What is Auto Layout in Figma and How to Use It

Auto Layout in Figma is a great feature that allows you to place elements into a layout that automatically changes when you adjust the dimensions of the frame or move the elements inside of it. Auto Layout helps you create responsive designs for different screens quickly and easily.

My name is Yana, and I have worked with content for the past few years. In the past year, I developed an interest in web design and began learning UI/UX design as a hobby. During my exploration, I discovered a fantastic design tool called Figma. Utilizing this software, I created mockups, wireframes, and high-fidelity screens, and quickly became familiar with its auto layout feature.

In this article, I will share a guide on how to use the auto layout feature and answer some of the most commonly asked questions about using it in Figma.

Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways

  • Auto Layout is a powerful tool in Figma that can speed up your design process and make your work more efficient.
  • You can add auto layout to any design element, group, or frame by using the Shift + A keyboard shortcut.
  • There are many features that help you to adjust the auto layout settings to suit your specific design project.
  • The auto layout can be helpful when you need to create lists, cards, or menus.

What Is Auto Layout in Figma?

Auto layout is one of the reasons why web designers around the world love to use Figma. It helps you to align elements inside a frame or a group and then it becomes responsive to any changes in the layout. When you make changes to the components, it expands or resizes the elements inside the frame automatically so that everything stays in place.

Once you become proficient in using the Auto Layout feature, it becomes an amazing tool that enhances your efficiency and accelerates your design workflow.

A Guide to Use Auto Layout in Figma

If you want to add auto layout to your project, simply select the elements or components and press Shift + A on your keyboard or right click and select Add auto layout. To delete the auto layout, use the keyboard shortcut Shift + Opt + A.

To create a simple button with auto layout, press the T key to add text. Next, adjust the font style and its size, and then press Shift + A to add an auto layout. Now the text will be placed inside of a frame.

Auto Layout Properties 

Here are all of the auto layout properties you need to understand in order to use Auto Layout effectively.

1. Resizing Options

Under the dimensions of the layout frame, you will see the option to Hug the content horizontally, vertically, or keep the size fixed. The components inside the frame will also have the option to fill the container. Now, let’s explore the meaning of each of these options.

Hug: If you choose the Hug option, the auto layout parent frame will automatically adjust its dimensions to the size of the elements inside of it. 

Fix: When the parent frame size is Fixed, it will keep its current properties such as size, weight, and height, no matter the size of the children’s elements.

Fill container: When you select one of the child elements, you also will see the resize option Fill container. This feature makes the elements fill all the space inside the parent frame while maintaining the padding.

2. Constraints

The Constraints option determines the position of the layout on a frame. You can choose the position to stay in the center, the top left corner, or the bottom left corner.

For instance, if you choose to apply both the “Center Horizontally” and “Center Vertically” options to the layout, the auto layout will remain centered regardless of any changes made to the size of the design frame.

3. Style Options

After applying an auto layout to an element, you have the option to select various style features such as color, stroke, drop shadow, or blur.

Auto Layout Settings

Let’s take a closer at the Auto layout settings for each element. 

  1. Layout Direction. You have the flexibility to choose between a vertical or horizontal layout, which can be particularly useful when arranging multiple components side by side, such as cards located horizontally.
  1. Space Between Items. The following tool controls the spacing between elements within the parent frame. You can either input the values manually or adjust the spacing by dragging the arrow to the left or right.
  1. Paddings. Padding keeps the space between the parent frame and the elements inside the layout. At the bottom of the Auto Layout section, you will see the option to add horizontal and vertical paddings. If the numbers aren’t equal, you can click the individual padding button to change each padding size accordingly.
  1. Alignment. Utilize the alignment box located in the right sidebar to choose from nine distinct layout options for the children within a frame. By selecting the box, you can use the arrow keys to navigate and switch between the various alignment settings.

Advanced Settings

To find the Advanced Auto Layout Settings, click on the icon with three dots next to the settings menu. This is where you can choose the spacing mode and find other advanced tools. 

  1. Spacing Mode. This tool has two options: Packed or Space between. By default it will be set to Packed,  meaning that the elements are evenly spaced according to the specified value.

When you select the Space between option, the parent layout frame will be switched to the fixed size and the elements inside of it will use the whole space of the frame and change the space between the items automatically.

  1. Strokes. If you add a stroke to your auto layout frame, you can choose it to be included in the layout or excluded from the layout.
  1. Canvas Stacking. This is an advanced feature to try if you want to place a few elements on top of each other. Figma allows you to choose whether the element can be first or last on top.
  1. Align the Text Baseline. This setting is used when you need to align a text box and an icon next to each other. You can change the order of the elements in the parent frame by simply selecting and dragging it inside the layout and changing the spacing.
  1. Nested Auto Layout. This feature allows you to insert one auto layout frame inside of another. It can be useful if you want to make a sign-up form or a product card.

In the example GIF, it lets you add a Call To Action button to the layout frame by dragging the button into the card.

Make sure to check the official Figma tutorial to learn more about how to create something by using auto layout.

Why Should You Use Auto Layout

Auto layout saves you time. Auto Layout is great for making buttons, labels, lists, navigation bars, cards, and more.

Auto Layout Benefits

Here are 3 reasons why you should use the auto layout feature in Figma.

1. Responsive Design. Auto-layout helps to adapt your design to different screen dimensions or orientations. It automatically changes the layout of the elements while keeping them clean and organized.

2. Time-Saving. Auto Layout allows you to resize components without having to manually adjust the positioning of individual elements. This can be especially useful when designing responsive interfaces or creating different versions of a design in various sizes.

3. User-Friendly. Auto Layout streamlines the layout design process and minimizes the need for tedious manual adjustments, making it a more efficient and user-friendly approach to designing layouts.


Here are the answers to the commonly asked questions about auto layout in Figma.

What Is the Difference Between Auto Layout and Constraints in Figma?

Auto Layout is a feature that helps you create a responsive design by automatically adjusting the layout of elements, whereas constraints define the element’s position on the frame. It helps to control how the elements will behave when the frame changes and keeps the design consistent.

What Is the Benefit of Using Auto Layout?

Auto Layout’s most significant benefit is the time it saves in the design process. It automatically adjusts the layout when changes are made, while preserving all the spaces and paddings, enabling you to create more complex layouts and rearrange elements.

Final Thoughts

Auto Layout is a powerful design tool that enables frames and components to adapt to dynamic content. By utilizing Auto Layout, designers can create flexible designs that can expand or contract to fit varying content sizes, adjust as content changes, and maintain consistent alignment throughout the design process.

Do you use auto layout in Figma? Share your thoughts or feedback with us in the comments below.

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