In this post, Castle’s Head of Branding & Design Pete Richardson talks you through how to make an animation in Photoshop, as well as discussing the benefits of Adobe’s new Animate program.

There is a common misapprehension that Photoshop is exclusively used for editing still images. In fact, it can be used for a wide range of things – one of which is animation. It can be used perfectly well for basic animation, particularly for making simple web animations or gifs. However, as I’ll discuss below, for more complicated forms of animation, you’ll likely want to look elsewhere. Adobe’s recently released Animate software, for instance, would serve better for more complex purposes.

How to make an animation in Photoshop?

In order to make a simple animation in Photoshop, you would need to use the Timeline feature. This feature will allow you to create frame-by-frame animations using the Layers panel. In the Layers panel, you can control the various different components of your image, creating composite images with different elements. The Timeline feature will then allow you to sequence the alterations of the various layers, resulting in a simple, frame-by-frame animation.

Once you’ve set up your animation, you’ll check everything’s working correctly – you can play it, pause it, and just make sure it’s running smoothly. Once you’re happy with everything, go to “export” and you’ll find a few different settings there to create your animation. These include specifying the number of frames you want to render and the framerate you want to use.

The Photoshop application being opened by a user so they can work on an animation

Which styles of animation would you say work best?

Ultimately, Photoshop is best for simplistic animation involving minimal movement, using frame animation for example. As soon as your animation starts to become more complex, it gets a bit clunky to use. This is because you’re working frame by frame, so the process becomes extremely arduous if you have a larger number of elements to manipulate. 3D animation, for instance, would largely be out of the question for Photoshop. As would things with a lot of movement involved, such as character animation.

Simple animations such as gifs or basic web animations are easy to produce in Photoshop. Anything text-based or using simple shapes will work perfectly well.

Two graphic designers working on a Photoshop project whilst understanding how to make an animation in photoshop.

With the release of Adobe Animate, how does it compare to Photoshop?

Adobe Animate, Adobe’s dedicated animation and vector graphics software, is a good tool. They’ve introduced some features like rigging, which provides pre-designed forms of movement to character models, for instance walking or running for your human models. Understandably, this makes it a lot easier to do character animation!

They’ve also got an auto-lipsync feature, which is really useful for synchronising your character animations to any voice audio you have. Overall, they’ve added a lot of new features, but they’re easy to use with a nice timeline. The software is still developing, but they’ve done a good job of providing tools for more complex animation.