In this walkthrough, we've shared how to animate in Photoshop, so you can create complex visuals with the built-in Timeline panel. Photoshop's video layers are often forgotten because video editors don't usually use the program in their daily workflow. However, you can harness these underappreciated tools to make full-fledged animations.
Setting Up Your Canvas
First, start a new Photoshop project by selecting "File" > "New". In the New dialog box, change the Preset to "Film & Video" and the Size to "NTSC DV Widescreen", and then click OK.
You should now see some ruler guidelines on the blank canvas, which are helpful for planning out animations. Drag these guidelines so that they look like four equidistant rectangles stacked on top of each other, and then select "View" > "Lock Guides".
Using the Timeline
First, select "Window" > "Timeline" to access the Timeline. It should appear at the bottom of your screen. Next, choose "Layer" > "Video Layers" > "New Blank Video Layer" to add a layer to the Timeline. This will be the first animation layer ("Layer 1"), and the default layer ("Layer 0") will be your background.
To zoom in and out of the Timeline, drag on the slider at the bottom of your screen. Above the video layers, you'll see a series of markers that represent the frames in your sequence. For example, "01f" is the first frame, and "15f" is the fifteenth frame.
How to Animate in Photoshop
Once you've set up your canvas and timeline, select a drawing tool like the Brush and start drawing your first frame. When you're happy with the frame, click on the drop-down arrow in the top right corner of the Timeline and select "Enable Onion Skins". This allows you to see a faint outline of the previous frame, so you can be more precise with the animation.
Now, move the timeline marker to "01f" and start drawing your second frame based on the onion skin. If you go back to the Timeline drop-down arrow and choose "Onion Skin Options", you can select the number of onion skins that are visible at the current frame. We recommend having at least 2 onion skins before the frame, so that you can create a more seamless animation. Continue animating as many frames as you like, and have fun playing around with Photoshop's other drawing tools as well!