Articles, Blog

How To Animate a Still Photo in Adobe Photoshop

August 4, 2019

How’s it going everyone this is Chris from
Spoon Graphics back with another video tutorial. Today we’re going to have some fun creating
what’s known as a Plotagraph, which is a motion picture effect similar to Cinemagraphs, but
it’s created from a single static image, rather than a video clip. The name Plotagraph comes from the brand name
of the software and the associated community based on this effect, which you can find at The full software is pretty expensive, so
I’ve been playing around in Adobe Photoshop to figure out how to create the effect manually. It works by stretching a certain portion of
the image using keyframes in the Photoshop animation timeline. Repeating this simple transformation in a
loop gives the illusion that the picture is moving. The effect works particularly well with landscape
scenes of rivers or waterfalls that have continuous movement, which is what I’ll be showing you
as part of my example using this image by Kym Ellis from Begin by opening up your chosen image in Adobe
Photoshop. This picture is pretty large by default, so
I’m going to scale it down using the Image Size menu so it’s less CPU intensive when
we get around to animating it. We first need to choose a portion of the photograph
to animate. Turn on Quick Mask mode at the bottom of the
toolbar, then set up the Brush tool with a soft tip. Begin painting around the area you want to
move, which in my case is the waterfall. Paint with black to add to the selection,
or press the X key to switch to white if you need to remove any areas from the selection. Click the Quick Mask button when you’re finished
to have the painted area transformed into a selection, that retains the soft outline. Go to the Select menu and choose Inverse,
then Copy and Paste this clipping onto a new layer. Open up the Timeline panel from the View menu,
which is where we’ll animate the image. Create a new Video timeline. Shorten the length of the clipping layer to
around 1 second, then click the little arrow to expand this clips options. You’ll see that the first keyframe option
is to animate the Position of the clip, but we want to be able to stretch it, not just
move it around. Right click on the layer within the Layers
panel and choose Convert to Smart Object. If you check the clip options again you’ll
now see the option for Transform. Move the playhead to the start of the timeline,
then click the stopwatch icon to apply a Transform keyframe. Move the playhead along and add another keyframe
by clicking the little diamond icon. Zoom out so the image fits in the screen area
and use the CMD+T shortcut for Transform to manipulate the waterfall clipping. Drag the bottom corner handle downwards to
stretch the element in the direction the water is flowing. In the timeline, drag this keyframe all the
way to the right of the clip, then scrub back and forth to see the basic animation effect. To help the animation play more smoothly,
add a Fade transition to each end of the clip. Give it a test by clicking the Play icon. It doesn’t look realistic yet, but the fading
eliminates the harsh jump back to the start. Select the Background layer and use the Quick
Mask to make a selection of a second portion of the image to animate. In my example it will be the mist and spray
at either side of the waterfall. Apply the mask, inverse the selection, then
Copy and Past the clipping on to a new layer. Right click and convert this layer into a
Smart Object. Make sure the clip runs from the start of
the timeline, and trim it to the same length as the other clip. Move the playhead to the start and add a Transform
keyframe. Move the playhead along a little and add another
keyframe. Press CMD+T to Transform the image. Scale it upwards so the mist will appear to
expand outwards towards the edge of the canvas area. Drag the keyframe right to the end and add
the Fade transitions to each end of the clip. If you give it a test, you’ll notice that
some portions of the image are being animated that we don’t want, like this person being
swept away. Select the background layer and press CMD+J
to duplicate it. Drag this copy right to the top of the layer
stack. Make sure this new layer aligns with the start
of the timeline, then add a layer mask. Fill the mask with black using the CMD+Backspace
shortcut, then move the playhead to a point in the animation where you can see things
moving out of place. Set up the brush tool with white and begin
painting over the unwanted areas. This will restore the static image to act
as a mask so the animated elements won’t be seen in these areas. Once everything looks good within this short
1 second clip, we’re ready to extend and loop the animation. Select all the layers of the various animated
pieces and Group them together. Hit the CMD+J shortcut 4 or so times to make
numerous duplicates of the group. In the timeline, begin dragging the groups
and position them so they offset by half the length of the previous clip. You can expand the group to use the transitions
as a reference point for the centre. Give this extended animation a play to test
how the transformation repeats. To ensure the animation continuously loops,
trim both the top mask layer and the work area to the halfway point of the last clip
group. Hit CMD+J to make a final copy, then drag
it back to the start of the timeline so far that the first half is completely cropped
off. Expanding the group again will make it easy
to see where that centre point is between the two transitions. Click the Loop Playback option in the Timeline
settings to see the animation repeatedly play through. It’s amazing how the illusion of movement
can be created from a static image. The final effect can be exported as either
a video file by Rendering the timeline, or as an animated Gif if you were to scale down
the document and find suitable compression to bring the file size down. So I hope you have fun experimenting with
this effect. Don’t forget to check out my tutorials on
creating a Cinemagraph and 2D Parallax for similar kinds of motion effects. Subscribe to the channel if you want to stick
around for more, otherwise thank you very much for watching, and I’ll see you in the
next one!


