How to Create a Cinemagraph in Photoshop

how to create a Cinemagraph

What is a cinemagraph? The creators over at describe them as “an image that contains within itself a living moment that allows a glimpse of time to be experienced and preserved endlessly.” So how do you make one? Follow the steps below.

Import and Clip

import video file


Import into Photoshop by going to File > Import > Video Frames to Layers and selecting the file. A dialog box will pop up allowing you to clip down the video. If you don’t clip the video down now, you can do it later.


Make sure timeline is selected

Make sure the Timeline is visible in the window by going to Window > Timeline.


forever loop

Now that the video is in Photoshop, you will see all the imported frames in your Timeline. In the Timeline, you can set the speed at which your video will playback. You might want to play with this to find the right frame rate for your video. Set your Timeline to repeat Forever, so that video GIF will loop.


frame time

Now, play back the video and delete the frames you don’t need until you have the exact clip you want to show.


Creating Your Cinemagraph Mask

Now that the video is playing and repeating. We can start making it a full-fledged cinemagraph.

To do this we need a static layer to cover the video. This will allow us to cover up all but the areas we want to see movement.

Select the frame in the Timeline that you want to be static. Now duplicate that and drag it up above all the other layers, and make sure it’s visible. This will be the layer mask.


static layer on top

Right now, if we play the video, there shouldn’t be any movement. This is because every frame is being covered up by the mask. We have frozen the video. Now we need to unfreeze the area where we want to see movement.


Editing Your Mask

layer mask

In the Layer panel, select the mask layer icon while you are on the static frame. It looks like a rectangle with a hole in the middle.

Make sure this new white mask layer is selected, and not the image layer.


brush tool cinemagraph

With the Brush Tool, we are going to begin painting over the areas you want to see movement. It helps to have a plan of what you want to show.

What we are doing is creating a hole in the top layer so the movement can be seen below.


Reverse (or Not)

Once we are happy with our mask, we need to figure out if you want your cinemagraph to reverse. This depends on the subject and how it looks when reversed. I like to reverse mine for a smooth loop.

To do this, we will select all the frames in your Timeline under the static one. Then duplicate them and then reverse the duplicate frames under the static frame. Now, the video will flow better.


Exporting Your Cinemagraph

export cinemagraph

To export our final cinemagraph, we will go to File > Save for web. A dialog box will appear with many options. We can make sure to save as a GIF set to loop forever. You can play with the quality to adjust file size if you wish.