Russ Murphy paints frame-by-frame loose, playful sketches and brings them to life through animation in Adobe Photoshop.

RUFFMERCY, aka Russ Murphy, is an animation director based in the United Kingdom. After cutting his teeth at MTV in the late ’90s as a promo producer, he moved on to become a freelance animator for broadcasting networks and agencies before jumping into the world of music videos. He is known for his loose hand-drawn animation style sometimes laid over live footage and often paired with hip-hop music.

Step 1: Open the base texture

To start the project, Murphy opened the background texture video (available in the practice files) directly in Photoshop using File > Open. The document opened to show the Timeline with the video layer added by default. If the Timeline does not open for you right away, choose Window > Timeline. Additionally, if you see a frame animation instead of a video timeline, click the icon in the lower left of the Timeline to convert it to a video Timeline.

Photoshop canvas shows mottled blue background and animation Timeline has a video layer with 14 frames set to 12 fps

Step 2: Trim it down

The base video was longer than what Murphy needed for the project. To adjust this, he used the Set End of Work Area slider above the video layer to 2 seconds (or 14 frames).

Settings on BASE VIDEO TEXTURE layer in Photoshop Timeline shows Replace Footage option selected

Step 3: Work in layers

Murphy then added and renamed a video layer (Layer > Video Layers > New Blank Video Layer) on which he could start drawing.

Photoshop animation timeline shows Face layer, Layer > Video Layers > New Blank Video Layer menu selection above canvas

Step 4: Start with a sketch

For this composition, Murphy used the Rough Carver brush from Kyle Webster’s MEGAPACK, then customized it in the Brush Settings (Window > Brush Settings). He set the brush size and color and drew the face on the starting frame. When he finished the face, he clicked the Go to next frame icon to advance the playhead one frame.

Feel free to use a textured brush of your choice. If you’d like to use the Rough Carver brush, select Get More Brushes from the flyout menu on the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes) and login with your Adobe ID. Scroll through the Brushes web page until you see the MEGAPACK and click the Download button. Select Import Brushes from the Brushes panel and find the .abr file you just downloaded. When you import the brush, it will appear in its own category in the Brushes panel.

Face sketched with cyan color, Brush settings show Kyle’s Inkbox – Rough Carver brush is set to 40, Get More Brushes option

Step 5: Use a guide

The Onion Skin feature guided Murphy as he drew the remaining frames. He selected Enable Onion Skins from the flyout menu, then chose Onion Skin Settings to define the options he wanted to use. With Onion Skin enabled, he could see a trace of the artwork he drew in the previous frame. He used this as a guide to draw another variation of the face on the current frame, then advanced to the next frame. He repeated this process, drawing and advancing, until he finished drawing on each of the frames in the segment.

Blue face sketched on canvas, Onion Skin Options selected from Timeline flyout menu, Min Opacity is %10

Step 6: Make a pattern

Murphy added dimension with a new video layer by choosing Layer > Video Layers > New Blank Video Layer. Then he repeated the process of drawing frame by frame using a different size and color brush to create a pattern around the face.

Layers panel shows Pattern layer, canvas shows purple pattern painted around the face

Step 7: See it in action

When he was ready to preview the animation, Murphy clicked the Settings icon, checked Loop Playback, and clicked Play.

Murphy’s sketch shows on the canvas, Timeline has 3 layers-face, pattern, base texture-loop playback is selected

Step 8: Loop it

When it was ready for primetime, he saved his work as an animated GIF by choosing File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy), selecting a GIF preset, and setting Looping to Forever. He could also render it as a video using File > Export > Render Video and then use that rendered video in Adobe Premiere Pro or After Effects for further edits.

File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy) shows from top menu, export options show GIF preset and Looping Options set to Forever

Make sketchy animations

Make doodling more fun by adding motion to your sketches with frame-by-frame animation in Photoshop.

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.

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