Learn this fantastic technique to easily animate photos in Photoshop!
In this tutorial, we will cover Photoshop’s 3D and animation features to create a 2.5D parallax effect to make your photos come to life!
The amazing photo used in this tutorial is by Marc Rafanell Lopez. You can download the same photo by clicking here, but you can also use any photo to follow along!
Are you ready to start?
Table of contents
- Use Select Subject to Create the Selection
- Refine the Selection with the Quick Mask Mode
- Use Content-Aware Fill to Create a Clean Background Plate
- Use the Clone Stamp Tool To Refine The Background
- Apply a Blur to the Background
- Convert the Background and Foreground Into 3D Layers
- How to Animate the Foreground and Background with the Timeline Panel
Use Select Subject to Create the Selection
To animate any photo in Photoshop, start by separating the image into two layers: the Foreground (consists of the two male jumpers) and their background.
To do so, go to Select > Subject and allow Photoshop to utilize Adobe Sensei, an innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI), to detect the subjects in the image and create a selection around it.
If you are dealing with an older version of Photoshop, you can still use the Quick Selection tool to create a selection around the subject.
Refine the Selection with the Quick Mask Mode
Once you make a good selection, press the Q key on your keyboard to enter into Quick Mask mode. This mode will place a red overlay on parts of your image that is outside the current selection.
With The Brush tool, you can paint with white (#ffffff) to add to the selection and paint with black (#000000) to subtract from the selection.
PRO TIP: Press the X key on your keyboard to swap the Foreground and the Background color!
For this part, it’s okay to create a loose selection. Since we are working non-destructively, you can always come back to this later and further refine it.
Once you are done selecting, press the Q key on your keyboard to exit the Quick Mask mode and reveal your new selection.
Next, duplicate the current by clicking-and-dragging the layer to the New Layer icon, which is at the bottom-right of the Layers panel.
Click on the Layer Mask icon to add a layer mask to the duplicated layer and so it will only show the jumping subjects.
Then, go to Select > Modify > Expand to make the selection larger.
On the Expand Selection Window, set the Expand By value to 4 pixels.
Then press OK.
If you zoom in, you will see how the edges of the selection are now 4 pixels farther from the previous setting.
If there are still areas that are part of the Foreground but are not selected, use the Lasso tool and while holding the Shift key, click-and-drag around the area to add it to your selection.
Duplicate the background by clicking-and-dragging it over to the New Layer icon.
Use Content-Aware Fill to Create a Clean Background Plate
On the duplicated copy, go to Edit > Content-Aware Fill. The Content-Aware technology will then fill the pixels where the subjects used to be.
The green overlay shows the area where the Content-Aware technology is sampling pixels from, and for this part, it’s doing an excellent job. Although it is not perfect, it is entirely adjustable.
Press Ctrl D (Windows) or Command D (MacOS) to deselect as I focus on the next part, where I will show you how to fix the inconsistencies in the background pixels.
With the generated pixels on the new layer selected, hold the Shift key as you select the bottom layer as well.
Then, press Ctrl E (Windows) or Command E (MacOS) to merge both selected layers into one single layer.
Use the Clone Stamp Tool To Refine The Background
Zoom into a part of the image that needs refinement. Using the Clone Stamp tool, I can copy selected pixels and paste it onto another. Do this by holding the Alt (Windows) or Option (MacOS) key on your keyboard to determine the sample source..
Once that is set, you will see how you are painting with the pixels taken from the sample source.
Take your time to refine this area, and you can always reset your sample source by pressing Alt (Windows) or Option (MacOS).
Then, use the Rectangular Marquee tool to select the stacked wood panels and press Ctrl J (Windows) or Command J (MacOS).
Press Ctrl T (Window) or Command T (MacOS) to transform the copied selection and move it to the side.
Right-click and select Flip Horizontal.
Then, right-click again to select Distort and adjust the selection accordingly to match with the background.
Press the Enter (Windows) or Return (MacOS) key to exit the Transform mode.
Since the man is part of the selection, use the Clone Stamp tool once again to paint pixels from a Sample Source and clean the area.
You can also take this time to fill the area in between the stacked wood panels to make it consistent.
You can see another significant area with an inconsistent pattern on the right side of the stacked wood panels, and you can also fix this with the Clone Stamp tool.
Once you have finished these crucial steps, you can then move on to combining them into one single layer.
Do that by holding the Shift key as you select the current layer and the Background copy, and then press Ctrl E (Windows) or Command E (MacOS) to merge them.
Renaming this layer to “Clean Background.”
Apply a Blur to the Background
Go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Tilt-Shift.
Then, click-and-drag the reference point downwards.
