How to make "Align and Distribute Layers" account for layer masks?

Community Beginner ,
Aug 07, 2022 Aug 07, 2022

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Using any of the align and distribute layer commands in Photoshop does not properly consider the shape of a masked layer, and it seems the alignment guides do not either. I have a layer where I've used a mask to crop the edges down to just one section of the layer, but when trying to equally align or distribute with other layers, it still references the center or edges of the original layer as if it wasn't masked.

 

In other words, Photoshop aligns the layers based on the center of their unmasked version, rather than the new center we end up with as a result of the layer now being masked.

 

To put one more way: 

 

The only workaround I've found is to convert the layer to a Smart Layer so it flattens the mask into the layer, though this is not always optimal if I hope to make changes in the future.

 

Is there a way to change the "centerpoint" of a masked layer so alignment and distribution works from the newly masked image instead of the original?

 

Related aside, the behavior I'm hoping for here is exactly how After Effects behaves when aligning masked layers. I would like the behavior in Photoshop to be consistent with that.

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Community Expert ,
Aug 07, 2022 Aug 07, 2022

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Hello. This might be an extra step, but this is how I would do this:

1. Make your original image a Smart Object first at its largest size

2. Then mask how you need it

3. Then make that Smart Object image with mask layer into a Smart Object (essentially you have a Smart Object in a Smart Object)

 

Then it will align as you need, as the masked area becomes the edge of the image. Smart Objects are really useful in situations like this.

 

I can make a short video if this confusing at all or if you need some more clarification.

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Community Beginner ,
Aug 08, 2022 Aug 08, 2022

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Thank you. This was the only solution I found before posting, as well; I was just hoping there was a way to do this without having to convert Smart Objects first.

 

The frustrating part is the behavior of distribute and align being different in separate Adobe products, since After Effects handles aligning based on the center of the visible masked area, rather than the whole image. But alas.

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Community Expert ,
Aug 08, 2022 Aug 08, 2022

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Totally understandable. There are elements of After Effects that I would love in Photoshop too. Have a great day.

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Community Expert ,
Aug 07, 2022 Aug 07, 2022

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I wrote a script to overcome this issue, I'll dig up the link for you...

 

Edit: here is the script link:

 

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Community Beginner ,
Aug 08, 2022 Aug 08, 2022

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Thank you! I isntalled this script and it works wonderfully.

 

It unfortunately doesn't help in my specific case, as I needed to align things to the selection rather than the canvas, but this is still a great resource to have. I did also vote for that feature request, though I noticed the request was made 11 years ago, so... 

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Community Expert ,
Aug 08, 2022 Aug 08, 2022

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I had challenges making it work for align to selection. I am sure that a more advanced scripter could make it work for selections.

 

There is a hack, make a non destructive crop, align to canvas with the script, reveal all.

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