4 Easy Steps to Create a Cinemagraph in Photoshop

Christian Bonilla 20-12-2016

You may have enjoyed a cinemagraph recently on your social media feed without knowing it. They’re those GIF images A Quick Photoshop Tutorial For Creating Animated GIFs Let’s check out how to use Photoshop to create a quick GIF animation. These simple steps are easy to follow, even for beginners. Read More which never seem to end, stuck on a constant, perfect loop.


Don’t let its complexity fool you. You can easily recreate this effect on your own computer. The method used to create the effect is basic but it will allow for a large range of uses; you can use it on most video clips, movie clips, or stock footage.

Cinemagraph Examples

Here’s a prime example from Reddit user orbojunglist of the subtle and impressive nature of a cinemagraph. In one part of the image, it seems as still as a photograph. In another, it seems to moves indefinitely.

orbojunglist cinemagraph

Cinemagraphs are some of the calmest images you’ll find on the internet. Their creation is also simple, requiring little more than a moving image and a layer mask Photoshop Tips: Selecting with Quick Mask Read More .

Best of all, your clip only needs to be a few seconds long to achieve the impressive effect.


orbojunglist cinemagraph

All you need is Photoshop, a clip of subtle movement, and a few minutes to create one of these timeless works of art.

Proper Footage for a Cinemagraph

Getting stock or raw footage 4 Stock Video Websites To Catch A Glimpse Of History Captured On Film There are quite a few other websites out there which host stock video footage from key moments in history. They playback not only eyewitness accounts, but also give us history lessons in video…as it happened.... Read More shouldn’t be an issue. Your clip must only meet two criteria: a relatively still part of your frame, and a repeatedly moving part.

Although the footage doesn’t have to be absolutely still — in other words, you can replicate the effect with just about any stock footage — the best results are those with juxtaposed motion and stillness. I will be using the following clip from Louis C.K.’s short film Tomorrow Night to provide an example.


raw unedited cinemagraph footage

Note the rain movement through the window in the background. It will be focal point of the effect. To begin your effect, simply drag and drop your video file into Photoshop. Clip trimming will occur throughout this process, so ensure that you use a couple of seconds of footage before editing to achieve your effect.

1. Same Beginning & Ending Frame

Our video footage should display for a second or two. We only need to capture the movement present in our clip. It means we can shrink our clip by a lot and still retain a seamless cinemagraph. Remember, it will loop indefinitely so length is not an issue.

First, click on the setting cog and ensure Loop Playback is checked. It will ensure that your video plays repeatedly during editing, ensuring that your video is seamless.


loop playback cinemagraph

Put your principal clip in Photoshop, and note the amount of movement you will have to crop in the foreground. When shooting a scene, actors will casually move back and forth during speaking, walking, and the like. Our foreground may end up corrupting our moving background.

The best way to rectify the issue is crop your whole clip so the foreground of the first frame occupies the most background space of a frame. The example below displays the logic behind trimming the clip, and thereby choosing the first frame.

image take cinemagraph


Use the Scissor tool to separate your previous clip from the new one. Delete the previous clip. Although trimming will shorten your video, the footage before your trim will prove useful later.

Then drag your video group, labelled Video Group 1 in the example below, to duplicate your clip. You can also press Ctrl + Alt + J to create a duplicate of your selected layer.

new duplicate cinemagraph

Now that I’ve created two exact video clips, I can achieve the desired effect. The process will end your footage with the same frame it begins with, creating a loop we will use to achieve our the effect.

Take your second layer and drag it to the end of your first layer. Then, click and drag to the left the first frame of your second layer. It will bring back the previous, cropped footage from your original layer.

There should be some overlap between the first and second clips. The amount of overlap is up to you, but shouldn’t extend past the halfway mark of your original footage. Finally, drag the end of the second clip to the end of the first. Both clips should now begin at different times, but end at the same time.

magic swap

Play it back. You’ll notice that only one clip plays. It isn’t an error, and is crucial for your effect.

2. Clip Transition

In a Photoshop window, the amount a visual appears or fades depends on its opacity. A casual example of differing opacities in a single image would be a watermark How to Watermark Images Using Photoshop There are several options on how to watermark your images online, but using a web app can have its drawbacks. Instead, here's how to use Adobe Photoshop to make watermarks. Read More . We will need to smoothly phase out the opacity of the first layer of our project in order to transition to the second.

