Getting Started – Getting Better

General Design Info

Frame Animation: Part 1


When using Photoshop to create an animation based on frames, design the images/elements first, in layers. (This is the option for an animated GIF image.)

Create Layers to Make Frames

The layer panel below shows a set of three layers, plus a blank background, in a standard Photoshop file. Each layer should be different.

Additional layer types can be used for videos, which will be addressed in The Video Animation series.

Photoshop will by default work from bottom to top in this panel when creating the end animation, so be sure to build the layers in that order and select the layer you want to be the first displayed in the animation. Each layer in an animation will become a frame. Think of it like a single cel in an old-fashioned movie film.

It’s important all frames you want to appear in your animation are set to visible – the eye emblem next to them should be showing. Above shows layer 3 is selected, so if I didn’t change it, that’s the image Photoshop would make the first image displayed – then layer 1, and finally layer 2. Remember, it loads frames based on bottom to top, beginning with the selected layer. It would begin with layer 3, then jump to the bottom and start working its way up.

The Timeline Panel

Next, activate the Timeline panel. From the top of Photoshop, go to Windows > Timeline.

The timeline panel will appear beneath your image. It will be gray and blank, other than the option to select frame animation or video. Use the arrow to make a selection. For now, choose Create Frame Animation.

After making a selection, the gray box next to the dropdown will show which option was chosen — and the selection is now a button. IMPORTANT: The button must be clicked in order for timeline content to display.

Once the button is clicked, the frames or video elements will display in the timeline panel. (If glancing at the layers panel now, only the active/selected frame in the timeline will show as visible. This is perfectly normal.)

The frames panel is simple. Each frame is shown in the order it will be played. Drag frames around to reorder.

The video frame displays each layer separately, each on a long purple bar. (Actual color may vary depending on which Photoshop theme you use.) If you see purple, go to the Timeline menu at the far right and change from Video to Frame Animation. The Toolbar menu opens when you click the four small bars at the far right of the panel.

Set Speed

The “0.2” beneath each frame in my image above is how long the frame displays before jumping to the next frame. The default is 0. Click on the number to change it. (I recommend .02 as the bare minimum – anything faster just flashes by.)

Use the play arrow at the lower left of the panel ( ▶) to watch the animation play as you’re working on it.

In Part 2: More about using Timeline tools.

Recommended Articles