Create timeline animations

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For Photoshop versions earlier than Photoshop CC, some functionality discussed in this article may be available only if you have Photoshop Extended. Photoshop does not have a separate Extended offering. All features in Photoshop Extended are part of Photoshop.

Timeline animation workflow

To animate layer content in timeline mode, you set keyframes in the Timeline panel, as you move the current-time indicator to a different time/frame, and then modify the position, opacity, or style of the layer content. Photoshop automatically adds or modifies a series of frames between two existing frames—varying the layer properties (position, opacity, and styles) evenly between the new frames to create the appearance of movement or transformation.

For example, if you want to fade out a layer, set the opacity of the layer in the starting frame to 100% and click the Opacity stopwatch for the layer. Then move the current-time indicator to the time/frame for the ending frame and set the opacity for the same layer to 0%. Photoshop automatically interpolates frames between the start and end frames, and the opacity of the layer is reduced evenly across the new frames.

In addition to letting Photoshop interpolate frames in an animation, you can also create a hand-drawn frame-by-frame animation by painting on a blank video layer.


If you want to create a SWF format animation, use Adobe Flash, Adobe After Effects, or Adobe Illustrator.

To create a timeline-based animation, use the following general workflow.

1. Create a new document.

Specify the size and background contents. Make sure the pixel aspect ratio and dimensions are appropriate for the output of your animation. The color mode should be RGB. Unless you have special reasons for making changes, leave the resolution at 72 pixels/inch, the bit depth at 8 bpc, and the pixel aspect ratio at square.

Make sure the Timeline panel is open. If necessary, click the downpointing arrow in the middle of the panel, choose Create Video Timeline from the menu, and then, click the button to the left of the arrow. If the Timeline panel is in frame animation mode, click the Convert To Video Timeline icon in the lower-left corner of the panel.

2. Specify the Set Timeline Frame Rate in the panel menu.

Specify the duration and frame rate. See Specify timeline duration and frame rate.

3. Add a layer.

Background layers cannot be animated. If you want to animate content, either convert the background layer to a normal layer or add any of the following:

  • A new layer for adding content.

  • A new video layer for adding video content.

  • A new blank video layer for cloning content to or creating hand-drawn animations.

4. Add content to the layer.

5. (Optional) Add a layer mask.

A layer mask can be used to reveal a portion of the layer’s content. You can animate the layer mask to reveal different portions of the layer’s content over time. See Add layer masks.

6. Move the current time indicator to the time or frame where you want to set the first keyframe.

7. Turn on keyframing for a layer property.

Click the triangle next to the layer name. A down-pointing triangle displays the layer’s properties. Then, click the stopwatch to set the first keyframe for the layer property you want to animate. You can set keyframes for more than one layer property at a time.

8. Move the current time indicator and change a layer property.

Move the current-time indicator to the time or frame where the layer’s property changes. You can do one or more of the following:

  • Change the position of the layer to make layer content move.

  • Change layer opacity to make content fade in or out.

  • Change the position of a layer mask to reveal different parts of the layer.

  • Turn a layer mask on or off.

For some types of animation, such as changing the color of an object, or completely changing the content in a frame, you need additional layers with the new content.


To animate shapes, you animate the vector mask rather than the shape layer, using the Time‑Vary stopwatch for Vector Mask Position or Vector Mask Enable.

9. Add additional layers with content and edit their layer properties as needed.

10. Move or trim the layer duration bar to specify when a layer appears in an animation.

11. Preview the animation.

Use the controls in the Timeline panel to play the animation as you create it. Then preview the animation in your web browser. You can also preview the animation in the Save For Web dialog box. See Previewing video or timeline animations.

12. Save the animation.

You can save the animation as an animated GIF using the Save for Web command, or as an image sequence or video using the Render Video command. You can also save it in PSD format, which can be imported into Adobe After Effects.

Use keyframes to animate layer properties

You can animate different layer properties, such as Position, Opacity, and Style. Each change can occur independently of, or simultaneously with, other changes. If you want to animate different objects independently, it’s best to create them on separate layers.

