Best Free Photoshop Brushes for Painting: Top 13 Guide for 2019

Best Free Photoshop Brushes for Painting: Top 13 Guide for 2019

1. Wavenwater Brushes and Tool Presets

  • Designer: Michael Guimont
  • Usage: Free for personal use (contact artist for commercial licence)

Kicking our list off is this comprehensive set of Photoshop brushes from freelance concept artist and illustrator Michael Guimont. We haven’t counted exactly how many brushes are included in this set, but there are lots of options to add serious flair to your artwork. 

2. Sakimichan – Photoshop Brushes

sakimichan photoshop brushes for painting
sakimichan photoshop brushes for painting
  • Designer: Sakimichan
  • Usage: Free for commercial and personal use

Deviant Art member sakimichan has made 56 of her favourite custom Photoshop brushes available to download for free in this big bundle. She recommends painting at 70-100% opacity with the pressure option on, and says that the brushes are already set up for this. Bear in mind these brushes were created in PS5 and although they work in CS4 and CS3, she isn’t sure about other versions. (Although the comments on the page suggest they work for CS6 and CC too.)

3. Brushes

  • Designer: Aaron Griffin
  • Usage: Free for commercial and personal use

Aaron Griffin is a self-taught illustrator and concept artist known especially for his figure paintings. He’s generously offering up the Photoshop brushes he uses to create his digital paintings free of charge.

4. Thick Acrylic Paint Strokes Vol. 2

  • Designer: Creative Nerds
  • Usage: Free for commercial and personal use

The second instalment of a popular set of free Photoshop brushes from Creative Nerds, Thick Acrylic Paint Strokes volume 2 lets you quickly add an authentic paint effect to your illustrations. The brushes are free for both personal and commercial work – but you’re not permitted to redistribute or modify them for resale.

5. Paint Lines

  • Designer: env1ro
  • Usage: Free for personal use; email him about commercial use

These 24 very hi-res brushes will provide a real-media feel to your design work. Some brushes look like paint tin marks, while others are thicker, meaning there’s lots of options within the pack.

6. Dry Brush Strokes

  • Designer: Chris Spooner
  • Usage: Free for personal and commercial use

A set of 12 excellent free Photoshop brushes from Chris Spooner. These high-resolution dry brushes are fantastically detailed, bristly and texture-rich. Featuring whispy lines and detailed edges, they’re perfect for roughing up your artwork or distressing your edges

7. Photoshop Dry Brushes

  • Artist: Kirk Wallace
  • Usage: Free for personal and commercial use

Artist Kirk Wallace created these Photoshop brushes at home using ink and paper, and offers them to you for free. Perfect for creating rough, harsh textures, they’re also dynamic – you can click and drag to span larger areas without getting an ugly repeat effect, or you can paint with them.

8. Dripping Liquid Brushes

  • Artist: LilithDemoness
  • Usage: Free for personal and commercial use

Add realistic dribbles of paint to your digital designs with these free Photoshop brushes. They’re the work of DeviantArt user LilithDemoness and there are 14 in the set to choose from. 

9. Spray Paint

  • Designer: Creative Nerds
  • Usage: Free for personal and commercial use

Creative Nerds is offering this spray paint effect Photoshop brush set completely free. The pack includes four high-res brushes (2500px each). Use them to add a distressed effect to your paintings.

10. Darek Zabrocki Brush Set

  • Artist: Darek Zabrocki
  • Usage: Free for personal and commercial use

Concept artist Darek Zabrocki has worked for some of the biggest projects and companies in the fantasy art world, including Assassin’s Creed, Magic: The Gathering and Halo Wars 2. He’s generously offering the set of Photoshop brushes he uses for his speedpaintings for free download.

11. Soft Furry Watercolor

  • Designer: Heygrey
  • Usage: Free for personal and commercial use

If you’re looking to create a soft, hazy aesthetic in your work, try this free Photoshop brush from Heygrey. It is described as a ‘furry watercolor brush’, and the creator suggests using it to create hazy backgrounds. We’re especially impressed with the realistic watercolor effect that has been achieved here.

12. Watercolor Spray

  • Designer: Creative Nerds
  • Usage: Free for personal and commercial use

This large-scale Photoshop brush is handy for creating a watercolor spray effect in your digital artwork. The creator has achieved an impressively authentic effect, which you can apply to your own artwork with ease.

13. Watercolor Splatters

  • Designer: pstutorialsws
  • Usage: Free for personal and commercial use

These watercolor splatters were created with the help of professional-quality watercolor paint on cold press watercolor paper. There are 32 high-res Photoshop bushes in the pack – they work with Photoshop 7, CS, CS2, CS3, CS4, CS5, CS6 and CC – and you can download the lot for free.

Brush Information (basic):

Photoshop uses the generic term “brush” to represent any of the drawing tools. Thus, the “paint brush” tool will have a brush and the “pencil” tool will also have a brush. This is a little confusing at first but you will quickly get the hang of the terminology. Actually, it helps to think of a brush as the “drawing edge” of whatever drawing tool you are using. Thus, drawing from Photoshop’s art studio metaphor, a paint brush’s brush would be the bristles of the paint brush while a pencil tool’s brush would be the pencil’s tip.

Photoshop uses the generic term “brush” to represent any of the drawing tools. Thus, the “paint brush” tool will have a brush and the “pencil” tool will also have a brush. This is a little confusing at first but you will quickly get the hang of the terminology. Actually, it helps to think of a brush as the “drawing edge” of whatever drawing tool you are using. Thus, drawing from Photoshop’s art studio metaphor, a paint brush’s brush would be the bristles of the paint brush while a pencil tool’s brush would be the pencil’s tip.

The importance of defining the “brush” is that once defined, brushes can be customized. For example, you can change the shape or size of your brush. Think of a dull pencil point versus a sharp pencil point and imagine the different types of lines the pencils would draw. Similarly, think of the shape of a calligraphy pen versus the tip of a magic marker or even a highlighting pen. Though the default brush is plenty powerful, it is useful to get the hang of working with custom brushes because each type of brush will be better or worse in various situations.

Make an Animated GIF with Photoshop – How to Guide

Make an Animated GIF with Photoshop – How to Guide

10 Easy to Follow Steps:

  1. Upload your images to Photoshop.
  2. Open up the Timeline window.
  3. In the Timeline window, click “Create Frame Animation.”
  4. Create a new layer for each new frame.
  5. Open the same menu icon on the right, and choose “Make Frames From Layers.”
  6. Under each frame, select how long it should appear for before switching to the next frame.
  7. At the bottom of the toolbar, select how many times you’d like it to loop.
  8. Preview your GIF by pressing the play icon.
  9. Save and Export Your GIF.
  10. You’ve created a GIF!

What is a GIF?

