Photoshop‘s position as a layer-based editing program makes it really great for working quickly and non-destructively across different layers. And due to the versatility of the program, there is an endless number of ways in which you can work with these layers to make your workflow more efficient and to improve the appearance of your designs.

One of the functions you can use when working with layers is the commonly used Duplicate Layer command, which allows you to copy layers. Not only can you duplicate layers within their native documents, but you can also copy layers to other existing or brand new documents, which is really useful.

How Do You Copy Layers from One Photoshop File to Another?

In this tutorial, we will explore the simple methods you can follow to do this. In short, you can copy layers to another Photoshop file by clicking and dragging them into their new destination or by using the Duplicate Layer command and specifying the relevant destination.

If you’d like to learn more about basic Photoshop processes, check out our complete guide to Photoshop for beginners, which discusses in depth the ways in which you can edit layers, amongst other topics.

Let’s jump right into looking at how you can copy a layer to a different Photoshop file. We will walk you through two methods, both of which are incredibly simple and take just a matter of seconds to complete!

Method 1: Drag the Layer into the New Document

The first technique of copying layers to a different document involves dragging the selected layer or layers to their new destination.

To begin, we will therefore want to select the individual layer, or the group of layers, that we would like to copy. A single layer can be selected by simply clicking on it in the Layers Window.

To select a group of layers, you can click on each layer in the Layers Window individually whilst holding down the Ctrl [Win] / Cmd [Mac] key on your keyboard. If the layers are all adjacent and appear in a consecutive list in the window, you can select the whole group more quickly by clicking on the top one before holding down the Shift key whilst clicking on the bottom layer of the group.

You will see that the selected layers have now been highlighted, indicating that they are active. At this point, all you need to do to copy the layers to a new document is click on anywhere within the highlighted layer, or group of layers, then hold down the mouse whilst dragging the layers to the bar near the top of the screen displaying the names of the currently opened documents.

Here, keep holding the mouse down whilst you hover the layers over the top of the document you’d like to make their new destination. When the view switches to the new file, you can drag the layers onto the canvas then release the mouse, and you now should have successfully added copies of the selected layers to the document!

Method 2: Duplicate the Layer and Specify the Destination

Another method you can use involves using the Duplicate Layer function, which you have probably used before to make copies of a layer within its native file.

Just like we did when looking at the previous technique, we will begin by drawing our attention to the Layers Window and selecting the layer that we want to copy by clicking on it. Remember, to select a group of layers, you can click on them whilst holding down the Ctrl key.

Once you have selected the layer, you can go ahead and right-click on it. From the list that appears consequently, select Duplicate Layer(s).

Alternatively, you can head along the top of the screen and select Layer > Duplicate Layer(s) to achieve the same effect.

Once you have chosen this option, you will notice that a new box opens up, within which exists a section to select the Destination of your selected layer (or layers). The Destination will automatically be set to the current document, but you can change it to a different file by selecting the relevant file name from the dropdown menu.

When you then hit OK to confirm the change to the destination, you should hopefully see that a copy of the layer you selected has appeared in the specified document!

Another really handy aspect of this method is that you can set the destination to New, which will cause Photoshop to create a new document with only the selected layer in. You can then add to this new document whatever you like, building up a new design from the isolated layer that you duplicated! This can be useful when you’re creating lots of variations of your designs or if you want to quickly see a particular section of your document in isolation.


And that is pretty much all there is to know about how you can copy layers from one Photoshop file to another! Since the methods are so quick and simple, you will hopefully find yourself using them all the time to significantly speed up your workflow when designing in Photoshop.

If you would prefer to see a visual demonstration of the techniques outlined in this article, then feel free to watch this video by Taef Dewan which provides a very quick explanation of the processes involved!

About the Author Betchphoto

Martin is an amateur photographer and digital marketer who has more than 15 years of experience with Adobe Photoshop. Check his about page here