Click-and-drag the bottom handle as well to expand the area and have the blurring start from the center to the top area of the image.
On the Blur tools, set the Blur value to 6px. Immediately you will notice that any of the imperfections in the background can be easily concealed with the added blur.
Press OK to add the changes.
Convert the Background and Foreground Into 3D Layers
Enable the Foreground layer once again, and you should see that despite the changes applied, the image still looks realistic.
To avoid further confusion, I have renamed the Foreground layer to “Jumping.”
To animate any photo in Photoshop, create 3D layers out of the two layers. For this tutorial, it’s the Jumping and the Clean Background layers.
Start by selecting the Clean Background and disabling the Jumping layer.
Then go to 3D > New Mesh from Layer > Postcard, and this will convert your current layer into a 3D Postcard. A Postcard means a plane that you can rotate around in 3D space.
With your Move tool selected, you will see 3D tools at the bottom-left of your document window and use these tools to rotate the 3D camera inside of Photoshop.
Disable the original Background layer and use the tools to get yourself familiarized with their functions and features. If you want to return to the default view, double-click on the Clean Background thumbnail as this will take you to the 3D panel, and select Default Camera.
Go back to the Layers panel and enable the Jumping layer to convert it to a 3D Postcard as well. Again, go to 3D > New Mesh from Layers > Postcard.
At the moment, both of the 3D cameras will not function at the same time because both are in two different 3D layers. For the maximum range of capabilities, you need to combine them into one single layer.
Go to the Layers panel and select the Jumping layer.
While holding the Shift key, select the Clean Background as well and press Ctrl E (Windows) or Command E (MacOS) to merge them.
NOTE: The tiny cube icon at the corner of your layer means that the layer is in 3D. If you double-click on it, it will take you to the 3D panel.
With the Move tool selected, use the 3D tools at the bottom to control the camera. You may want to try to click on any 3D layer, and a cube with arrows will appear in front of it, then click-and-drag the white cube to scale up the 3D layer.
How to Animate the Foreground and Background with the Timeline Panel
Finally, the real trick on how to animate any photo in Photoshop!
Go to Windows > Timeline. This feature allows us to create a timeline with images and 3D objects on Photoshop.
On the center of the timeline panel, click on the Create Video Timeline button. If you can’t see it, click on the down-pointing arrow, and on the drop-down menu, select Create Video Timeline.
Click on the down-pointing arrows on each of the two layers to release the elements and keyframes that will be essential during the following steps.
If you use the Orbit 3D Camera to see your 3D layers in another perspective, you will see the distance between your Jumping layer and the Clean Background. By adding the 3D Camera Position keyframe,
Then, place the Playhead at any position in the Timeline,
And start rotating the camera, Photoshop will add a second keyframe.
If you scroll up the Timeline and press the Play button, Photoshop fills in the timeline with a switch of the 3D camera position from the original keyframe to the 2nd keyframe—and this is how you will be animating your 3D images.
To delete a keyframe, just right-click on a keyframe and select Delete. I will be deleting both the original keyframe and the 2nd keyframe to clear my timeline.
To do a 2-second animation, drag the Playhead to the beginning of the timeline. Then, click-and-drag the end of the Timeline slider on the 2-second mark to set it as the length of the animation.
On the 3D panel, click on the Default Camera and then click on Clean Background Mesh as well.
Head over to your document window, then click-and-drag on the white cube to scale uniformly and expand the view of the background.
Next, click-and-drag on the blue point to scale back the background until it fills the canvas. If you’re having a hard time seeing the difference, double-click on the hand tool to fit the image to screen.
Use the Orbit 3D Camera will allow you to see the broader distance between the Jumping Mesh and the Clean Background Mesh.
Undo the recent changes by pressing Ctrl Z (Windows) or Command Z (MacOS) and further widen the scale of Clean Background Mesh.
Under the properties of the Clean Background Mesh, click on the 3D Camera Position.
Scroll down along the elements. Under 3D Meshes, enable the Stopwatch for both of the Clean Background and Jumping. This will create keyframes for the position of these meshes.
Now, click-and-drag the Playhead into the 2-second mark and use the 3D Orbit Camera to reposition it.
You may also select the Jumping Mesh, pull it forward to make it larger, and bring it down.
Once you hit the Play button, the Jumping subject will move through the 3D space!
For a more dramatic shot, reposition the perspective with the 3D Orbit Camera or scale the Clean Background Mesh to a smaller perspective.
Once you’re ready to save the video, simply click on the Flyout menu and select Render Video. After that, share your work on your social media and tag me at #PhotoshopTrainingChannel!
And that’s how to animate any photo in Photoshop! I hope this tutorial has been helpful for you and your future projects.