How to Lock Layers in GIMP

Welcome to another quick GIMP tip here at TGT! Locking layers can be a very useful way of controlling your layer interactions, especially when you’re working on a complex design project. 

Fortunately, it’s really easy to do in GIMP – there’s only one step:

Step 1: Locate the Layers panel, and click the appropriate icon to lock that aspect of your layer. 

The three icons from left to right are:

  • Lock Pixels – prevent any changes to pixel information on this layer 
  • Lock Position and Size – prevent any move/scale transformations on this layer
  • Lock Alpha Channel – prevent any changes to transparency on this layer
The Layers panel in GIMP 2.10, highlighting the layer locking section

You can choose any or all of them if you want – and then you’re done! I generally only use the Lock Position and Size option in combination with the Alignment tool, so that I don’t accidentally re-arrange a layer that I meant to leave untouched, but you’ll probably have your own unique workflow uses for it. 

The Layers panel is located in the bottom right corner of the GIMP window by default, but it’s possible that it can get hidden or even closed. 

If your Layers panel has disappeared, you can bring it back to the front by pressing the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + L (use Command + L if you’re using GIMP on a Mac). 

If you don’t like using keyboard shortcuts, you can also bring it back by opening the Windows menu, selecting Dockable Dialogs, and clicking Layers

If you find it a bit finicky to click the tiny interface buttons used in the Lock section, you can also lock the various aspects of your layer using the Layer Attributes dialog box, although I find this much too slow unless you need to change a bunch of settings all at once. 

The Layer Attributes dialog box in GIMP 2.10

Most of the confusion around layer locking comes from previous versions of GIMP. GIMP 2.8 only had limited locking options, but the latest 2.10 updates all include the more sophisticated locking options shown in this quick tip. 

Even though it wasn’t a full version number update, GIMP still added quite a few new features. Remember that it’s always a good idea to keep your software up to date, especially when it’s free software. 

I know that upgrading can sometimes cause issues with third-party plugins, but GIMP should also allow you to have multiple versions installed at the same time (although this can get a bit confusing). Just make sure that you install them in very distinct folders, and you should be fine! 

About Thomas Boldt
I’ve been working with digital images since the year 2000 or so, when I got my first digital camera. I've tried many image editing programs. GIMP is a free and powerful software, but not exactly user-friendly until you get comfortable with it, and I wanted to make the learning process easier for you here.

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