Advanced Animation in Photoshop

Animation in Photoshop has come a long way since it was incorporated into the core program. Animation took another step when Photoshop introduced the Video Timeline panel, allowing users the ability to create more complicated animation using keyframes. Recently, I wrote an article for Smashing Magazine exploring Advanced Animations in Photoshop. Below is a snippet from that article. Enjoy!

The Layer Properties

In Photoshop, there are several different layer types that can be created (such as a Pixel Layer, Shape Layer, or Text Layer). Each layer type comes with a set of properties that can be animated. Let’s take a look at a few of the common animation properties associated with some of these layer types:


The Position property allows for movement along the X- and Y-axis. Manipulate the position of an object by using the Move Tool.

Position Property
The object’s Position property was keyframed to move the ball back and forth along the X-axis.


This property allows you to keyframe the Opacity of a layer. The Opacity control can be found in the Layers Panel.

Opacity Property
The object’s Opacity was keyframed at 100% and 0% to create a fading animation..


This property allows you to keyframe the layer styles of a layer. Access the Layer Styles by double clicking a layer in the Layers Panel.

Style Property
The object’s layer styles (Bevel & Emboss, Color Overlay, and Drop Shadow) were all keyframed to create a pulsing animation.


This property allows you to keyframe transformation to a layer. Various transformations (such as Rotate and Scale) can be accessed by going to Edit → Transform, or by pressing Ctrl + T to enter into Free Transform Mode.

Transform Property
The object’s Scale and Rotation were keyframed to create a spinning star that grows and shrinks.

Learning Some New Techniques

In this next section, we will combine what we’ve learned above to explore some new animation techniques. We’ll also explore how to manipulate animations with Adjustment Layers and Filters, create complex movements by layering animations, and even create organic-looking effects.

Animating Filters

Now that we’ve learned how to embed animations inside Smart Objects, we can use this same technique to help us animate Filters. If we add a Filter to a Smart Object that contains an animated layer, the result will be an animation that plays through the Filter. Let’s see how this works:

In the scene below, I have already set up a simple animation inside of a Smart Object that shows a dot moving over a red background.

Smart Object Animation
Smart Object animation of a yelow dot moving across a red background.

Since our animation already resides in a Smart Object, I can add a Filter directly to it. In this case, I’ll go to Filter → Distort → Twirl.

Twirl Filter
Applying the Twirl Filter to the Smart Object Animation.

When I preview the animation, I can see some interesting things happening. The Filter has been applied to the Smart Object itself rather than pixels of its contents. Therefore, the result has a unique effect when the animated pixels move through the filter.

Twirl Animation
Animation of the Twirl Filter.

END OF PREVIEW: Please check out Smashing Magazine for the rest of my Advanced Animations Article.

4 thoughts on “Advanced Animation in Photoshop

  1. Really trtrhwostuy blog. Please keep updating with great posts like this one. I have booked marked your site and am about to email it to a few friends of mine that I know would enjoy reading..

  2. Excellent Tut! Is there a method to create a continuous loop mp4 which transitions smoothly at the loop point? Thanks.

    • I have no current tutorial on that, but it’s a matter of creating identical keyframes for the first and last frames of a sequence. The animation would technically end one frame before the final keyframe. The more complicated the animation, the trickier it can be.

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