Here are some examples of how you can animate layer properties:

  • You can animate position by adding a keyframe to the Position property, then moving the current time indicator and dragging the layer in the document window.

  • You can animate a layer’s opacity by adding a keyframe to the Opacity property, then moving the current time indicator and changing the layer’s opacity in the Layers panel.

  • You can animate 3D properties, such as object and camera position. (For more information, see Create 3D animations.)


To animate a property using keyframes, you must set at least two keyframes for that property. Otherwise, changes that you make to the layer property remain in effect for the duration of the layer.

Each layer property has a Time‑Vary stopwatch icon  that you click to begin animating. When the stopwatch is active for a specific property, Photoshop automatically sets new keyframes whenever you change the current time and the property value. When the stopwatch is inactive for a property, the property has no keyframes. If you type a value for a layer property while the stopwatch is inactive, the value remains in effect for the duration of the layer. If you deselect the stopwatch, you will permanently delete all of the keyframes for that property.

Choose interpolation method

Interpolation (sometimes called tweening) describes the process of filling in unknown values between two known values. In digital video and film, interpolation usually means generating new values between two keyframes. For example, to move a graphic element 50 pixels to the left in 15 frames, you’d set the position of the graphic in the first and 15th frames, and mark them both as keyframes. Photoshop interpolates the frames between the two keyframes. Interpolation between keyframes can be used to animate movement, opacity, styles, and global lighting.

In the Timeline panel, the appearance of a keyframe depends on the interpolation method you choose for the interval between keyframes.

Linear keyframe 

Evenly changes the animated property from one keyframe to another. (The one exception is the Layer Mask Position property which switches between enabled and disabled states abruptly.)

Hold keyframe 

Maintains the current property setting. This interpolation method is useful for strobe effects, or when you want layers to appear or disappear suddenly.

To choose the interpolation method for a keyframe, do the following:

  1. In the Timeline panel, select one or more keyframes.

  2. Do one of the following:
    • Right-click a selected keyframe and choose either Linear Interpolation or Hold Interpolation from the Context menu.

    • Open the panel menu and choose either Keyframe Interpolation > Linear or Keyframe Interpolation > Hold.

Move the current-time indicator to a keyframe

After you set the initial keyframe for a property, Photoshop displays the keyframe navigator, which you can use to move from keyframe to keyframe or to set or remove keyframes. When the keyframe navigator diamond is active (yellow), the current-time indicator lies precisely at a keyframe for that layer property. When the keyframe navigator diamond is inactive (gray), the current-time indicator lies between keyframes. When arrows appear on each side of the keyframe navigator box, other keyframes for that property exist on both sides of the current time.

  1. In the Timeline panel, click a keyframe navigator arrow. The arrow to the left moves the current-time indicator to the previous keyframe. The arrow to the right moves the current-time indicator to the next keyframe.

Select keyframes

  1. In the Timeline panel, do any of the following:

    • To select a keyframe, click the keyframe icon.

    • To select multiple keyframes, Shift-click the keyframes or drag a selection marquee around the keyframes.

    • To select all keyframes for a layer property, click the layer property name next to the stopwatch icon.

Move keyframes

  1. In the Timeline panel, select one or more keyframes.

  2. Drag any of the selected keyframe icons to the desired time. (If you selected multiple keyframes, they move as a group and maintain the same time spacing.)

To expand or compress the spacing of multiple keyframes, Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) the first or last keyframe in the selection. The keyframe at the opposite end of the selection remains in place as you drag, slowing down or speeding up the animation.

Copy and paste keyframes

You can copy keyframes for a property (such as Position) to the same property in any layer. When you paste keyframes, they reflect the copied offset from the current-time indicator.

You can copy keyframes from only one layer at a time. When you paste keyframes into another layer, they appear in the corresponding property in the destination layer. The earliest keyframe appears at the current time, and the other keyframes follow in relative order. The keyframes remain selected after pasting, so you can immediately move them in the timeline.


