Using Template Layers to Create a Figure 8 Animation

In the following tutorial, I will demonstrate a technique that shows how to use Smart Objects with a template layer to create complex animation. The animation below demonstrates the final effect.

The Final Image

Final Anim

How it’s done:

Step 1: Creating the Objects

In the scene below, I have create two layers. The first layer is a large gray circle. This will be our template layer to help us animated a circular motion. The other layer contains the red dot.


Step 2: Convert to Smart Object

Next, I’ll select both layers and convert to a Smart Object. This can be done by right-clicking one of the selected layers and choosing Covert to Smart Object form the pop-up list.

Smart Object

Step 3: Animating the Smart Object

Now, we can animate both objects as one. Since this is a smart object, I have access to the Transform Property. I’ve added a keyframe for a half-rotation for two full rotations. The result is the circle rotating 720 degrees.


Step 4: New Smart Object

Next, I want to convert the layer into another Smart Object. This is important as it will embed the keyframes into a new Smart Object layer, allowing me to move my animation around without disrupting any keyframes. Once it’s been converting into a new Smart Object, make a clone of the Smart Object (by pressing Ctrl + J) and flip the new layer along the horizontal axis (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal). The resulting animation shows both circles with the dots moving around them.

Two Animations

Step 5: Overlapping the Animation

The next step is to line up these two object. To make this easier, I’ve reduced the opacity of one of the objects to 70%. Now I can line up the red dots so that they overlap in the center of the canvas.


Step 6: Twaeking the Timeline

By shortening the length of each layer in the timeline, I can create the illusion that there is a single red dot traveling in a figure-eight pattern. The gray circle is still disctracting, but we’ll fix that in the next step.

Figure 8

Step 7: Hiding the Template Layer

In order to remove the gray circle, we’ll need to go back into the Smart Objects. Just double-click the thumbnail of one of the Smart Objects in the Layers Panel to open the contents in a new document. You’ll need to drill down to the Smart Object that contains the gray template shape and hide it.

Hide Template

Step 8: Final Animation

Save that Smart Object document and close it. Make sure to save all other Smart Objects that were opened. When you return to your working document, you will see the red dot without the gray circle.


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