  • Reply Ayaa Emmanuel October 24, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Thank you very for this video..Please how can save my files when i want edit the file again

  • Reply Ayaa Emmanuel October 24, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    Mr spoon thank you problem solved

  • Reply Light Some October 26, 2018 at 10:58 am

  • Reply Light Some October 26, 2018 at 10:58 am

    great work

  • Reply Wander with Jon November 3, 2018 at 9:51 am

    This video is really helpful. Thank you so much!

  • Reply Vigo stine November 5, 2018 at 1:58 am


  • Reply Zeyna Amazonlu November 7, 2018 at 6:20 am

    thanx ..could you pls tell us how to turn ınto a gif before rendering cheers

  • Reply L Terziyska November 7, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    GREAT VIDEO! I´ve been thinking a while to try this to some of my photos, and this explanation cannot be more accurate! thank you 🙂

  • Reply Ana Mira November 9, 2018 at 3:52 pm


  • Reply Ana Mira November 9, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    Does this work using the $9.99 cc photoshop subscription???

  • Reply ArchBusalim November 9, 2018 at 8:14 pm


  • Reply Reife - Z November 10, 2018 at 7:56 am

    i'm ok with plotagraph

  • Reply Reife - Z November 10, 2018 at 7:56 am

    i'm ok with plotagraph

  • Reply Latest Songs Studio November 12, 2018 at 9:32 am

    Nice Video.

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    Nice Video.
    Please Click Here #latestsongsstudio9

  • Reply SlideSMS Text November 13, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    The zoetropic app does that

  • Reply Gamer Channel November 14, 2018 at 6:03 am

    You did very well. But I think, it wants very much Photoshop skills to do that realistic like you did. Impressive.

  • Reply MARELYN CORREA November 16, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    It couldn't be easier, such a good teacher. Thanks

  • Reply Leonardo Couto November 18, 2018 at 1:41 am

    very good, nice tutorial

  • Reply Mirshad Aakif November 18, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    only 2 layers done perfectly

  • Reply Arkan Lilan November 18, 2018 at 11:43 pm

    Why did u covert layers to smart object ? Can u explain the benefit from that plz?

  • Reply Gamer Lady November 19, 2018 at 10:24 pm

    For the last step you used a shortcut for a vector mask you did not show how to turn it from white into a black color

  • Reply itsVollx November 20, 2018 at 10:24 pm

    BE Sure to make it to a smart object else it wont work

  • Reply East Star November 21, 2018 at 4:49 pm


  • Reply Pascal Viaene November 21, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    amazing effect and very well explained. thanks for sharing👏👍

  • Reply SIdd Rong November 22, 2018 at 7:09 am

    mine is not playing in loop. it just stops at the end. not able to fix it. plz help

  • Reply Creeptonic by GauJo November 23, 2018 at 3:46 am

    This is amazing video. I tried this bt it's very slow.