If you’ve spent any time on the internet at all, you’ve probably come in contact with an animated GIF. It’s an image file that allows you to feature animated images, which makes it seem like the image is moving. Think of them as a hybrid between a still image and a video.

Why are GIFs great additions to virtually any website? They’re easy to consume, provide a new way to capture your viewers’ attention, and can potentially create an emotional impact. And since content that makes us feel something encourages us to share, these tiny animations are worth experimenting with.

The best part about GIFs is that they aren’t too hard to make. If you have access to Photoshop and a few minutes to spare, you can create an animated GIF in no time.

If you don’t already have a copy of Photoshop, here’s the official Adobe link to buy or obtain a free trial of Adobe Photoshop CC.

In the following guide on making animated GIFs, I’m using Photoshop CC.

How to Create an Animated GIF with Photoshop

Here’s a basic example of an animated GIF you could make using this guide:


Alright, let’s get started.

Step 1: Upload your images to Photoshop.

If you already have images created …

Gather the images you want in a separate folder. To upload them into Photoshop, click File > Scripts > Load Files Into Stack.


Then, select Browse, and choose which files you’d like to use in your GIF. Then, click OK.


Photoshop will then create a separate layer for each image you’ve selected. Once you’ve done that, skip to step two.

If you don’t already have the series of images created …

Create each frame of the animated GIF as a different Photoshop layer. To add a new layer, chose Layer New Layer.


Be sure to name your layers so you can keep track of them easily when you make your GIF. To name a layer, go to the Layer panel on the bottom right of your screen, double-click on the default layer name, and type in the name you want to change it to. Press Enter when you’re finished.


Once you have your layers in there and you’ve named them all, you’re ready for step two.

Pro Tip: If you want to combine layers so they appear in a single frame in your GIF, turn visibility on for the layers you want to merge (by clicking on the “eye” to the left of each layer name so only the eyes for the layers you want to merge are open). Next, press Shift + Command + Option + E (Mac) or Shift + Ctrl + Alt + E (Windows). Photoshop will create a new layer containing the merged content, which you should also rename.

Step 2: Open up the Timeline window.

To open Timeline, go to the top navigation, choose Window > Timeline. The Timeline will let you turn different layers on and off for different periods of time, thereby turning your static image into a GIF.


The Timeline window will appear at the bottom of your screen. Here’s what it looks like:


Step 3: In the Timeline window, click “Create Frame Animation.”

If it’s not automatically selected, choose it from the dropdown menu — but then be sure to actually click it, otherwise the frame animation options won’t show up.


Now, your Timeline should look something like this:


Step 4: Create a new layer for each new frame.

To do this, first select all your layers by going to the top navigation menu and choosing Select > All Layers.

Then, click the menu icon on the right of the Timeline screen.


From the dropdown menu that appears, choose Create new layer for each new frame.


Step 5: Open the same menu icon on the right, and choose “Make Frames From Layers.”

This will make each layer a frame of your GIF.


Step 6: Under each frame, select how long it should appear for before switching to the next frame.

To do this, click the time below each frame and choose how long you’d like it to appear. In our case, we chose 0.5 seconds per frame.


Step 7: At the bottom of the toolbar, select how many times you’d like it to loop.

The default will say Once, but you can loop it as many times as you want, including Forever. Click Other if you’d like to specify a custom number of repetitions. 


Step 8: Preview your GIF by pressing the play icon.


Step 9: Save and Export Your GIF

Satisfied with your GIF? Save it to use online by going to the top navigation bar and clicking File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy)…


Next, choose the type of GIF file you’d like to save it as under the Presetdropdown. If you have a GIF with gradients, choose Dithered GIFs to prevent color banding. If your image employs a lot of solid colors, you may opt for no dither. 

The number next to the GIF file determines how large (and how precise) the GIF colors will be compared to the original JPEGs or PNGs. According to Adobe, a higher dithering percentage translates to the appearance of more colors and detail — but it increases the file size. 


Click Save at the bottom to save the file to your computer. Now you’re ready to upload this GIF to use in your marketing! 

Upload the GIF file into any place online that you’d put an image, and it should play seamlessly. Here’s what the final product might look like:


How to Use GIFs in Your Marketing

1) On social media.

Pinterest was the first to enable animated GIFs, followed by Twitter. And by the summer of 2015, Facebook had also jumped on the GIF bandwagon. Then, Instagram changed the game with Boomerang, which lets users film and share their own GIFs. On any of these social feeds, animated GIFs can be a great way to stand out in a crowded feed.

2) In your emails.

Animated GIFs display in email the same way a regular image does. So why not spruce up your emails by replacing still images with animated ones?

Not only could this help capture recipients’ attention with novelty alone, but it could also have a direct impact on your bottom line. For some brands, including an animated GIF in emails correlated with as much as a 109% increase in revenue.

Make use of GIFs by showcasing products, making event announcements, or otherwise enticing readers. Check out the GIF below from women’s clothing shop Ann Taylor LOFT: They made a present look like it’s shaking to create intrigue and get recipients to click through to “unwrap” their gift.


Source: Litmus

3) In blog posts.

Your blog post doesn’t have to be about animated GIFs or structured like a BuzzFeed-style listicle to include GIFs — although, we do love a good dose of silly listicle GIFs every once in a while.

references: hubspot

Now you can share this info to anyone else asking “How do make an animated GIF with Photoshop?”

Learn How to Create an Animated Sprite with Photoshop

Learn How to Create an Animated Sprite with Photoshop

What You’ll Be Creating

In this guide, I will show you how to create an animated sprite with Photoshop, using just a few simple tools. In the process, I will cover all of the basic rules that you can apply to your future pixel art illustrations.

If you do not have a copy of Adobe Photoshop, I would recommend signing up for Adobe Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud).

Here’s the official link:
Adobe Photoshop CC

Select the Pencil Tool from the Toolbar, it will be your primary instrument for this guide. Select a Hard Round brush in the Brush settings and apply the settings shown below. Your aim is to make the line absolutely sharp.

Brush Settings

Set up Pencil Mode for the Eraser Tool and use the same brush settings as below.

Turn on the Pixel Grid (View > Show > Pixel Grid). If you don’t see this item in the menu, go to Preferences > Performance and turn on the graphic acceleration.

Note: The grid will be seen only on a newly created canvas with zoom level 600%and above.

Show Pixel Grid
Use Graphic Acceleration

Go to Preferences > General (Control-K) and set up Image Interpolation to Nearest Neighbor. This will ensure that the edges of the objects you work with always stay sharp.

Preferences - General

Go to Preferences > Units & Rulers and choose Pixels in the drop-down menu near Rulers to see all measurements in pixels.

Preferences - Units  Rulers

Now that everything is set up, we can start creating the sprite.

Make a sketch of a character with a distinct silhouette, and try not to overload it with many details. It’s not important to paint the colors, the outline should be enough, as long as you understand how your character should look. I prepared a sketch of a space trooper for this guide.


