Drag, Drop and Float: How to keep layers at their best in Photoshop Elements

drag-drop-photoshop-elementsSeptember 2014: Updated for Photoshop Elements 13

On the Digi Show Episode 111: It's Fabulous, there was some discussion over dragging and dropping files as smart objects in Photoshop.

In the comments, Jennifer Kellogg asks

I’m a new digi scrapper. I like to kit scrap. I’ve got PSE12.

What is the best way to use a kit? Open everything in the project bin? Or File > place each object from the folder?

The first page I did was a little frustrating (I was using File > Place) and it was tedious to go back to the folder each time I wanted to try a different paper, element, etc.


Since version 7 of Photoshop Elements and the unpopular introduction of poorly implemented smart objects, Adobe has chopped and changed how you should go about dragging and dropping files into Photoshop Documents within Photoshop Elements.

Personally, a lot of the time I do use File - Place, as it's the easiest way to use smart objects in Photoshop Elements.

Using the place option adds your paper or embellishment as a smart object. This will not pixelate your image when you resize it. Pixelation is the blurry or jaggy look bitmaps get when resized. Usually, if you resize an item in Photoshop Elements, it will 'throw away' the excess pixels, and then when you resize it back up to its original size, you will not regain the details. Smart objects keep all the pixels, just in case you change your mind.

For most scrapbookers using Photoshop Elements 12 I would suggest the following method:

To add a paper or element to your layout, drag the file down from the main editing window onto your layout or template. That way your supplies will come in at full size. If you drag the file up from the Photo Bin in recent versions of Photoshop Elements it will be automatically resized, which is not what you want to happen.

Drag your embellishments down onto the layout

Below, I've summarized the details of all the methods of dragging and dropping in Photoshop Elements.

What Happens when I:

Drag from Photo/Project Bin?

Photoshop Elements 6

  • new layer named same a file name (handy for credits!)
  • not smart object
  • resized to fit canvas – so sized down to 8.5×11


  • new layer named same a file name
  • smart object
  • not resized to fit the canvas, there was a bug when you go back and transform the smart object it would loose its transparent background


  • new layer named same a file name
  • not smart object
  • resized to fit the canvas – so sized down to 8.5×11


  • new layer named same a file name
  • not smart object
  • resized to fill the canvas – sized up or down as required (very annoying in my book!)


  • new layer named same a file name
  • smart object
  • resized to fill the canvas if too large
  • left at original size if smaller than canvas

Drag from main editing window to Project/Photo bin in PSE

  • new layer named same as layer name (eg Layer 0 for png files)
  • not smart object
  • not resized at all

Drag from floating window

From what I can tell this has always worked the same was from PSE6 onwards.
If you drag from one window to another, it will drag the layer over (not as a smart object), and will not resize it at all.

This works by default in PSE6-10, you simply select Window - Float All. In Photoshop Elements 11-13 you need to go to Edit, Preferences, General, Allow floating windows in Expert Mode to have this option.

allow floating windows


  • new layer named same as file name
  • smart object
  • resized to fit the canvas – so sized down


  • new layer named as Layer X (depending on what layer number your file is up to)
  • no smart object
  • not resized to fit canvas


Do you have dragging frustrations with Photoshop Elements? Comment with your version number and problem and I'll see if I can give you a hand!


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  • Janet Bodet Carr

    THANKS so much for this post!!! SUPER helpful!!! :)

  • JoeAnn Posey

    I notice you did not mention PSE11. Is it any different than PSE12?

    • http://digitalscrapbookinghq.com/ Melissa Shanhun

      Hi Joanne, I’ve updated the wording now :) PSE11, did have some slight differences and I’ve noted them above.

      Hope this helps!

  • Diane

    Hi, I was unable to re-activate CM so bought Panstoria. However, I have just purchased an Apple Mac Air which is not compatible. Is it compatible with PSE?

    • http://digitalscrapbookinghq.com/ Melissa Shanhun

      Hi Diane, PSE is available for Mac :) so it will work for you.

  • Kathy Dentz Keith

    Great post! I forgot the tip about dragging DOWN from the image window to the photo bin.
    Keeping layers the original size is very helpful. I wish File>Place did that. Then we’d have the smart object AND the original size benefits.

    ***I have PSE 12 and dragging from a floating window yields the same results as version 13, not earlier versions. (I didn’t check out every other tip here, but noticed that variation from what you wrote here.)

    • http://digitalscrapbookinghq.com/ Melissa Shanhun

      In PSE13, File place keeps the original size – up to the size of the canvas. If your place object is bigger it’s proportionally resized to fit the canvas

      *** Thanks for picking that up! I’ll make a note to update my post.

  • Libby Wiers

    Helpful explanation. I just need to take a major chunk of time and read every post you’ve ever written… then maybe I could be comfortable and quicker. :)

    • http://digitalscrapbookinghq.com/ Melissa Shanhun

      :) It will be here when you get to it! I’m glad they are helpful for you!