    How to increase time and speed??
    Dat you did not mention here


  • Reply D7 November 25, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    how can i make it slowly??

  • Reply jacqueline walker November 27, 2018 at 5:20 am

    slow down – I thought u was teaching someone.

  • Reply Sardari Art films November 28, 2018 at 3:00 pm


  • Reply SyllCloudz November 28, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    Hi. Beginner here. Need help from as anyone. My timeline window only show the thumbnail of the layer. Doesnt know how to proceed from there. How to change it to the purple colour timeframe like yours?

  • Reply Hashir Khan December 4, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    Name of the background track plz ???

  • Reply Tommaso Mazzocco December 6, 2018 at 11:36 am


  • Reply Rumble December 8, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    holy fuck thats clean! my question for you sir is how do i make like particels and so, to a league of legends champion

  • Reply Kostas anonym December 15, 2018 at 6:26 pm


  • Reply Haider Ali Khan December 15, 2018 at 8:23 pm


  • Reply Asadullah Safiq December 16, 2018 at 8:03 am

    Man help me why adobe always tell me to "restarize" ?

  • Reply Jamie Vazquez December 25, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    What app?

  • Reply Stevanus Steven December 29, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    how to enable adobe media encorder in render video ? (adobe photoshop cs6)

  • Reply Pinar Tuncel January 4, 2019 at 9:34 pm

    I'm trying to learn how to use Photoshop and this gave me anxiety.

  • Reply ninetails625 January 7, 2019 at 11:53 am

    awesome i love it..very helpful

  • Reply Pauline Kao Hilborn January 11, 2019 at 3:06 am

    This is so smart! Thank you for figuring this out and sharing.

  • Reply mohammad amini January 11, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    Please visit my page.

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  • Reply Professor Ari January 14, 2019 at 11:06 am

    great tutorial, you can be a great documentary host

  • Reply Martyn Allen January 29, 2019 at 11:58 pm

    ok, that was pretty impressive.

  • Reply Stefan Hanitzsch February 5, 2019 at 3:41 pm


  • Reply Tonick Moss February 15, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    you sir are genius!

  • Reply Ravindra Banchhod February 17, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    This is honestly a great tutorial, it's just to the point and covers every area needed to do this task. Great job! Huge thumbs up from me.

  • Reply Maxi Pé February 19, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    hey what is the name of this fx?

  • Reply Ross Taylor February 21, 2019 at 4:07 am

    Excellent tutorial!!!! Thank you very much

  • Reply Elizabeth Farrell February 23, 2019 at 10:48 am

    cool job… Thanks a lot. 🙂

  • Reply Jian파리지엥 February 24, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    Hi I was wondering what kind of formation do you need to be able to do this kind of work ? Is it more like motion design or animation ? I know you only use photoshop here but if I want to go further and fully animate an image

  • Reply Sound Peaks February 27, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    awesome! Thanks!

  • Reply A9-X_Youtuber March 1, 2019 at 10:43 am

    Can you tell me how to export for Vertical Video?

  • Reply LAIDBACKMANNER March 4, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    Thank you for making this!! I've been wanting to figure out how to create moving photos like plotaverse/Plotagraph does. Jam on!

    P.S. Subbed.

  • Reply Subhash Rawat March 7, 2019 at 7:45 am

    If i am doing same process then it will not working properly i don't know why but it's not working.
    It's coming down slowly and i don't know how increase speed fast, please tell me about these things.

  • Reply Ash March 7, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    this is one of the coolest tutorials Ive ever seen!! I have to animate slot symbols that are static images, so this will help me out alot!

  • Reply Setiawan Agus March 8, 2019 at 12:47 am

    Terima Kasih…mantap…

  • Reply White Clay Films March 10, 2019 at 1:36 am

    You are very clever…thank you for the tutorial

  • Reply moi mooha March 11, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    thx u haa ^^

  • Reply Smita Bernadet March 15, 2019 at 2:27 am

    I am unable to save the final video. Why? It's Cc2019 version. Can you please help?