Press Control-T or use Edit > Free Transform to scale down your character to 60px in height.

The size of the object is shown in the Info panel. Notice the Interpolation setting, it should be the same as we set in Step 4. In this case, it’s not that important, as we are only turning a sketch into pixel art, but pay attention to that feature in future when you work with pixelated objects.

Scale Down Character

Zoom in to the image by 300-400% to make it easier to render. Reduce the opacity of your sketch.

Create a new layer (Layer > New > Layer) and draw an outline of your character with the Pencil Tool.

If your character is symmetrical, like mine is, just create one half, duplicate it, and flip it horizontally (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal).

Outline Process

Rule of the Rhythm: Try to split complex shapes into simple elements. When pixels in the line form a “rhythm” like 1-2-3 and 1-1-2-2-3-3 the outline looks much better to the human eye than a randomly drawn line. However this rule can be broken if the shape requires it.

Rule of the Rhythm
Two rhythmic and one randomly drawn line.

When the outline is ready, choose main colors and paint large shapes. Do it on a separate layer beneath the one with the outline.

Painting Large Shapes

Smooth the inner side of the outline by adding shades of the color.

Adding Shades

Keep adding more shades. As you can see, I corrected some shapes and details along the way.

Adding Shades Process

Create a new layer to add the highlight.

Choose Overlay from the drop down menu on the Layer panel. Paint with a light color over the areas you want to highlight. Smooth the shape of highlighted area by choosing Filter > Blur > Blur.

Adding Highlight

I flipped the painted half horizontally, added final color touches here and there, and merged the layers.

Final Touches

The character now lacks contrast. Use Levels (Image > Adjustments > Levels) first and then change the tone or halftone with Color Balance (Image > Adjustments > Color Balance) to make warmer and cooler versions.

Tuning With Levels and Color Balance

I decided to go with the third version. Now let’s move on to the animation process.

Final Character
Final character with 400% zoom.

Create a copy of the layer (Layer > New > Layer Via Copy) and move it 1 pixel up and 2 pixels right selecting Move Tool (V) and using your arrow keys. This is the key phase for animating the running character.

Change the original layer’s Opacity to 50% to see previous frame of animation. This is called “Onion Skinning.”

Creating Next Frame

Now bend the character’s legs and arms as if it is running.

  • Select the left arm using Lasso Tool
  • Using Free Transform Tool (Edit > Free Transform) and holding Control move the container markers to lead the arm behind the back
  • Select the shank of the right leg and move it down as on the first frame – we need that leg stretched.
  • Select the left leg and move it up – this leg bends up
  • Using Pencil and Eraser Tools, redraw all the elbow parts of the right arm.
Creating Running Phase

Now you will need to redraw the new position of the legs and arms as I explained inSection 2 of this guide. This is because transforming the legs and arms will distort the pixels, and the shape will no longer be clean.

Finalizing Running Phase

Make the copy of the second layer and flip it horizontally. And now you have one idle position and two running phases. Select each layer and restore its Opacity to 100%.

Flipping Running Phase

Go to Window > Timeline to show Timeline panel and press Create Frame Animation.

Create Frame Animation

In the Timeline panel, perform the following steps:

  1. Choose Frame Delay time 0.15 sec
  2. Click on Duplicates Selected Frames button to add 3 more copies
  3. Change looping options to Forever
Duplicate Frames

To choose the proper layer for each animation frame, click on the Eye icon near the layer name in the Layer panel.

  • 1st frame: choose idle position
  • 2nd frame: choose the second layer
  • 3rd frame: choose idle position once again
  • 4th frame: choose the third layer
Choose Proper Layer For Each Frame

Press Space button to play the animation.

Final Animation Preview
Final animation with 100% zoom.

Now save your result. Go to File > Save For Web and select GIF format. Scale image size to 300% for better presentation and press Save.

Save For Web Settings

In this guide, I showed you how to draw and animate a pixel art character in Photoshop. In the process, you learned how to set up your canvas and tools, how to draw your character using the Pencil Tool, as well as how to animate your character using Photoshop‘s Timeline feature. I hope that you learned something from this guide and can use these techniques to create some pixel art of your own.

Final Animation

references: tutsplus

I’ve listed some related items that may be of interest to you:

What is a Favicon, and How Do You Make a Favicon?

What is a Favicon, and How Do You Make a Favicon?


A favicon is a small 16×16 pixel icon that appears at the top of a web browser. It serves as branding for your website and a convenient way for visitors to locate your page when they have multiple tabs open. Because of their tiny size, favicons work best as simple images or one-to-three characters of text.

what is a favicon

Example of favicons on a desktop browser.

To get a favicon for your website, you could hire a freelance designer to create one based on your logo and brand colors, or (I would highly recommend) create the favicon yourself.

Favicon Sizes and Formats

16×16 pixels is the standard size used by desktop website browsers. However, many website builders will ask for larger sizes. For example, WordPress requires 512×512 pixels and Squarespace asks for 300×300 pixels.

This is because favicons are not only used in browser bars. They are also displayed when a user bookmarks a site or saves a shortcut to their desktop or mobile home screen. In these cases, the size of the icon grows much larger.

what is a favicon

Example of favicons on a smartphone home screen. These icons are significantly larger than the desktop favicons pictured further above.

To be safe, try to upload whatever image size is requested by your website builder. Again, for WordPress, this is 512×512 pixels. WordPress will automatically resize and display the proper image for each scenario, so you don’t have to worry about resizing them yourself.

The standard file format for favicons is .ico but most website platforms will also accept .png files.

How to Make a Favicon

The majority of websites I create is via WordPress (site icon), so I simply need to create a 512px x 512px (icon) png. I personally prefer using photoshop to create favicons, but other visual/photo editors should work even Microsoft Paint. Even if you have limited graphic design experience you should not be overwhelmed by any means by this “project”.

1. Create a blank 512px x 512px canvas (working area).

2. Create a basic icon via combining basic geometric shapes with a shape tool or even simply large letters with a text tool.

What is a favicon and how do you make a favicon?
What is a favicon and how do you make a favicon?

Optional: I personally prefer a favicon w/o a background, so if using photoshop unlock the background layer and delete it which will create a transparent background.

3. Save the image as a 512px x 512px png file.

Congrats you’ve now created a favicon! It’s that easy!

Now you can share this knowledge/skill to anyone else asking “What is a Favicon?… How Do You Make a Favicon?”

What’s the Difference Between DPI and PPI?

There seems to be a great deal of confusion among many people regarding the use of some terms in digital imaging. One of the more common sources of confusion is the difference between DPI and PPI. The main problem with this is that DPI (dots per inch) is an old term that has been applied to everything relating to resolution and the size of a digital image. This is very confusing because different situations work with resolution in very different ways, and having a single term for all of them just makes things more confusing. More recently, the term PPI (pixels per inch) has appeared in common usage and is far more specific for what the term entails. DPI is still used in some documents and software when PPI is really what they mean, but this is changing. This article is an attempt to explain what the 2 terms mean and how they should be used.


