Why Won’t Photoshop Let You Transform? [3 Easy Fixes]

Transform is a wonderful multi-functional tool in Photoshop. It allows for warping, scaling, perspective changes, or resizing in one seamless operation. The multitude of options within transform coupled with keyboard shortcuts allows for easy image editing. With such a helpful tool integrated into the program, it’s a wonder why so many have difficulty accessing it in Photoshop.

The majority of the time, Photoshop won’t allow you to use transform because the layer you’re working on is locked. You’ll see transform on the menu under “Edit,” but it will be greyed out, which means it is not selectable.

Luckily, there are ways to fix this issue and allow for users of Photoshop to use the transform option. One of the following options should address whatever underlying reason might be causing problems with transform, and these procedures tackle simple to more complex causes.

How Do You Fix Transform in Photoshop?

If you’re having issues accessing transform on Photoshop, it can be as easy as a two-step process to allow use, but there could also be more complicated reasons for transform not to work in the program.

Unfortunately, applications can have bugs that cause certain features not to work correctly. Glitches like this require a bit more work to fix, but it is still possible. There are always other options for your design and editing needs should apps like Photoshop continue to provide stumbling blocks.

Here are few fixes for allowing access or re-enabling access to transform in Photoshop:

  1. Unlock the Background Layer
  2. Deselect an Active Selection
  3. Restart/Reset Photoshop

Let’s take a deeper look into these possible solutions and how to execute them to enable transform in Photoshop.

1. Unlock the Background Layer

The simplest issue with the transform option being greyed out in your menu is that you are working on a locked layer. If you have multiple layers, go through each one to find the offender and unlock it. Typically, the only layer you should have to unlock is the background layer. You will know it’s locked because it will have a lock symbol next to it in the right panel.

To unlock it, all you have to do is click on the lock icon, and it should unlock the background layer. Go to Edit>Free Transform, or you can use a keyboard shortcut Control+T or Command+T if you’re using a Mac.

You’ll know it worked if a box with eight handles appears around your image or the layer. Now you are free to start using transform. If you right-click the image once the box appears around it, a whole list will appear of options under Free Transform you can use like scale, distort, perspective, warp, etc.

2. Deselect an Active Selection

Sometimes the issue can arise, not because of a locked background layer but because there is an active selection somewhere in your layers. You may not see the selection because it is very small, perhaps one pixel, or because you’ve hidden the selection, which can be done by pressing and holding down Control+H or Command+H if you’re using a Mac.

The way to check if you have an active selection somewhere in your document is by going to the “Select” menu at the top, and if the word “Deselect” is in bold, that means a selection is active. You can click on “Deselect” to fix the issue or use the keyboard shortcut Control+D or Command+D if you’re using a Mac. Deselecting the active selection should allow you to use transform once again.

3. Restart/Reset Photoshop

If you’ve tried all of these solutions and nothing works, there is one last trick you can try before resorting to exiting the program or having to reset it. Go through and delete each layer one by one. After you’ve deleted one layer, check Edit>Transform. If it’s still greyed out, you know that layer wasn’t the issue, and you can undelete. Move on to the next layer and do the same till you find the layer causing the problem.

If this still does not resolve the problem, restart the program. Save your work, exit the program entirely and restart. Once it’s back up and you open your project, revisit Edit>Transform and see if it’s still greyed out. If so, you can always do a reset of the application. This option requires more work, and you will also have to reset your tools and preferences.

How to Bring Back Legacy Free Transform

Perhaps you’ve used transform in the past before it was changed and would like to return to the legacy free transform. For new users, the current version of transform is a lot simpler to use and works pretty much the same as the legacy free transform apart from a few minor changes. The main differences are that the reference point is hidden by default, as are the proportions being locked. It also requires you to hold down the “Shift” key to distort.

While this may not seem like a big deal to new users, older users have certain keyboard shortcuts ingrained in their brains. It can be difficult to fight against your muscle memory to learn new shortcuts. If that’s your situation, it’s an easy process to revert to legacy free transform.

On Windows, go to Edit>Preferences>General, and under “Options,” hit the toggle next to “Use Legacy Free Transform.”

A Mac user would go to Photoshop>Preferences>General then the steps are the same from there.


All in all, transform is an excellent tool that can truly enhance your image editing. Hopefully, one of the three fixes allows you access to this tool in Photoshop. If the issue persists despite your efforts, consider reaching out to Adobe for a solution or look and see if you are due for an update on the application. You can always utilize other options for designing and editing.