Photoshop: All align options always grayed out

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  • Problem
  • Updated 8 months ago
  • Solved
  • (Edited)
I am UNABLE AND NEVER BEEN ABLE to use ANY of the align tools when the move tool is selected, those options are ALWAYS grayed out!!! There is NO WAY POSSIBLE to distribute a layer to the top of the canvas or bottom or whatever, nor can I EVER align it with other layers because ALL DISTRIBUTE AND ALIGN LAYERS ARE ALWAYS GRAYED OUT!!! ALL THE TIME EVERY TIME ON ALL IMAGES!!!! WHY HAVE THOSE OPTIONS IF THEY ARE *ALWAYS* GRAYED OUT!!!! AND THERE IS *NO* INFORMATION WHATSOEVER ON GOOGLE ABOUT THIS!!! I GOOGLED IT BUT *NOTHING* CAME UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Justin Coolidge

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  • mad

Posted 4 years ago

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Chris Cox

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Which Adobe product are you using?
Which version?

And do you actually have more than one layer selected so you can use the align and distribute commands?
Since the commands don't apply to a single layer, they would be disabled if less than two layers are selected.
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Anders Strike

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Just found the solution on some other website:

you need to select ALL of the active layer:
Cmd+A or Ctrl+A, then the alignment options will be ready to use!
(Cmd+D or Ctrl+D to deselect when you're done aligning)

Don't know what Adobe was thinking, but it's just the way it is.
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Cristen Gillespie

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> you need to select ALL of the active layer:
Cmd+A or Ctrl+A, then the alignment options will be ready to use! >

Um, no. . . I have a 5 layer file. I select 3 layers (target with shift-clicking on the layers). With the Move tool active, I use Align and the 3 objects on those 3 layers align. The layer with another object on it doesn't move at all. If I used Cmd/Ctrl-A, I'd have a problem with that file. With one layer targeted, Cmd/Ctrl-A would select the document (marching ants around everything), but not select the objects on any other layer. So using Align would move the object to the position in the document, but not align the other objects (layers) with it.

So I don't know exactly what you're trying to do, but I think Adobe is working the way it should be???

Or just thinking about that, are you saying you're trying to align one single object with the background document layer? Then yes, Cmd/Ctrl-A would align that object relative to the background layer. But so would selecting both layers in the Layers panel.
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This was helpful - partially - so thank you - I have PS CS5 - PC //
On windows the command for align or distribute is CTRL + ALT + A or D  (CTRL+A for windows selects ALL) - To distribute:  layers must be rasterized and it appears to only work if three or more layers are selected. What a pain. I need to upgrade!  Thanks again!
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Cristen Gillespie

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> To distribute:  layers must be rasterized and it appears to only work if three or more layers are selected. What a pain.>

Yes, but that makes sense. You need to have something to distribute objects between. I'm afraid I can't remember CS5 and Smart Objects if anything has changed, but I have no problem selecting 2 or more layers that are Smart Objects and seeing the Align controls (those that are relevant) in the Options bar light up if I have the Move tool selected, or I can use the Layer menu.

With Cmd/Ctrl-Opt/Alt-A to select every single layer at once, so long as the Move tool is selected, I do get all the Align and Distribute options in the Options bar.  I don't know what D instead of A does. I don't seem to have a Cmd-Opt-D shortcut that I can find.   If I don't have the Move tool in hand,  I have to use the Layer menu, but the commands are all available there. This is with a file with plenty of Smart Objects, but I am using a much later version of PS than you.  '-}

It simply doesn't sound right that you have to rasterize your SOs in order to align layers. Can you try without using those particular KBSC to target 2-3 SO layers inside your file manually with the Move tool and see if the align icons don't light up for you?
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David Noceti

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You need to rasterize your layers. If you did like I just did and drag and drop them into your project from a folder, rather than opening them through PS, then they will come in linked to that folder and they'll basically be a smart object (you'll know because you'll see a little icon in the bottom right corner of your layer thumbnail in the Layers pallet). Right click each layer and rasterize it. Once rasterized the command to auto-align will be available again. 
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Yvonne B

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I have just had this problem and thanks to the info above I have resolved the issue, thank you all so much!  I see others had the problem with highlighting multiple layers, I resolved this issue by highlighting the layers I wanted to align in the layers panel by clicking on the bottom layer and holding down shift and clicking on the top layer or last layer that you want to include in auto align layer.  Hope this helps :)
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David Meshaw

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I also figured out if you want to align just one item to the center of your workspace or where ever, then you need to convert your work to an art board. this will allow you to select one smart object or layer and align it with your whole workspace. 
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Nico Mabaso

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Make sure you select the Pick Tool


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It's silly that a seemingly standard function which works quite easily and efficiently in other programs such as Illustrator and After Effects does not work the same way in Photoshop. My point is simply, it should just work. I don't want to select multiple layers, I don't want rasterize layers, etc. Furthermore, why in the world would I have to select multiple layers to use the align function. What if I only need to align one layer? I tend to wonder if this is a broken function that they haven't fixed. I don't know.

At this point I don't even bother because of all the extra steps that need to be taken to make it work, which in most cases... it doesn't. I just rely on snapping and smart guides. Which can have their own issues, but at least I can rely on them.
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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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Have you checked out Photoshop CC 2019? This behavior of the alignment options not being active with a single layer is no longer the case. By default now, if one layer is selected it aligns it to the canvas. (This came with the addition of Distribute Space)

Check it out.


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Oh man!!! This is exciting. I had no idea and now feel a little ridiculous for my initial post. Thank you so much for responding. I think that the reason I did not know about this is because I am not running the latest OS of windows which is something I've been meaning to do. Thanks again!
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J Brannon

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I am trying to align 2 layers and edit, auto-align layers is always greyed out for me also. And nothing on this page,, or any other linked pages has resolved it.