Let’s start with PPI, it’s easy to understand. This is the number of pixels per inch in your image. This will affect the print size of your photo and will affect the quality of the output. The way that it will affect the quality of the output is that if there are too few pixels per inch, then the pixels will be very large and you will get a very pixelated image (jagged edges, you will actually see individual pixels, not good). You’ll hear various different numbers thrown around as to what an acceptable PPI for a print-out is. A lot of this will depend on the size of the print. This is because you look at large prints from a further distance than a small print, so you can get away with a lower PPI and still have the image look fine.

All that PPI does is affect the print size of the image. There are 2 ways that you can change the print size, by resampling or by not resampling. Not resampling is what you normally want to do, this will only change the size of the print. Using resampling will actually change the number of pixels (and thus the file size) in order to match the print size. So for instance, if you don’t resample, changing the PPI setting will increase or decrease the print size (it will increase if you drop the PPI, it will decrease if you increase the PPI). With resampling, if you change the PPI, you will loose pixels (if you set the PPI to a lower value) or you will have pixels created (if you increase the PPI). Creating pixels is a bad idea, they get generated by the computer and the results aren’t usually that good. Throwing away pixels is fine as long as you won’t need the bigger size later (that’s why it’s usually a good idea to save the original large file).

An Example

Suppose you have a 100 x 100 pixel image, it could be printed at many different sizes. If you set the image to print at 10 PPI, then you’d have a 10″ x 10″ image. If you set the image to print at 100 PPI, you’d have a 1″ x 1″ image. Note that adjusting this value doesn’t effect the number of pixels in the image at all, it just changes how big the print will be.

Take our 100 x 100 pixel image again. Suppose it’s set at 100 PPI (producing the same 1″ x 1″ printed image). With re-sampling off, when you adjust the PPI the dimensions adjust as well, this is how things worked in the example above. With re-sampling on, the dimensions won’t change. So, if you changed the PPI to 10 with re-sampling on, you would still keep a 1″ x 1″ image and the computer would throw out pixels to make the image stay that size. So in this case, you’d end up with a 10 x 10 pixel image in the end. If you went the other way, and changed the PPI to 300, then the computer would generate pixels to make a 300 x 300 pixel image that’s still 1″ x 1″ when printed.

Usually, the only reason you want to use re-sampling is for reducing the size of your image. For example, my scanner produces 3888 x 2592 images. These images are too big to use online (both for display and because of file size). By using re-sampling, I can adjust the size of the images to something more appropriate for online use.


Now let’s talk about DPI. DPI only refers to the printer. Every pixel output is made up of different coloured inks (usually 4-6 colours, although many printers use more now). Because of the small number of colours, the printer needs to be able to mix these inks to make up all the colours of the image. So each pixel of the image is created by a series of tiny dots (you could think of them as sub-pixels). Generally, the higher the DPI, the better the tonality of the image, colours should look better and blends between colours should be smoother. You’ll also use more ink and the print job will be slower. You might want to try setting your printer to a lower DPI to save ink and speed up the job, see if you notice any difference in quality. The lowest setting where you don’t see any loss in quality should be the best one to use.

So a 1200 dpi printer uses 1200 dots of ink in every inch to make up the colors. If you were printing a 300 PPI image, then every pixel would be made up of 16 smaller ink dots (1200 DPI x 1200 DPI / 300 PPI x 300 PPI). A lower DPI would have fewer ink dots making up each pixel, which would make the color look worse. A higher DPI would have more ink dots for each pixel and should give more accurate color (especially under close examination).

references: 99 Designs, Andrew Dacey

Create an Animated Interface GIF with Photoshop

Create an Animated Interface GIF with Photoshop

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

Ever wanted to turn an app interface PSD into a fully animated demo for your clients or site? Turns out, you can use Photoshop for that, too.

In this tutorial, we will design a simple news iPhone app, and then animate it for client presentation and export it as a GIF file. You’ll learn everything you need to go from idea to animated demo, all inside any recent version of Photoshop.

We’ve used Photoshop CC in this tutorial, but CS5 or 6 would work as well to follow along. You will also need the following stock photo to complete this tutorial. Please download them before you begin, or substitute with a similar picture and adjust the steps accordingly:

First, we will start designing the app’s interface. Make a new file (Control-N) with canvas size 640 px by 1136 px, then click OK.

If instead you already have an app interface designed, you can open it in Photoshop and then jump to the Tap section of this tutorial.

new doc

Click View > New Guide to make new guide, which will help us in placing GUI elements accurately. Set it to Vertical with position 15 px.

guide in place

Add another vertical guide at each side of the canvas with 15 px distance between each guide.

15px guides

Draw another guide, this time horizontally at 40 px, 128 px, and 220 px.

horizontal guides
all guides in place

Add a status bar on the upper most section of your canvas. If you need detailed directions on that, check out the status bar section of our earlier tutorial How to Design an iOS 7 Email App in Photoshop.

Then, make a new layer and then select second section and then fill it a gray color,#2c3137.

status bar

Add the app’s title text on the top part of the interface.


Add a logo to the title. I just drew some simple rectangles for the logo, but if you have an existing app icon, you can just import it into a new layer.


Draw a magnifier icon using a combination of two circle shapes and a rounded rectangle, using the same color as the app logo. Place it on the right side of the app.

search icon

On the other side, draw four rounded rectangles for the option icon.


Make a new layer with a rectangle section that fits under the titlebar. Fill the next section with a gray color, just as the previous section.

next bar

Add a layer mask onto the layer, and then add a black to white gradient until the bottom is faded.


Add a menu using the Type Tool, containing the news categories. Set the first menu—in this case, the All option—to be bold, to indicate that the category is active. Duplicate it (Control-J) and then set other menu—in this case, Sport—to be bold, once again to indicate which category is selected.

Now, from the Layers panel, set the Sport menu Opacity to 0% to hide it, as we want the All category to be bold first.


Add a thin arrow for menu navigation, made of rounded rectangles.

nav arrow

Add another arrow onto the other side.

matching nav arrow

Fill the rest of the interface with the gray color. Make sure to put this background underneath all the GUI elements.


