layers Solution: I had to make the selection, Ctrl + X to cut, Ctrl + V to paste, then in the layers tab I turned the "pasted floating selection" into a layer. I could then move that new layer around. When you're done you can right click that layer and "Merge Down" if you need it to all be one layer again.

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