How to Resize a Layer in Photoshop

Photoshop gives us the amazing ability to work with layers. Through this, we can place different elements of an image on different layers and work with them independently from the rest of the image. 

Hey there! I’m Cara and through my work as a product photographer, I’m often blending elements from different images together. They have to be the right size, otherwise, they look out of whack and it’s easy to tell the image is fake.

In this tutorial, I will show you how to resize or scale a layer in Photoshop so you can have fun adding elements to images as well!

You might be thinking if resizing layers and scaling layers is the same thing. Basically yes, but with one key difference – the aspect ratio is maintained as you resize. This means that the proportion of height to width doesn’t change, though the overall size of the layer does. 

Note: the screenshots below are taken from the Windows version of Adobe Photoshop, if you’re using the Mac version, the navigations may look slightly different.

Method 1: Free Transform

In order to change the size of a layer in Photoshop, you need more than one layer in a document, unless you want to resize only the background layer. I’ll be working within h this off-the-wall image I created as an example. I shot the cup on the wall from the top down in a separate image.

These two images go together to make the final one. So we need to add the wall cup as a new layer on top of the main image.

With the wall cup image active, select the Move tool. Click anywhere in the image and drag up to the image tabs at the top. Hover over the main image tab until it appears, then drag the mouse down into the image. 

The cursor should turn into a little box with a plus sign. Let go and the wall cup will drop on top of the main image.

When you create your new layer using the method I just showed you, it appears with the Transform tool already active. You can skip down to step 3.

If you got your layer differently, you’ll have to select the Transform tool or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + T (Command + T on a Mac) to resize an image or selection in Photoshop. If that doesn’t work, go to Edit in the menu bar at the top and choose Free Transform.

You’ll know the tool is active when you see a blue box with squares in the corners and on the sides appearing around the layer.

From here, resizing is easy! Simply grab one of the squares and drag it with the mouse to resize. 

By default, the layer will maintain the same aspect ratio as you drag. If you want to change the aspect ratio (adjust the height independently of the width) hold down the Shift key while dragging. 

You can also rotate the layer by clicking at the corners and dragging around the layer. 

To better see what you’re doing if you’re trying to line something up, you can reduce the opacity of the layer. Once you’re happy with the positioning, accept the changes by hitting the Enter key or clicking the checkmark at the top. 

That’s it! Now you can bring in elements and match their size and positioning into your base image. Get creative with it and have fun!

Method 2: Transform > Scale

Now let’s take a look at how to use the Scale tool to scale a layer in Photoshop.

Step 1: Select a layer, go to the overhead menu Edit > Transform > Scale.

You’ll get the same blue box around the layer. Click and drag a handle to resize the image proportionately. Again, hold Shift if you don’t want to maintain the aspect ratio. 

If the layer isn’t maintaining its aspect ratio as you expect, check the link between the height and width boxes in the options bar. It should be dark to indicate that it is active. 

That’s it! Adobe has made scaling layers super easy now, though old-timers with Photoshop are grumbling about the change. 


Here are more questions related to how to resize in Photoshop.

How to move and resize an object in Photoshop?

If you want to resize an object on a layer, you’ll need to select the object and use the Free Transform or Scale tool to resize it using the methods above. While the transform tool is active, you can click and drag the box to move the object.

How to select and resize an image in Photoshop?

Once you select the image layer, you can use the Free Transform tool to change the image size in Photoshop, or you can go to the overhead menu and choose Image > Image Size to resize the image.

How to resize a layer to fit a canvas in Photoshop?

Similar method to resizing an image in Photoshop. For example, if you want to resize an image layer to be the same size as the canvas, go to the overhead menu Image > Canva Size and change the canvas size to the same size as the image.

Did you enjoy this quick explanation of how to resize a layer in Photoshop? Check out more of our stuff such as how to move a selection to learn more!

About Cara Koch
Cara fell in love with photography circa 2014 and has been exploring all corners of the imagery world ever since. When she felt limited by Lightroom, she dove headfirst into Photoshop to learn how to create the images she wanted.

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  • Kang min

    I’m a beginner. When scaling the transform box around the object, why call it scaling “layer size”? Although the size of object changes, is the “layer size” keeping the original size? Thank you for tutorials.

    • June

      Hi Kang, because the object is on its own layer, scaling the “layer size” doesn’t affect the Canvas size.