If you have ever worked with time-based media in Photoshop, you might have noticed the two options entitled Transform and Position, which can be used when working in the Timeline Window. Many users often find themselves confused with the differences between the two due to their similarities.

The main difference between the two commands is that Position is used to reposition layers and move them around within the canvas, whereas Transform is used to change the dimensions of or apply other transformations to elements. In addition, the Position function can be used to edit layers of any format (both raster and vector graphics), whilst Transform is most suited to adjusting text, smart objects, and other vector-based layers.

Before we jump right into exploring these differences in more depth, if you would like to learn how to differentiate between more tools and to understand the purposes of other Photoshop functions, then feel free to check out our complete guide to Photoshop, which is suitable for both beginners and those who would like to simply top up their knowledge of the programme!

Difference in Supported Layer Formats

The first difference between the two options is that Position can be used when dealing with elements of any format- in other words, it can be used to alter shape layers and other vector graphics but also regular raster layers- whereas the Transform function is used to edit text layers or smart objects.

This means that if you are dealing with bitmap graphics and rasterized layers, you should opt for using the Position function, because editing the properties of the layer with the Transform option could cause you to lose the original quality of the document, resulting in a pixelated canvas. This is because each time you apply a transformation to a rasterized element, Photoshop has to redraw the pixels, resulting in destructive quality loss.

So, now that we have established the layer formats that each function supports, you might be wondering what you can actually use the Transform and Position commands to do? Let’s take a closer look at this in the next section.

Difference in Functions

The other difference between the two commands becomes clear when we look at their intended functions. The purpose of the Position option is to change the position of an element on the canvas. This means that you can use it to move a certain object within the document to a different area of the composition.

You can reposition an element by simply clicking on it and dragging the mouse in the relevant direction, releasing once you are happy with the new positioning of it.

Note that unlike the Transform command, this function is not intended for making transformations such as rotations or scale-changes to an object.

By contrast, the Transform command’s main purpose is to allow users to change the dimensions of a particular object within a document. This means that rather than being primarily dedicated to letting you reposition elements, the tool lets you edit the size of, rotate, change the perspective of, and even warp the shape of particular layers.

With the Transform function, you can also move layers to new positions within the canvas, just as you can with the Position tool. But remember that this command is mainly suited to vector-based layers, since it can cause the quality of rasterized elements to be reduced. So, if you want to reposition any layer, you might prefer to use the Position tool, which is specifically dedicated to such a task.

To transform objects, you can click on and drag the handles of the box around the element that you would like to resize.

To increase the size of the layer, click on one of the corners of the box and drag it outwards, releasing the mouse once you are happy with the new size. To make the object smaller, you can click on one of the corners and drag it inwards, again releasing once you are satisfied to confirm the changes.

If you would like to rotate an element, then hover your cursor over the area just outside of the transformation box until the cursor changes to resemble a curved arrow. Once this has happened, you can click and drag with your mouse to rotate the layer in the direction that you would like to turn it.

Alternatively, you can right-click on the layer whilst the Transform box is active to bring up a list of other transformations you can apply to it. These include Warp, Scale, Skew, Flip Horizontal and Flip Vertical.


And with that, we have pretty much covered all there is to know about the differences between the Position and Transform commands in Photoshop! To recap, you should use the Position option to change the placement of elements within the canvas of your animation and the Transform option to edit aspects of layers such as rotation and size.

If you would like to learn more about how you can produce animations in Photoshop using the various commands in the Timeline Window then we would recommend that you check out this video by SuMo_D Learning, which walks you through the basics of creating simple timeline animations in Photoshop!

About the Author Betchphoto

Captivated by the digital world and particularly attracted by everything related to creativity, Martin is an amateur photographer and digital marketer who has more than 10 years of experience with Adobe Photoshop. Check his about page here

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