Photoshop Animation Guide for Beginners
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. What is animation in Photoshop?
  2. Setting up your workspace for animation
  3. How to create a frame animation
  4. How to create a timeline animation
  5. Tips for creating an effective animation
  6. How to export your animation
  7. Common issues and how to fix them
  8. Resources for learning more about Photoshop animation

If you've ever been fascinated by moving images, you're in the right place. Today, we'll dive into an exciting subject—animation in Photoshop. This user-friendly software isn't just for image editing; it's also a powerful tool for creating dynamic animations. By using the animator's toolbar in Photoshop, you can bring your illustrations to life. So, let's get started, shall we?

What is animation in Photoshop?

Animation in Photoshop is the process of turning static images into lively, moving visuals. It's a little like making a flip book. You create a series of images, and when you play them back quickly, it looks like your artwork is moving. This is all possible thanks to the animator's toolbar in Photoshop.

There are two main types of animations you can create in Photoshop—frame animations and timeline animations. Frame animations are more straightforward and are perfect for simple animations. On the other hand, timeline animations offer more control and flexibility, making them ideal for more complex animations.

You can use the animator's toolbar in Photoshop to create these animations. This toolbar is packed with features that make the animation process much easier. Here's what you can do with it:

  • Add Frames: You can add new frames to your animation at the click of a button.
  • Duplicate Frames: Want to create a frame that's similar to a previous one? No problem! You can duplicate frames and then make small changes to them.
  • Delete Frames: Made a mistake? You can easily delete any frame from your animation.
  • Looping: You can set your animation to loop endlessly, or for a specific number of times.

As you can see, the animator's toolbar in Photoshop is an incredibly helpful tool for creating animations. With some practice and patience, you'll be animating like a pro in no time. And remember, the key to creating great animations is to experiment, have fun, and let your creativity flow.

Setting up your workspace for animation

Before we start animating, let's set up our workspace. By customizing your workspace in Photoshop, you can have all the tools you need right at your fingertips. It's like organizing your desk before you start working: it saves time and keeps you focused.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to set up your workspace for animation:

  1. Open Photoshop: This is the easy part. Just open up your Photoshop application like you normally would.
  2. Choose your workspace: At the top of the screen, you'll see a menu labeled 'Window'. Click on it, then choose 'Workspace' from the dropdown menu, and finally select 'Motion'.
  3. Open the Timeline: The timeline is where the magic happens—it's where you'll create and manage your animation. To open it, go to 'Window' again and select 'Timeline'.
  4. Access the Animators Toolbar: You'll find this by going to 'Window' and selecting 'Toolbar'. Make sure 'Advanced' is checked so you can see all the tools.

And there you have it! Your workspace is now set up for animation. You should see the timeline at the bottom of your screen and the animator's toolbar on the side. With these tools, you're ready to start animating. So, let's move on to the fun part: creating your first animation in Photoshop!

How to create a frame animation

Now that your workspace is all set up, let's dive right into creating a frame animation. Imagine a flip book: each page is a frame, and when you flip through the pages quickly, it looks like the pictures are moving. That's the basic idea behind a frame animation.

Here's how you can create your own frame animation using Photoshop:

  1. Create a new document: Go to File > New, and pick the size and resolution you want. For our example, let's go with 800 x 600 pixels.
  2. Open the Layers panel: Your layers panel is like your animation's backstage. You can find it under Window > Layers.
  3. Create your frames: Each layer you create will become a frame of your animation. Just click on the 'New Layer' button for each frame you want to add. Remember to draw or place your images on these layers accordingly.
  4. Open the Timeline panel: We've been here before, remember? Go to Window > Timeline. Then, select 'Create Frame Animation' from the dropdown menu.
  5. Convert layers to frames: On the right side of the timeline panel, click on the hamburger menu (those three horizontal lines). Choose 'Make Frames From Layers'. This will turn all your layers into frames on the timeline.
  6. Set the timing: Below each frame, you'll see a time. This is how long the frame will be displayed. Click on the time to adjust it for each frame.
  7. Play your animation: At the bottom of the timeline panel, there's a play button. Click it and watch your creation come to life!

There you have it! You've just created your first frame animation with Photoshop. The animator's toolbar and timeline are your best friends in this process, so don't be afraid to play around with them and see what fun animations you can come up with.

How to create a timeline animation

So, you've mastered the art of frame animation. Great job! Now let's take a step further into the world of Photoshop animation and explore timeline animation. This method provides you with more control over your animation, making it perfect for more complex sequences. Ready? Let's get started.

  1. Start with a new document: Same as before, go to File > New. For our example, let's stick with the 800 x 600 pixels size.
  2. Open the Layers panel: You already know where to find it - Window > Layers.
  3. Draw or place your images: This time, you're not creating a new layer for each frame. Instead, you'll place or draw all your images on the same layer.
  4. Open the Timeline panel: Remember the path? Window > Timeline. But this time, choose 'Create Video Timeline' from the dropdown menu.
  5. Convert layer into a video layer: In your timeline panel, you'll see your layer as a video layer. You can adjust its duration by dragging the end of the layer to the left or right.
  6. Add Keyframes: These are the points in your animation where a change will occur. To add a keyframe, click on the stopwatch icon next to the attribute you want to animate (like Position, Opacity, etc.).
  7. Adjust your Keyframes: Move the playhead to a different point in time, then change your attribute. Photoshop will automatically create a new keyframe. The animation will transition between these keyframes, creating movement.
  8. Play your animation: Just like before, hit that play button at the bottom of the timeline panel to see your animation in action!

