Photos don’t have to stand still. With a few quick steps, you can easily add movement to your images. In this short tutorial, see how Aaron Bernstein animates his photos using masks and the timeline in Adobe Photoshop.

Aaron Bernstein is a New York City-based creative and a former Adobe Creative Resident. Under the digital guise of “Hungry Boy,” Aaron uses food as to reflect facets of contemporary culture in photography-based projects.

Add some pop

The practice file has two layers, the kernels layer and the popcorn layer above it. Create a layer mask on the Popcorn layer, and invert it using Control+I (Windows), or Command+I (macOS).

9 by 9 rows of un popped kernels on red background, Adobe Photoshop layers panel with 2 layers and layer mask icon circled.

Sneak a peek

Bernstein selected the layer mask, chose the Brush tool, and set the color to white. Then, he painted over the mask to reveal the first piece of popcorn.

1 kernel of popcorn on red background is popped, remaining kernels are un popped, layer mask shows white area where popped kernel was revealed.

Reveal in stages

This step is where Bernstein spent much of his time. He duplicated the layer where the first popcorn kernel was revealed – Control+J (Windows), Command+J (macOS). Then, he painted with a white brush to reveal more popcorn. He repeated this step until he had a lot of layers and all of the popcorn from the layer below was visible.

3 kernels of popcorn on red background are popped, remaining kernels are un popped, photoshop layers panel has 4 layers, 3 with layer mask

Create the Timeline

Bernstein clicked Create Frame Animation from the Timeline (Window > Timeline).

All popcorn kernels are popped. Adobe Photoshop Timeline shows Create Frame Animation option highlighted in orange

Make animation frames

To create each state of animation, Bernstein chose Make Frames From Layers from the Timeline. He then toggled the visibility of the kernels layer off and on to make it visible on all of the frames of the animation.

Adobe Photoshop animation timeline has 1 frame, Make Frames from Layers circled. Layers panel - 3 layers, 2 have layer masks

Loop it

Bernstein worked in the Timeline to create the looping animation. First, he chose Select All Frames, then Copy Frames, and Paste Frames. Finally, he chose Reverse Frames so the popcorn would appear to pop and unpop. He clicked Play in the Timeline to preview the animation. Bernstein used the Save for Web feature to save the looping animated GIF.

Animation timeline shows 22-29 frames, right-menu shows Select All Frames, Copy Frames, Paste Frames, Reverse Frames numbered

Make moves

Give life to your images with short animations.

Animated GIF showing kernels popping and unpopping

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

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