Draw a light gray rectangle for the individual news section background.

lighter background

Apply Stroke, Inner Glow, and Outer Glow to add more contrast to the news area. Double click the layer and then use the following settings from the screenshots below:

inner glow
outer glow

Draw a white rounded rectangle on the top part of the previous shape. We will put news image here.

news element

Apply Inner Glow into the white shape with the following settings:

news entry glow

Select a photo from the Tuts+ Stock Photo set you previously downloaded, or any other photos you’d like to use, and place it covering the white rounded rectangle shape.

photo in news

Hit Control-Alt-G to convert selected photo layer into a Clipping Mask. The photo will automatically go inside layer behind it. And, here’s what you see:A perfectly placed photo on top of the individual news area.

photo placement

Add text for the news content. Make sure to add contrast to the news text for a better reading experience by varying font type, color, and size.

styled text

Let’s add icons into the news element design. Draw two small rounded rectangles without Fill and 1 pt white stroke.


Double click the layer and then add layer style Color Overlay. Use #708196 for its color.

add color overlay

Repeat previous process, but this time uses a combination of a rounded rectangle and a rectangle.

another icon

Add a small circle shape. Now, we have a tag icon. Sweet!

tag and link icons

So far, this is our app design at 100% magnification.

100 magnified app UI

Add other individual news articles into the app by duplicating the news element layers, customizing them appropriately.

filled articles

Add bigger news area. This will be shown when an individual news is selected.

larger news area

Put all the individual news elements and big news stories in separate layer groups. You want to assure every layer is carefully placed into a layer group according to its element.

For example, you want each layer that made the first individual news section placed together in a layer group, and the elements for full-screen news articles in other groups. This will help you to work easier while making the animation.

layer groups

For now, we will not use this big news section. So, set its Opacity to 0%.

We now need to design the tap indicator. Make a new layer group and name it tap. Next, draw a white circle shape. Set its Opacity to 50%.

tap sector

Duplicate the circle shape by pressing Control-J. Make it larger, set stroke to 3 ptwith a white color, and remove the Fill color.

tap border

Add another circle shape, this time thinner. Set its stroke size to 2 pt.

thinner circle

Hide all the layers inside tap layer group we have just made, as you won’t want the taps to show up when the UI is first loaded, but instead will only display them when the animation is fixing to transition to a selected element.

Now, we’re finally ready to start building our UI animation. Open the Timeline panel and then make a new frame.


Make another new frame.

another new frame

Now it’s time to reveal the tap layer group. When showing a scrolling scene, hide the two stroked circles, and we are going to use this condition to indicate scroll gesture. It will appear more as a continuous stroke, whereas the outer stroked circles give a ripple appearance more consistent with a single tap to select an item.

scrolling circle

Change the duration to 1 second for first frame and 0.2 seconds for second frame.


Add another frame.

another new frame

Activate the Tap layer group and all the news grid layers. Use Move Tool to move them up in your list of layers.

move layer groups

To automatically make a smooth animation between current and previous frame, click Tween from Timeline panel menu.


Set the tween to 5 for the added frame.

tween of 5

Now, we have an animation of the news grid moving upward on each frame.

auto-generated news grid animation
news grid animation 2

If you think that the animation is too fast, you can make it slower by selecting all the frames and setting the duration to 0.2 seconds.

slower animation

Test the animation by clicking the play icon in the Timeline panel. Don’t forget to set the animation to Forever; this way the animation is looped.


Our current animation contains the news grid moving upward. In next frame, we need to put it back to previous condition so it will continue seamlessly with the first frame. To do this, copy the second frame and then paste it at the last position by choosing Paste After Selection in the dialogue box.

copy frame
paste frame
paste after selection

Apply the Tween command again to make a new animation between last and next-to-last frames.

tween again
5 frame tween

Add a new frame and hide the tap indicator.

hidden tap

So far, this is the animation we get, which gives us a basic scrolling UI.

animated UI scroll

Now it’s time to animate the selection of a link in the menu. First, make a new frame. In this frame, set the Opacity text menu with the selected bold variant of All from the menu set to 0% and Sport‘s selected variant’s transparency set to 100%.

bold sport

Activate the Tap layer group and reveal all its layers. Change frame duration to 0.2 seconds.

add a tap

Make a new frame with a duration of 0.1 seconds. This time hides the thinnest stroked circle.

hide outer circle

Add another frame and hide next stroked circle.

hide next circle

Add a new frame and hide the tap layer group.

hide tap

Make a new frame and then set the Opacity of every news story in the grid without the sport tag to 0%.

hide non-sport stories

Still in this frame, drag the individual sports news stories upward in the grid, filling empty spaces above them.

filled sport story sections

Tween between current frame and the previous. For faster animation, set added frames to 3.

animate change

Set duration in the last frame to 2 seconds.

2 second last frame

For this tap, this is the animation we have.

sport animation

Next, we are going to select one of the news articles and reveal it in full screen. First, make new frame with duration 0.2 seconds and then reveal all layers inside the Tap layer group.

tap news start

Add new frame and then set its duration to 0.1 seconds. Hide thinnest circle stroke.

hide thin circle again

Add another frame and then hide next stroked circle.

hide second circle again

Add another frame with duration 0.1 seconds. Hide the Tap layer group, and make a new frame. Reveal the big news section we made earlier in Section 1 Step 28 by setting its Opacity to 100%. Hide the small news grid by setting its Opacity to 0%.

show large story

Add tween animation between the current frame and the previous ones.

tween news story
finished full news story

This is what we have for this animation.

finished news animation

From Timeline panel, click Flatten Frames Into Layers.

flatten layers into frames

Each frame will be converted into a flat layer. If you have 33 frames, you will also get 33 flat layers: layer Frame 1 taken from content of frame 1, layer Frame 2 taken from frame 2, and so on.

new frames

Select all frame layers in Layers panel.

select all

Drag the layers onto the iPhone photo that you downloaded previously.

iphone pic

In Timeline panel, select Create Frame Animation and then click New Framebutton.

create frame animation

Make sure all layers are still selected. Hit Control-T to perform a transformation. Hold Control and then drag each corner and place them onto the screen corner.

place news animation into iPhone screen
fit edges
and again
and yet again
and now its good

Make a new frame for each layer. Put layer Frame 1 in the first frame, layer Frame 2in second frame, layer Frame 3 in third frame, and so on. You also want to match the duration for each of the frame. Make sure to set the loop to Forever, so the animation will keep on looping.

animate everything

Look at picture below for an example. Layer Frame 23 is revealed on frame 23. Layer Frame 25 is revealed on frame 25, and so on. Continue this for each frame.

keep animating

It’s time to export the result as animated GIF file. Select Save for Web in the File menu, and select GIF as file type. Play around with available settings to get the optimum file size. Test the animation result by clicking on the play button. Make sure to set its Looping Options to Forever.

save as gif

And that’s it: you’ve designed a demo app UI, animated it, and put the animation inside an iPhone picture to make the animation look like it’s running on a real device.


Reference: tutsplus

Learn How to Create Animations with Photoshop (Lesson 3)

Learn How to Create Animations with Photoshop (Lesson 3)

Putting Everything Together

Now that we’ve learned the concepts behind more complex animations, it’s time to put them into practice. In this next section, we’ll explore three advanced animations and how to create them.


