How to Copy & Transform a Layer Simultaneously in Adobe Photoshop

  • Thread starter JodyBuchanan
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May 10, 2021
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I have a really great tip for you today. This is something you most likely won’t use that often, but if you’re creating some sort of image combination or design, this one might be right up your alley. It’s a super precise method for both transforming and copying a layer, simultaneously. And the best part is, all it takes is a press of one additional key on your keyboard, plus a hint of creativity.

In today’s post, I’ll be creating a very artsy looking compilation of the same image. Each version of the four images I situate on the canvas will be placed there by using the method I’m going to share below. I’ll start off by opening the first image into Adobe Photoshop. Then, I’ll enlarge the canvas, so I can fit the original image, plus three additional copies of it, side by side and on top of and below one another. After that, I’ll use today’s tip to transform each image and copy it at the same time. Finally, I’ll apply a different blend mode to the tree copies I create, just to make things interesting.

The Demo Image​

For this post, I found a really neat beach shot that was taken with a very slow shutter speed. Someone is holding a light and walking up the beach, which resulted in a cool looking spiral light trail effect. Here, take a look:


I could have chosen absolutely any image for this post, but I picked this one simply because it had a unique and interesting flair about it.

Resizing the Canvas in Photoshop​

I already have the photo opened up in Adobe Photoshop. I previously ran it through Camera Raw, just to apply my usual edits to it, which brighten and sharpen it, among other things.

How To Make A Photo “Pop” With Adobe Camera Raw

What I need to do now is to resize the canvas of the workspace so I can fit three additional copies of this photo. This is an easy operation to execute.

I’ll first click on the small lock icon in the image’s layer. This will unlock the image from the background, which will let me move the image around later on.

To resize the canvas proportionally, no matter what size it is, I’ll head up to the Image > Canvas Size menu item.


When I click on this menu item, the Canvas Size dialog box will appear. Inside this dialog box, I’ll make sure the two drop-downs are set to Percentage. Then, since I’d like the canvas size to be double the width and double the height of the original, I’ll type 200 into both of those fields.


When I’m finished with that, I’ll click OK and then watch as my canvas doubles in size, both vertically and horizontally. I should see the transparent checkerboard background under the image. If it’s a solid color, that means that the image layer hasn’t been unlocked and it’s still being treated as the background layer.


Positioning the Image​

The next step I’m going to take is to position this image in the lower left corner. To do this, I’m going to select the Rectangular Marquee Tool. From there, I’ll use the keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+A to select all. Once the entire area is selected with this tool, I’ll then click on the Move Tool. When I do that, I’ll see the options bar change so there are some alignment options available.


Next, I’ll click on the Align Bottom Edges and Align Left Edges options. These are the third and fourth buttons from the left. What doing this does is automatically shift the image to the bottom, left corner.


I’ll also be sure to use the Select > Deselect menu item to deselect the area.

Transforming & Copying the Layer​

Okay, I’m ready to get to the meat of this post. What I’d like to accomplish first is to duplicate the current layer so the copy occupies the spot directly above. I also want the copy flipped upside down. Watch how I can easily take care of this task.

If I use the Ctrl+T keyboard shortcut, I can free transform this layer. If I use the Alt+Ctrl+T keyboard shortcut, I can transform a copy of this layer, all in one step. Remember that, by adding the Alt, I’m not only transforming, I’m transforming a duplicate. So anything I do to the current layer after that bounding box is visible, will not actually happen to the layer itself. It’ll be happening to the duplicate layer that’s created.

Since I’d like the current layer flipped upside down and above, I’ll press the Alt+Ctrl+T keys on my keyboard now to create the bounding box.


That sets me up for the transformation of the duplicate. Now, to get this layer flipped upside down. I’m going to click and drag the center transformation rotation point to the center top edge. After I position it and let go, it should snap right into place. After that, I’ll right-click on the image somewhere and when the menu appears, I’ll select Flip Vertical.


Once I click on that menu item, the layer will duplicate itself and the duplicate will appear above the original, upside down. Exactly as I wanted it.


After the layer has been duplicated, I’ll press the Enter key to accept the transformation.

To continue on, I’ll select the layer from the Layers panel that I’d like transformed and duplicated, and then follow the same exact instructions as I laid out above. The only difference will be that instead of selecting Flip Vertical from the menu that appears after I right-click, I’ll choose Flip Horizontal. After I take care of these steps, the final image should look like exactly what I display below.


I’d say that’s rather interesting.

Applying Some Blending Modes​

At this point, I should have four different layers. Each image position should be clearly visible in those layer thumbnails.


Since I don’t want a monotonous image, I’d like to add a little flavor. I’m going to apply a different blending mode to three of the layers. I’ll leave the original alone, just to remember what it was that brought me to this point.

Since blending modes rely on a complement or contrast between layers, I’ll need to add a white background layer that will reside under all of the existing layers. To add this layer, I’ll click the New Layer icon located at the bottom of the Layers menu. I’ll also be sure to drag this new layer down so it sits underneath all the others.


To fill the layer, I’ll head up to the Edit > Fill menu item and click.


From the Fill dialog box that appears, I’ll choose White from the Contents drop-down. Then, I’ll click OK and watch as the layer in question turns white.


Then, to add the blending modes, I’ll select each layer that I’d like to add a blend to right inside the Layers panel. Then, I’ll use the Blend Mode drop-down that sits at the top of the Layers panel to make the application.


What are Blending Modes in Adobe Photoshop?

Learning the Difference Between Blending Modes in Adobe Photoshop

Quick Keyboard Shortcut Guide For Blending Modes in Adobe Photoshop

For this project, I’ll apply the Subtract blending mode to the upper left image, Luminosity to the upper right and Hard Light to the bottom right. Again, I’ll leave the original bottom left image alone. Now, let’s check out what this piece of art looks like.


I have no idea why I did this, but this result looks pretty cool in this post. It also served its purpose within this demonstration.

And that, my friends, is how you can duplicate a layer and transform it at the same time. All with one easy keyboard shortcut. Of course I took the long way around, but that’s what I do. I hope you enjoyed the post. If you have any questions or concerns regarding what I shared above, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!