Moving Layers

You can move a selected layer by grabbing and moving it around with the pointer. To restrict movement to a particular axis, hold down the Shift key as you drag.

As you move (or resize) your layer, Sketch should automatically align your layers to adjacent layers. If this doesn’t happen, you might have accidentally hidden guides. To enable them, choose View › Canvas › Show All Guides in the menu.

If you hold down the Option key while dragging, you will clone the layer, leaving the original layer in its place. If you then immediately press Command-D (duplicate), Sketch will insert another duplicated layer at exactly the same offset as your first duplicate.

You can also drag-and-drop layers to the Pages panel to quickly move objects between different pages.

Moving an Obscured Layer

Another complication of overlapping layers is moving an obscured layer. Normally, when you click-and-drag a shape it will immediately be selected—if it wasn’t selected yet—and moved to its new location.

Very often this is a convenience, but it can be a hindrance as well if you’ve got a layer selected that is completely obscured by another layer. Clicking on the layer would instead select the layer on top and move that one.

To get around this, you can hold down the keys, Option-Command and then clicking-and-dragging will not change your selection. You can even click-and-drag somewhere completely different on the Canvas and Sketch will still preserve your selection:

Aligning Layers

In addition to quickly moving selected layers, you can align and distribute them evenly by using the following buttons in the top-right corner of the Inspector:


The first two are for distributing layers horizontally and vertically . You can also choose Arrange › Distribute Objects or use these shortcuts; Control-Command-V or Control-Command-H. If you want to distribute the layers with fixed spacing then you can use the Make Grid tool. These options also take the pixel fitting preference into account to help you to be as precise as possible.

The next six buttons (align left , horizontally, right , top , vertically , and bottom) are for aligning layers among themselves or to the Artboard.

When multiple layers are selected, the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar will display the above distribute and align controls right on the keyboard for easy access.

Aligning Touch Bar

To align a layer to the Artboard, hold down the Option key and choose the align button you desire. You can also do this with multiple layers simultaneously. Another approach is to first group the objects by using the Group item in the toolbar.

To align layers to a specific object, first lock that layer by using the lock button in the Layer List or by using Shift-Command-L. If no specific object is selected, Sketch will align the layers to the outermost layer of all those selected.

Distributing and Arranging Multiple Layers with Tidy

You can quickly distribute and align multiple layers into a neat grid, with distributed spaced rows and columns, with the Tidy button. To do this, select the layers you want to tidy and click on the Tidy button at the top of the Inspector. Your grid will fill the space of your selection and Sketch will attempt to arrange layers evenly in rows and columns.

Moving Multiple Layers with Smart Distribute

With Smart Distribute you can quickly adjust even spacing between multiple layers, horizontally or vertically. To do this, select two or more layers, then click and drag on the handle that appears between them. If you have layers arranged in a grid, you can adjust the spacing between each layer in a horizontal row, as well as the vertical spacing between rows themselves.

Smart Distribute may not appear if your layers aren’t evenly distributed. To fix this, you can either evenly distribute your layers manually or use the Tidy button.

Note: For very small selections, or when you’re zoomed far out from your selection, Smart Distribute handles hide to make the layers themselves easier to see.

Swapping Layers within a Smart Distribute selection

When you’ve selected a set of layers with even spacing between them, you can click and drag on the circular handle that appears in the centre of any layer to move it within that selection. The layers around it will automatically swap positions with the one you move.

This also works for entire Artboards, making it handy for rearranging entire flows on the Canvas.

Last modified on Aug 09, 2019

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