You can copy and paste keyframes between more than one property at a time.

  1. In the Timeline panel, display the layer property containing the keyframes you want to copy.

  2. Select one or more keyframes.
  3. Right-click a selected keyframe, and choose Copy Keyframes.
  4. In the Timeline panel containing the destination layer, move the current-time indicator to the point in time where you want the keyframes to appear.

  5. Select the destination layer.
  6. Open the panel menu and choose Paste Keyframes.

Delete keyframes

  1. In the Timeline panel, select one or more keyframes and do one of the following:

    • Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) a selected keyframe, and choose Delete Keyframes from the context menu.

    • From the panel menu, choose Delete Keyframes.

Create hand-drawn animations

You can add a blank video layer to your document when you want to create frame-by-frame hand-drawn animations. Adding a blank video layer above a video layer and then adjusting the opacity of the blank video layer allows you to see the contents of the video layer below. You can then rotoscope the video layer content by painting or drawing on the blank video layer. See also Paint frames in video layers.


If you’re animating several independent elements, create separate content on different blank video layers.

  1. Create a new document.
  2. Add a blank video layer.
  3. Paint or add content to the layer.
  4. (Optional) In the Timeline panel, choose Enable Onion Skins from the panel menu to enable the onion skin mode.

  5. Move the current-time indicator to the next frame.
  6. Paint or add content to the layer in a slightly different position from the content in the previous frame.

    You can add a blank video frame, duplicate a frame, or delete a frame from the blank video layer by choosing Layer > Video Layers and then choosing the appropriate command.

    As you create more hand-drawn frames, you can either drag the current time indicator or use the playback controls to preview your animation.

Insert, delete, or duplicate blank video frames

A blank video frame can be added to or removed from a blank video layer. You can also duplicate existing (painted) frames in blank video layers.

  1. In the Timeline panel, select the blank video layer and then move the current-time indicator to the desired frame.

  2. Choose Layer > Video Layers and then choose one of the following:

    Insert Blank Frame

    Inserts a blank video frame in the selected blank video layer at the current time.

    Delete Frame

    Deletes the video frame in the selected blank video layer at the current time.

    Duplicate Frame

    Adds a copy of the video frame at the current time in the selected blank video layer.

Specify onion skin settings

Onion skin mode displays content drawn on the current frame plus content drawn on the surrounding frames. These additional frames appear at the opacity you specify to distinguish them from the current frame. Onion skin mode is useful for drawing frame-by-frame animations because it gives you reference points for stroke positions and other edits.

Onion skin settings specify how previous and later frames appear when onion skins are enabled. (See Timeline panel overview.)

  1. Open the Timeline panel and choose Onion Skin Settings.

  2. Specify options for the following:

    Onion Skin Count

    Specifies how many previous and forward frames are displayed. Enter the Frames Before (previous frames) and Frames After (forward frames) values in the text boxes.

    Frame Spacing

    Specifies the number of frames between the displayed frames. For example, a value of 1 displays consecutive frames, and a value of 2 displays strokes that are two frames apart.

    Max Opacity

    Sets the percentage of opacity for the frames immediately before and after the current time.

    Min Opacity

    Sets the percentage of opacity for the last frames of the before and after sets of onion‑skin frames.

    Blend Mode

    Sets the appearance of the areas where the frames overlap.

    Photoshop Onion skinning
    Onion skinning

    A. Current frame with one frame after B. Current frame with both one frame before and after C. Current frame with one frame before 

Open a multilayer animation

You can open animations that were saved in older versions of Photoshop as multilayer Photoshop (PSD) files. The layers are placed in the Timeline panel in their stacking order, with the bottom layer becoming the first frame.

  1. Choose File > Open, and select the Photoshop file to open.
  2. In the Layers panel, select the layers you want for the animation, and choose Make Frames From Layers from the panel menu.

    You can edit the animation, use the Save For Web command to save an animated GIF, or use the Render Video command to save the animation as a QuickTime movie.

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