In this tutorial, we will be using the template layer technique to animate the spinning hands of the clock. We will also use layer styles with the animated elements to add depth to the objects in our scene. This is what we’ll be creating:

Animation of the hands of a clock.

The scene starts with two new layers: One contains the shape of a minute hand (in red), and the other is our template object (in gray).

Two new layers: the minute hand and a template layer
Step 1: Two new layers: the minute hand and a template layer. (View large version)

Just as we learned earlier, we will convert these two layers into a smart object and animate the rotation.

Step 2: Layers combined as a smart object are animated as one.

To lock the animation, convert the layers into another smart object. This will allow us to transfrom (Control + T) the smart object so that it appears to be in perspective, as seen in the image below.

Step 3: Animation is transformed into perspective.

Next, we need to go back into the original smart object and hide the template layer. When we save and return to our working document, we should see our minute hand rotate without the template layer.

Step 4: Animation with template layer hidden.

Adding the Drop Shadow layer style with a “Spread” setting of 100% will simulate some depth.

Step 5: Drop Shadow simulates the edges of the clock hand.

Repeating these steps, we can create the hour hand. (I’ve readjusted the timing to fit in the animation of the hour hand.)

Step 6: Hour and minute hand animating.

Lastly, we can create the rest of the clock using traditional Photoshop techniques. The result is a clock that animates in perspective.

Animation of the hands of a clock.

In this tutorial, we’ve learned how to use template layers to create more complicated movements. We’ve also learned how to use transformations and layer styles to create the illusion of perspective in our animation.


In this tutorial, we will apply filters to animated smart objects in order to create a new effect. This is what we’ll be creating:

Animation of a revolving globe.

Below is the base image we’ll be using. Notice that it repeats itself. This is important because it will help us to create a looping animation in the next step.

Image of the repeating graphic that will be animated.
Step 1: Image of the repeating graphic that will be animated. (View large version)

I’ve created a new square document and added the graphic of the world map as a new layer. I’ve gone ahead and animated the Position property so that the world map scrolls across the scene. It’s been timed to loop when it starts over.

Step 2: Simple looping animation.

Next, convert this layer into a smart object.

Convert simple animation into a smart object
Step 3: Convert simple animation into a smart object. (View large version)

Before we do anything else, I want to show you what’s going on with the layer. If I go to “View” → “Show” → “Layers Edges,” we can see the bounding box of the layer as it animates. This will be important when we add filters. Also, notice that our animation loop seamlessly.

Step 4: Layer boundaries visible during animation.

At this point, our scene is still not ready for us to add a filter. But let’s take a moment to explore why — we’ll add the Spherize filter to see what happens. When the filter is added, we can see that it’s not being applied within the confines of our canvas; rather, it’s being applied directly to the whole layer. The result is a distorted map that moves through the canvas. Also, notice how this disrupts the looping that we saw in the previous step. This is not the effect we are after.

Step 5: Filter applied to the layer boundaries.

We now know that we have a little more work to do in order for the filter to be applied correctly. To make sure that the filter applies only to the boundaries of the canvas, we need to create a layer mask. First, go to “Select” → “All” to select the entire canvas. Next, click the “Add Layer Mask” icon in the Layers panel. We should now have a layer mask applied to our layer.

New layer mask added
Step 6: New layer mask added. (View large version)

Convert this layer to a new smart object. Our resulting smart object layer will now animate within the boundaries of the canvas. If we add the Spherize filter again, we can see that it’s being applied correctly when we play the animation. Go ahead and add the Spherize filter a second time to increase its effect.

Step 7: Filter applied to the boundaries of the canvas.

Now that our effect is working properly, we can create another layer mask in the shape of a circle to hide unwanted pixels.

Step 8: Layer Mask hides everything outside of the globe shape.

To finish, you can now add layer styles directly to the smart object animation for embellishments.

Animation of a revolving globe.

In this tutorial, we’ve learned how to use smart objects to contain animated layers, to which we then add effects, such as filters, layer masks and layer styles. Hopefully, this tutorial has shown you how easy it is to create complicated effects using animated layers in Photoshop.


In this tutorial, we’ll use multiple adjustment Layers and filters, with smart object animations, to create a truly unique flame effect. This is what our final animation will look like.

Flame animation using the organic technique.

To begin, we’ll need to create an extremely tall scene. In this case, I have a scene that’s approximately 500 × 10,000 pixels. On a new layer, I’ve drawn a very rough line using the Brush tool.

A tall white line with soft edges
Step 1: A tall white line with soft edges

Next, create a new scene sized to 500 × 500 pixels, with a black background. Bring the tall line that we just created into this new scene, and create a simple scrolling animation.

Step 2: Simple animation of scrolling line.

Add a new layer mask in the shape of an upside-down teardrop to the animated layer. Make sure that the mask has soft edges. The result will reveal a portion of the line as it animates through the mask.

Dotted line represents the shape of the layer mask
Step 3: Dotted line represents the shape of the layer mask. (View large version)

Play back the animation to see the flame take shape. Notice how the shape of our mask is causing the top of the animation to jump around while the base generally stays in the same spot.

Step 4: Simple animation with a layer mask.

Next, add the Levels Adjustment layer. In the Properties panel, move the two outside sliders inward until the edges of the flame are crisp. Playing back the animation will show us a smoother flame.

Step 5: Adjustment layer refines the shape.

At this point, we can further smooth out the flame. First, convert all layers to another smart object. Then, blur the layer, followed by a repeat of the Levels Adjustment layer.

Step 6: Blurring the smart object and then repeating the Levels Adjustment layer creates a more fluid looking movement.

There are several ways to introduce color. I want to show one way that has worked well for me. Create a new layer, and use the Brush tool to paint blue (on the base) and yellow (towards the top) highlights on the flame. Changing this layer’s blending mode to “Hard Mix” will give us some vibrant bands of color.

Step 7: Using blend modes to add color.

Because the transitions between colors are too harsh, we’ll need to soften them. To do this, select all layers again (Alt + Control + A) and convert to another smart object. We can now add the Motion Blur filter to blend the colors better.

Step 8: Adding Motion Blur blends the colors.

Almost done! Because this object is a smart object, we can treat it like a normal layer and use simple photo composition techniques to add it to another photo. The final image shows our flame dancing on a lighter.

Flame animation using the organic technique.

In this tutorial, we’ve learned how to make use of multiple adjustment layers and smart filters by layering smart objects within smart objects to create and refine an organic effect inside Photoshop.


By now, you should be familiar with all of the common layer types and how each of their properties can be animated. Also, we now know that Photoshop is well equipped to produce some amazing animations. We’ve explored how to use smart objects to extend the animation capabilities by acting as templates or enabling us to stack multiple animations. We’ve also seen how to enhance our animations with filters and layer styles. We’ve even learned how to create some new — and seemingly impossible effects (for Photoshop) — by leveraging the Levels Adjustment layer. Lastly, we’ve put everything together to create some polished animations.

