How to Move Text in GIMP

It’s time for another entry in the TGT (if you don’t know it already, it stands for The GIMP Tutorials) quick guides series on working with text in GIMP, and this time we’re going to look at how to move text in GIMP using a couple of different methods so that you’ll be ready for anything. 

By the time we’re done, you’ll be sending text flying every which way across the GIMP workspace – but hopefully, only if that’s what you meant to do. No judgments on your creative process 😉 

The only trick to moving text in GIMP is knowing that there are two different ways you can move your text: using the Move Tool, or by using a keyboard shortcut to modify the Text tool’s function. You might think that the Move tool would be the simplest option, but that’s not always true – read on to find out why!

Moving Text with the Text Tool

Most of the time when you want to move your text around, you’ve just finished typing everything out and you’ve probably still got the Text tool active – that’s perfect! If not, you can quickly swap back to it with the easily memorable keyboard shortcut T. 

Make sure that your text box is active before trying to move it, as indicated by the handles and popup text settings dialog box

Next, make sure that your text box is active by clicking anywhere within your text. You’ll see the border, handles, and popup text settings dialog box appear as confirmation that it’s active, and the Layers panel will also show that it’s the currently selected layer. 

Hold down the Alt key (Option key for Mac users) while hovering your cursor over your active text box. If you look closely, you’ll see a small Move tool icon appear next to the Text tool cursor. Still holding the Alt key, click and drag anywhere to instantly move your text around the canvas. 

GIMP’s underappreciated info bar, found at the bottom of the window, showing the Move information on the right side next to the Text tool icon

The info bar at the bottom of the GIMP workspace will update to give you precise pixel grid information about how far you’ve moved if you need extreme precision. 

Moving Text with the Move Tool

The Move tool is a basic feature for any GIMP user, and it’s important to get really familiar with it because it can produce some unexpected results if you’re used to working with a different program. It’s the first tool listed in the toolbox, or you can activate it with the keyboard shortcut M.

The Tool Options panel, showing the default Move tool options

The Move tool has 3 basic options in the Move category: layer, selection, and path. It’s a bit confusing for the user to bother separating them, but that’s how it’s structured. If you want to move your text layer, you’ll obviously need to ensure the Move tool is set to layer by clicking the appropriate button (selected in the screenshot above).

In addition to that, you’ll need to be careful where you click within your image. If the Move tool is set to Pick a layer or guide then GIMP will automatically move the top layer that has a visible pixel in the exact spot you clicked. 

I prefer to leave the toolset to Move the active layer since I’m very comfortable working with the Layers panel, but each editor has his/her own workflow style. 

I naturally moved the whole background layer instead of the text while preparing a different screenshot showing exactly how you’re not supposed to do that 😉

If you let GIMP choose which layer to move automatically, you can start to run into trouble if you’re using a very small font or a typeface with very narrow letterforms, since you’ll have to click one to properly select the layer. It’s easy to drive yourself nuts just trying to get the right layer to move! 

That’s just about everything you’ll need to know about how to move text in GIMP! 

Both of the options are pretty fast, but I prefer using the Alt keyboard shortcut instead of switching back and forth between tools. You could probably use the Unified Transform tool too, but I find that it doesn’t fit nearly as smoothly into my workflow, but you may have a different style.

Be sure to look out for the rest of the TGT quick guides on working with text in GIMP for more handy tips. 

Do you have a favorite option that I left out? Let us know in the comments =) 

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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  • George Lerner

    Hold down the Alt key (Option key for Mac users) while hovering your cursor over your active text box. (On Linux Mint, use Ctrl-Alt, since Alt-drag moves the GIMP window around.)

    • Thomas Boldt

      Thanks for the tip, George! I don’t have much experience with Linux, except for using it on with my Raspberry Pis – not exactly the best hardware for photo editing 😉