How do I move a selected text box (not a layer) in GIMP? I selected the box, but when I use the move tool, it moves the image (layer) instead of the box. I tried following the documentation here, but when I hold down ctrl-alt and click, a forbidden sign appears.

a pie chart I'm trying to label

  • My mistake was to confuse the 'Alignment' and 'Move' tools
    – icc97
    Apr 1, 2018 at 10:20
  • @wdkrnls how about accepting an answer or adding comments if something is still missing? Sep 16, 2018 at 15:55
  • I generally love Gimp, but as an only occasional user, the UI can be extremely frustrating.
    – Ed Randall
    Sep 25, 2022 at 8:02

3 Answers 3


Move tool

By default, the move tool in GIMP moves the uppermost layer that has a non-transparent pixel at the click location. Text layers tend to have many transparent pixels, and thus it is easy to grab a layer behind them (that is, lower in the layer stack). The same would happen if you had a few thin lines on an otherwise transparent layer.

What you can do:

  • Make sure that you click on a pixel of the text, or
  • Switch from the Pick a layer mode to Move the active layer mode

The latter is what holding the Shift key accomplishes. You can see this mode in the move tool options:

GIMP Move tool options

You can also change the default there - switch to Move the active layer mode with the mouse and save the tool options. Then holding the Shift key will switch to Pick a layer mode.

Text tool

You can also move the text layer with the text tool.

Hold the Alt key and drag the layer with the text tool. If your window manager or desktop environment uses Alt+Drag for its own purposes, you can use Ctrl+Alt and drag.

You might want to change this in your WM or DE configuration, as Alt is a frequently used modified key in GIMP.

Locking layer positions

While it does not help directly with moving a specific layer, it is now possible to lock the position and size of layers. The lock button for that is in the layers dialog.

This doesn't change how you move a layer, especially a text layer with lots of transparent area, but it makes it easier to prevent accidentally moving layers which should stay put.

  • 4
    Ctrl+Alt works for me
    – Eka
    Mar 12, 2018 at 5:09
  • 1
    I thought having separate layers would allow me to interact with one layer at a time. This is not the case with transparent pixels (as you pointed out). Thanks for this small tip - helps me understand the tool much better now. Makes perfect sense as to the behaviors I have experienced. didn't know about the transparent pixel thing. May 5, 2021 at 17:23
  • Ctrl+Alt for me as well. I wish I could upvote this answer multiple times. I keep returning to it every time I forget...
    – Jérôme
    Jun 7, 2022 at 20:18

Try again, while holding the shift key.

  • 1
    THIS is the right answer
    – manifestor
    Sep 16, 2018 at 15:14
  • it worked. but why? that's awkward.
    – Ramon Dias
    Dec 11, 2022 at 13:27

both responses seem to ignore the part about not moving the layer. the requester asked to move a text box, not the whole layer. i'm guessing because he/she wants to move just the one text box, not every text box on that layer. i want to have many text boxes and i want to be able to move them independently. i am not clear if/how i can do that.

i just tried combining the answers from above. i created a text box on a layer. then i held down shift and clicked on a pixel that had text in it, and dragged it. this had the desired effect - it moved the text selection i clicked on and did not move the whole layer.

thanks for the help!

  • There are no "Text boxes on a layer". Each "text box" is its own layer in GIMP, and they are known as and commonly referred to as "text layers". The layer that gets accidentally moved in the original question is the pie chart, and to avoid this, the mode of the move tool is switched to more the currently active text layer instead. Apr 3, 2018 at 14:34

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