The techniques presented in this article demonstrate how Photoshop can be a reliable tool for creating animations. There will always be applications out there that are dedicated to creating animation. However, owning — or even learning — other software isn’t always feasible. Instead, you can stay within a program you are comfortable with and still create effects that were once deemed impossible in Photoshop.

Reference: Smashing Magazine

Learn How to Create Animations with Photoshop (Lesson 2)

Learn How to Create Animations with Photoshop (Lesson 2)

Learning Some New Techniques

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


Because smart objects can contain multiple layers, we can create temporary layers that act as templates to help us create more complex animations. For example, in the animation below, I’ve created a red dot that moves around in a circle. Typically, this would be difficult to create, requiring many keyframes. With smart objects, we can use template layers to simplify the process. Let’s see how it’s done:

A red dot moving around in a circle.

In the scene below, I have created two layers: one with a red dot, labeled “Dot,” and the other with a large gray circle, labeled “Template Shape.” I’ve added hash marks to the large gray circle to better demonstrate movement.

Scene consisting of two layers, a red dot and large, gray circle.
Step 1: Scene consisting of two layers, a red dot and a large gray circle. (View large version)

To start, I’ll select both layers and convert them to a smart object. This can be done by right-clicking one of the selected layers and choosing “Convert to Smart Object” from the pop-up list.

Convert layers to a smart object
Step 2: Convert layers to a smart object. (View large version)

Now, we can animate both objects as a single layer. Because this is a smart object, I have access to the Transform property in the Timeline panel, which allows me to keyframe rotation. I’ve added a keyframe at each half rotation, for one full rotation. The result is the circle, rotating 360 degrees.

Step 3: Both layers rotate as one.

Now that our animation is working, we’ll need to remove the template shape. To do this, double-click to edit the smart object’s thumbnail in the Layers panel. Once the smart object is open, we can hide the “Template Shape” layer.

Hide the Template Shape layer.
Step 4: Hide the “Template Shape” layer. (View large version)

All we need to do now is save the smart object document and return to our original document. We can see that our red dot moves around in a circle without the gray shape in the background.

A red dot moving around in a circle.


As I mentioned, smart objects can consist of any type (or multiple types) of layers — including layers that already contain keyframed animation. A smart object’s ability to hold animated layers makes it even easier to create complicated movements, such as the one below. Let’s explore how this is done.

A bouncing dot animation created with multiple sets of keyframes.

In the scene below, I have already set up a simple animation of a yellow dot rotating on a blue background.

Step 1: A yellow dot rotating on the canvas.

Next, I’ll go to the Layers panel, right-click the “Dot” layer, and select “Convert to Smart Object.”

Convert yellow dot layer to a smart object
Step 2: Convert yellow dot layer to a smart object. (View large version)

Now that this is a new smart object layer, we can add a new set of keyframes to it. In the scene below, I’ve added a set of keyframes to animate the smart object up and down. When the animation is played back, we can see both sets of keyframes at work, creating a bouncing effect.

Step 3: New keyframes create a bouncing effect.

Let’s take this a little further. Convert this smart object layer into another smart object. This will give us a brand new smart object to edit. Next, we’ll add a transformation to this smart object. Go to “Edit” → “Free Transform,” and adjust the handles so that the smart object appears in perspective.

Transform the animation.
Step 4: Transform the animation. (View large version)

Now, when you play back the animation, it will animate within the distorted smart object.

Animation plays within the transformation.


Now that we’ve learned how to embed animations inside smart objects, we can use this same technique to 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.

Step 1: Smart object animation of a yellow dot moving across a red background.

Because 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.”

Applying the Twirl filter to the smart object animation
Step 2: Applying the Twirl filter to the smart object animation. (View large version)

When I preview the animation, I see some interesting things happening. The filter has been applied to the smart object itself, rather than pixels of its contents. Therefore, the movement of the animated pixels through the filter has a unique effect.

Animation of the Twirl filter.


Layer styles can be applied to animated layers much like regular layers. They are also useful in other ways. I’ll show you what I mean.

In the scene below, I already have a smart object that contains a simple animation of a dot moving across a white background.

Step 1: Simple smart object animation.

My goal is to apply the Bevel & Emboss layer syle to the dot. However, If I try to apply the layer style to the smart object at this point, it would affect the entire smart object, white background and all.

Step 2: Layer styles are applied to the image as a whole.

To fix this, I need to remove the white background. Earlier, I mentioned that we could edit the smart object to hide extra layers. In this example, I want to demonstrate another method.

As long as there is good tonal contrast between the layers, we can use the Blend If options in the Layer Styles panel to remove the background. Double-click the smart object layer to open the Layer Styles panel, and adjust the “Blend If” → “This Layer” slider until the background disappears.

Tip: Holding down Option will separate the sliders, causing a smoother transition.

Adjust the Blend If sliders.
Step 3: Adjust the “Blend If” sliders. (View large version)

To finish this method, right-click the layer in the Layers panel and select “Convert to Smart Object.” This will create a new smart object that preserves the changes we’ve just made.

Convert to a smart object.
Step 4: Convert to a smart object. (View large version)

Now, when we add a set of layer styles to our animation, the effect will be applied only to the object.

Layer styles have been added to the smart object animation.


Adjustment layers act the same way with animated layers as they do with regular layers. As long as an adjustment layer is above the layer that contains the animated keyframes, the animation will inherit the adjustments. With this in mind, we can use adjustment layers to create some truly unique effects. Let’s explore this.

In the scene below, I have set up a simple grayscsale animation with two dots, one passing over the other.

Step 1: Grayscale animation of two dots.

Because the entire scene has been created in shades of gray, I will use the Gradient Map Adjustment layer to introduce color. Once I’ve added the adjustment layer, I can use the Properties panel to make the following adjustments.

Settings for the Gradient Map Adjustment layer
Step 2: Settings for the Gradient Map Adjustment layer (View large version)

The resulting effect is an animation that has been colored based on the properties of the adjustment layer.

Animation has been colored by the adjustment layer.


Now that we’ve learned several techniques to create animations, I want to combine a few of these to create the organic effect seen below.

Organic animation effect.

Let’s learn how this is done. To start, I’ve created another simple animation with two layers, one passing over the other. The only difference is that both layers have been blurred.

Step 1: Blurry dot animated over another.

Now, we’ll add the Levels Adjustment layer. Use the Properties panel to bring in the shadows and highlights sliders until the edges of the objects are crisp.

Edits to the Levels Adjustment layer
Step 2: Edits to the Levels Adjustment layer. (View large version)

Playing back the animation will give us a unique organic effect.