  • Reply Paulo Lima March 21, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    como faz isso no after effects ???
    How does it do in after effects ???

  • Reply Lemi 23 March 24, 2019 at 2:59 pm

    Great tutorial, but how did you entered export timeline? at 5:47

  • Reply NORMAN KEVIN KWOBA MUNYENDO March 25, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    you are the best. Thanks for this

  • Reply arko128 March 28, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    And what can I do with that image? Can it be played in the photo gallery on the phone?

  • Reply Vorspiegelung007 April 1, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    Extremely good tut. Thank you

  • Reply Marijn Agbarakwe April 2, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    wow so happy now, thank you!!!!

  • Reply ashik alfaz April 3, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    I was looking for this kind of tutorial. Thanks mate

  • Reply Md Sabbir April 7, 2019 at 10:41 am

    Who done it??
    Please comment!

  • Reply Edu Randigah April 13, 2019 at 12:28 pm


  • Reply Kerry Johnson April 16, 2019 at 2:59 am

    Thank you!
    following now

  • Reply Ro April 20, 2019 at 11:38 am

    …the animation you showed at the end is smoother than the one created in the software. The one in the software is jumpy.

  • Reply Marco Antonio April 21, 2019 at 1:47 am


  • Reply XEssieee April 23, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    Hi, when I open my timeline, it doesn't look the same? Anyone knows what's going on?

  • Reply Neil Francisco April 26, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    Chris! This is God's work. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply AndreasZimmerman May 4, 2019 at 1:09 am

    Good tute

  • Reply Adolfo Usier May 14, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    amazing stuff 🎯

  • Reply sunshine G May 28, 2019 at 3:11 am

    This was amazing.. Though looks difficult

  • Reply Christian Healy June 1, 2019 at 1:57 am

    Thanks a lot mate!

  • Reply william rei udarbe June 4, 2019 at 2:04 am


  • Reply migo noveno June 5, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    My photoshop doesn’t have timeline but there is animation and when I inverse it selects rock beside the water fall

  • Reply Tilak Raj June 9, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    Thank you…Sir.

  • Reply jessPLAYS June 11, 2019 at 10:49 am


  • Reply Christian Richters June 12, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    Can i export this into After Effects?

  • Reply Monsse Velazquez Angón June 13, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    Made it so easy to understand, thank you!

  • Reply Gabe Stigall June 14, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    God dam I can barely turn my phone on shit theirs no way I could figure that basted out huh i was hoping to find something a lil less tech savvy myself but it did look bad as man

  • Reply Shail Moktan June 20, 2019 at 3:56 am

    short and sweet, booom, nice,,, soon doing it
    thanks alot

  • Reply The Trash Man June 24, 2019 at 6:03 am

    How would you this with space?

  • Reply yoyoyonasa June 25, 2019 at 12:17 am


  • Reply Be Happy June 27, 2019 at 9:36 am

    Thank You!

  • Reply josephkeyrouz photography July 1, 2019 at 10:09 pm

    The best video so far

  • Reply sharwina salih July 10, 2019 at 11:40 am

    can this be done in window?

  • Reply Srinivasan B July 10, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    Nice photo shop tutorial. Below is the link for free images.

  • Reply Nikka Anub July 14, 2019 at 1:43 am

    To bad i dont have adobe photoshop😯😭

  • Reply Osman Awan July 16, 2019 at 5:20 am

    The inverce button is not working

  • Reply Bratishka July 17, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    Very informative and easy to learn , thank you !

  • Reply Ballu Jutt July 22, 2019 at 10:06 am

    how to download ps cc ?

  • Reply Tam Great July 30, 2019 at 1:34 am

    Beautifully explained!

  • Reply Charlies Angel Tarot July 31, 2019 at 10:02 am

    love the way to do it but it is hard to see your screen and you go to vast in explanning

  • Reply Taisha Fermin August 4, 2019 at 8:54 am

    So glad I found this. Thank you!

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