2.8 Common Problems and
Frequently Asked Questions
Layers can be tricky, and it is sometimes possible to run into what
seem like incomprehensible difficulties while using them. The
following list of problems addresses some common difficulties with
layers. In a nutshell, the information in the Layers dialog almost
always contains the solutions to these problems.
- I am trying to draw, paint, select, or apply some other operation on
the image window, and repeated efforts just don't seem to produce any
results. What's going on?
GIMP operations are applied to the active layer. A common problem
with layers is that the active layer is not visible. It is possible
that the active layer is blocked by layers above it or that the
visibility of the active layer is not turned on. To solve the
problem, make sure that the Eye icon of the active layer is on, and
turn off the Eye icon of the layers above it.
- I am trying to paint in a transparent part of a layer, and I am
getting no results. Why?
If you are trying to draw or paint on a transparent part of a layer,
and nothing seems to leave a mark, the problem is that the Keep
Trans. button is on in the Layers dialog. Toggle this button off and
your problem will...disappear.
- I want to add a layer mask to my image, but it is grayed out in
the Layers menu. Why isn't this option available?
Background layers and flattened images (see Section
have no alpha channels and so
cannot have a layer mask. This problem is easily solved, though, by
applying the Add Alpha Channel
function from the Layers menu.
- The top layer of my image is labeled Floating Selection,
all my other layers are grayed out, and I can't make any of my layers
active except the top one. What's wrong?
A floating selection disables all the other layers until it is
anchored to a new layer or to the last active layer. To anchor to a
new layer choose New Layer from the Layers menu or click on the
New Layer button in the Layers dialog. To anchor to the
previously active layer, choose Anchor Layer from the Layers menu, or type C-h in the image or
dialog window, or click on the Anchor button in the Layers
- I saved a finished project's image to disk, but when I try to view
the saved image in another image display program, it's missing elements
and it doesn't look like the one I saved. Why is this?
Not all image formats support layers or transparency (JPEG, is one
example). For finished projects that are saved to formats supporting
alpha channels, use the Merge Visible Layers function from the
Layers menu before saving. If alpha is not
supported, use Flatten Image from the Layers menu instead.
Also, read the next item.
- I spent hours working on an image with multiple layers, channel
masks, layer masks, and paths and then saved it. But when I tried to
reload my image back into the GIMP, everything but a single layer was
gone! What happened!?
Work in progress and finished projects should be saved in the GIMP's
native XCF format. This is the only format
that saves all the information about layers, masks, and paths.