And there you have it! You've just created a timeline animation using Photoshop. The animator's toolbar in Photoshop is incredibly powerful when it comes to timeline animations, so don't hesitate to explore its features and get creative with your projects.

Tips for creating an effective animation

Now that you've learned how to create both frame and timeline animations, you might be wondering how to make them really stand out. Creating an effective animation is part art, part science, and part knowing your way around the animator's toolbar in Photoshop. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Plan your animation: Before you even open Photoshop, sketch out your animation. Think about the story you want to tell and the actions that need to happen. This can save you time and help you create a more compelling animation.
  2. Keep it simple: Especially if you're just starting out, don't try to create an epic, feature-length animation. Stick to simple movements and short sequences. As you get more comfortable with the animator's toolbar in Photoshop, you can start to add more complexity.
  3. Use the right tools: Make sure to use the right tool for the job. Frame animations are great for simple, looping animations. Timeline animations, on the other hand, are better for more complex, controlled animations.
  4. Experiment with timing: The timing of your animation can make a big difference in how it's perceived. Play around with different durations for your frames or keyframes to see what works best.
  5. Watch your file size: If you're creating an animation for the web, be mindful of your file size. Too big, and your animation will take too long to load, which can frustrate your viewers.

Remember, animation is all about bringing your images to life. So have fun with it, experiment, and see what you can create with the power of the animator's toolbar in Photoshop!

How to export your animation

So, you've created an awesome animation with your animator's toolbar in Photoshop and now you're ready to share it with the world. But how do you get your animation out of Photoshop and into a format that others can view? Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Save your work: Before you do anything else, make sure to save your Photoshop file (.psd). This will allow you to come back and make changes to your animation in the future if needed.
  2. Choose your format: Next, decide on the format you want to export your animation in. If you're sharing online, a common choice is the GIF format. However, if you need higher quality or more control over the playback, you might choose a video format like .mp4 or .mov.
  3. Export your animation: To export your animation, go to File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy) if you're creating a GIF. If you're exporting a video, you'll go to File > Export > Render Video. Make sure to choose the correct settings for your chosen format in the dialog box that appears.
  4. Test your exported file: Before you share your animation, open the exported file and make sure it plays back correctly. If you see any issues, you can go back to your saved .psd file and make adjustments.

And there you have it! You're now ready to share your animation with the world. Remember, the animator's toolbar in Photoshop is a powerful tool, but it's only as good as the artist wielding it. So keep practicing, keep experimenting, and most importantly, keep creating!

Common issues and how to fix them

Now, let's address a few common issues you might encounter while using the animator's toolbar in Photoshop and offer some quick fixes to get you back on track.

  1. Animation not playing back correctly: If your animation doesn't play back as you expected, it could be due to a few reasons. First, double-check the frame rates and timing. Adjusting these in the timeline can often fix playback issues. If that doesn't help, ensure all layers are visible and not accidentally hidden.
  2. Exported file is too large: If you're creating a GIF and the file size is too large, try reducing the number of colors or lowering the resolution during the export process. Remember, more frames and higher resolutions result in bigger files.
  3. Unable to export to video: If you're unable to export your animation as a video, make sure you're using the latest version of Photoshop. Older versions might lack this feature. Also, confirm that your animation doesn't contain any hidden or locked layers, which can cause issues during export.
  4. Animation appears choppy: If your animation seems choppy or not smooth, it might be because the frame rate is too low. Try increasing the frame rate in the timeline settings. But be aware — higher frame rates may increase the file size.

Working with the animator's toolbar in Photoshop can sometimes be a bit of a juggle, but don't let these common issues discourage you. Remember, every problem has a solution, and with a bit of patience and practice, you'll be animating like a pro in no time!

Resources for learning more about Photoshop animation

Feeling inspired to dive deeper into the world of Photoshop animation? Don't worry, there's a wealth of resources available to help you master the animator's toolbar in Photoshop and beyond. Here are some you might find helpful:

  1. Adobe's Official Tutorials: Adobe, the company behind Photoshop, offers a range of official tutorials. They can walk you through the basics and more advanced features of the animator's toolbar in Photoshop.
  2. Online Learning Platforms: Websites such as Coursera, Udemy, and Skillshare offer a variety of courses in Photoshop animation, taught by industry professionals. These can be a great way to learn at your own pace.
  3. YouTube Channels: There are countless YouTube channels dedicated to Photoshop tutorials, including animation. Channels like Photoshop Training Channel or Tutvid are known for their in-depth, easy-to-follow tutorials.
  4. Books: If you prefer a more traditional approach, there are many books available. Titles like "Adobe Photoshop CC Classroom in a Book" or "Photoshop CS6: The Missing Manual" can be very useful.
  5. Online Forums: Websites like Reddit and Adobe's own community forums have sections dedicated to Photoshop where you can ask questions and learn from others.

Remember, the key to mastering the animator's toolbar in Photoshop — or anything, really — is practice. So, don't be afraid to experiment, make mistakes, and keep learning. Happy animating!

If you're just getting started with Photoshop animation and want to expand your skills further, don't miss out on learning from our 'Daisie Original Animation Course' with none another than Alex Jenkins who will you take you through his complete animation process. Dive in and take your animation skills to the next level!