Organic animation effect.


Reference: Smashing Magazine

Learn How to Create Animations with Photoshop (Lesson 1)

Learn How to Create Animations with Photoshop (Lesson 1)

While animation in Photoshop is not a new concept, it definitely has come a long way in the last few years: The Timeline panel has been overhauled, video layers have been introduced, as has the ability to create keyframe animation. These additions have really upped Photoshop’s game.

Even though Photoshop is still a long way off from being able to create the high-end and cinematic animations of such programs as After Effects, it still has enough power to create complex animations — which is especially useful if you don’t want to spend time learning a new application.

In this article, I will share several advanced techniques to help you create complex animations. We’ll look at the Timeline panel and the different properties that can be animated. We’ll also explore the roles that adjustment layers, filters and smart objects can have in animation (and how to combine all three for some amazing effects). Because the topics and techniques in this article are advanced, a moderate level of Photoshop knowledge is expected.

Overview Of Timeline Panel

Opening the Timeline panel (“Window” → “Timeline”) allows you to select between two types of timelines: video and frame. The frame timeline is for frame-by-frame animation and can be very limiting. It generally works by converting the layers in your Layers panel to individual frames. I won’t go into any more detail on this timeline; I want to focus on the video timeline.

Photoshop has two timelines for you to choose from.
Photoshop has two timelines for you to choose from. (View large version)


The video timeline allows for keyframe animation — which is an animation process in which you define key points of animation along a timeline and Photoshop will interpret the in-between frames to create a cohesive animation. Let’s go ahead and create a very simple animation to see how this works.

The Video Timeline panel shows a layer (1) with layer properties (2). The timeline shows the Current Time Indicator (3) and existing keyframes (4).
The video timeline panel shows a layer (1) with layer properties (2). The timeline shows the current time indicator (3) and existing keyframes (4). (View large version)

As you probably noticed from the image above, the video timeline shows a representation of layers in the Layers panel. Each layer in the timeline has a dropdown panel that exposes the layer properties (these are the properties that can be animated). To animate a layer property, simply click the stopwatch icon, which enables keyframe animation. Notice that a keyframe is automatically placed at the current time indicator.

The stopwatch icon has been selected for the Position property. A keyframe is automatically added to the timeline.
The stopwatch icon has been selected for the “Position” property. A keyframe is automatically added to the timeline. (View large version)

Move the current time indicator to another point in the timeline and reposition the layer. Again, another keyframe will automatically be added to the timeline.

Moving the layer automatically adds a keyframe at the current time indicator's location on the timeline.
Moving the layer automatically adds a keyframe at the current time indicator’s location in the timeline. (View large version)

Playing back the animation shows how the object on the canvas moves from one position to the next.

Photoshop automatically creates the animation in between the keyframes.


Now that we have a good idea of how the animation process works in Photoshop, let’s take a closer look at the common layer types that can be animated. Because different layer types have different properties to animate, pay attention to which layer types are being used.

The standard (pixel) layer is a layer that contains pixel information. This is the most common (and most basic) layer in Photoshop. Layer properties include:

  • position,
  • opacity,
  • styles.
A standard layer in the timeline with the layer properties exposed.
A standard layer in the timeline with the layer properties exposed.

Adding a layer mask or vector mask to any layer will introduce additional properties specific to that mask. Layer properties that are added to the layer’s existing properties include:

  • layer or vector mask position
  • layer or vector mask enabling
A layer with a layer mask in the timeline
A layer with a layer mask in the timeline.
A layer with a vector mask in the timeline
A layer with a vector mask in the timeline.

A shape layer contains a shape (whether from one of the shape tools or the Pen tool) or a line segment. Because shapes and line segments are built with vector mask information, those mask properties will appear in addition to the other layer properties. Layer properties include:

  • position,
  • opacity,
  • styles,
  • vector mask position,
  • vector mask enabling.
A shape layer in the timeline with the layer properties exposed
A shape layer in the timeline with the layer properties exposed.

A text layer contains editable text. If text has been rasterized, then the layer will no longer be a text layer, but rather will be a standard layer with pixel information. Layer properties include:

  • transform,
  • opacity,
  • styles,
  • text warp.
A text layer in the timeline with the layer properties exposed
A text layer in the timeline with the layer properties exposed.

A smart object can contain any one or combination of the above layer types. A smart object acts like a wrapper for any layer, preserving the original layer while using a new set of properties. These properties include:

  • transform,
  • opacity,
  • styles.
A text layer in the timeline with the layer properties exposed
A text layer in the timeline with the layer properties exposed.

A word of warning when using smart objects. Because a smart object preserves the original quality of the layer or the set of layers it contains, it can be scaled and rescaled without losing quality. However, it cannot be scaled any larger than the size of the original layer it contains. Doing so would cause the smart object to lose quality.

At this point, I want to mention two other layer types — a video layer and a 3D layer. Both of these layers are completely unique from the other layer types mentioned. The video layer is actually a layer group that contains its own set of properties, while the 3D layer — besides containing a unique set of properties — is manipulated in an environment entirely separate from the other layers, adding to the level of complexity. Due to the uniqueness of these two layer types, I will not go into detail here. You can see how both layers are represented in the timeline below:

A video layer group in the timeline with the layer properties exposed
A video layer group in the timeline with the layer properties exposed.
A 3D layer in the timeline with the layer properties exposed
A 3D layer in the timeline with the layer properties exposed.

I encourage you to explore these two layer types on your own. For the rest of this article, I will be focusing only on the traditional layer types, excluding video and 3D.


Now that we have a grasp of the different layer types, let’s examine the different properties that we are able to animate. Knowing how each property works is important to understanding their limitations and how to get around them. Let’s look at the common animation properties.

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

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

Opacity allows you to keyframe the opacity of a layer. The Opacity control can be found in the Layers panel.

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

The Style property allows you to keyframe the layer styles of a layer. Access the layer styles by double-clicking a layer in the Layers panel.

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

The layer mask or vector mask position keyframes the x and y positions of each mask. It works best when the mask is not linked to the layer.

The mask’s position is keyframed to scrub across the layer, revealing the background layer.

Enabling or disabling a layer or vector mask is also possible. To enable or disable a layer mask, go to “Layer” → “Layer Mask” and select either “Enable” or “Disable.” For vector masks, go to “Layer” → “Vector Mask.” Alternatively, you can “Shift + Click” the mask in the Layers panel to toggle on or off.

The mask is keyframed to be enabled, then disabled after a short time, causing a reveal.

Specific to text layers, the Text Warp property allows you to keyframe any text warp applied to a text layer. You can access a list of text warp effects by going to “Type” → “Warp Text.”

A Flag warp was applied to the text and keyframed to create a warping animation.

The Transform 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 Control + T to enter Free Transform mode.

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


Reference: Smashing Magazine