Click on the drop-down menu beside the topmost clip of your Timeline panel. It will show your video options. Click on the Opacity timer, and keyframe in the form of a yellow diamond will appear alongside your footage. Ensure the keyframe is placed at the beginning of your shorter clip by clicking and dragging to your desired location.

keyframe opacity cinemagraph

The keyframe stores opacity information at a certain part of your video. Drag your timeline cursor to the end of your clip, and click on the small diamond next to your Opacity setting to create another keyframe.

final keyframe cinemagraph

Then, lower your opacity from 100% to 0%. The option is in your Layers panel.

opacity tool cinemagraph

Keep in mind, the new keyframe should appear at the very end of your video.

3. Layer Mask

Your video should have a notable transition. It’s due to fixing the first clip’s opacity.

smooth playback cinemagraph

Now, set your timeline cursor to the beginning of the video. Once done, press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E. The keyboard command The Best Ways to Learn All the Keyboard Shortcuts You Will Ever Need There are many keyboard shortcuts you aren't using. We bring you all the right resources to teach you everything you need to know about keyboard shortcuts. Memorize keyboard shortcuts for instant productivity. Read More will create a still frame of your video.

Drag the picture layer to the topmost portion of the Layers tab, and trim so it ends in the same place as our video clips. If you play your video, you will only see the still image.

final layer arrangement cinemagraph

Now we can create the layer mask to only allow for the window’s movement. With the image layer selected, create a layer mask by clicking the third icon at the bottom of your Layers panel.

layer mask cinemagraph

Once you’ve selected a layer mask, a white background image will appear beside the layer.

mask view cinemagraph

Click on the white image beside your picture, and select your Brush tool. Ensure that your foreground brush is set to Black and adjust brush size A Beginners Guide to Creating Custom Brushes in Photoshop Adobe Photoshop brushes are a handy way to add interest to your designs, and just as you can create your own custom patterns, you can just as easily design and create your own brushes. Read More . Set your size to whatever works with your image, then set your Brush’s Hardness to 0%. It will create a smooth brush border.Finally, begin brushing over your motion.

To ease the process, press the \ key of your keyboard (above the Enter key). It will allow you to view your overlay mask in red. Take your time to brush only over the movement you want to add. The brush tool will delete the still image’s contents from the video, revealing the video beneath.

Likewise, brushing your video using white will erase your mask and preserve your still image. Repeatedly brush and play your video to see what pesky unwanted motion is still present.

masking edit cinemagraph

Once you’ve finished the masking process, you can continue on to saving your work.

4. Saving Your Cinemagraphs

Now that you’ve cropped out the action from the inaction, save your work as a GIF. Since GIFs have the ability to play continually, you will be able to enjoy the limitless action of your video through the format. Yet, it requires a bit more effort than saving your file as a normal video or picture.

Head to File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy) to get started. In the drop-down menu beside Present, select GIF 128 Dithered. Then, make four principal changes to the registered settings:

  1. Selective to Perceptual — Dictates the color palette of your GIF.
  2. Colors: 128 to 256 — Adds a larger color palette to your GIF, bettering overall image quality.
  3. Diffusion to Noise — Affects how colors transition from frame to frame. Since we want the colors in our image to blend seamlessly, it’s better to tweak Noise rather than Diffusion. Your results may vary, so feel free to test the different options.
  4. Dither: 88% to 100% — Dictates the amount of color information necessary to affect shadow and frame transition. A high dither rate will allow for smoother color transition than otherwise.

The final edit you must make is changing your Looping Options settings from Once to Forever. It’s vital for the repetitive effect of motion.

gif settings cinemagraph

Feel free to play around with these settings. Some will work better with color images, while others won’t. The only way to pick the absolutely best settings is to find them yourself.

Final Products

Here are a few of the final products I came up with, using only this method and C.K.’s Tomorrow Night as source footage. The following is the final product from our above explanation.

tomorrow night cinemagraph

There are several things one could do to refine the image, such as adding visual effects or adjusting mask size. All of these were created, however, with only the methods illustrated.

beads scene cinemagraph

Clips with a moving camera prove more difficult to achieve the effect than with still one’s as is the case with the following example.

fan cinemagraph

While there are some blatant byproducts using the method — for example, blurriness when transitioning clips — the overall product is quick to achieve and looks great.

cord cinemagraph

Movements like smoking or pouring water are the easiest to use with the effect given their random, repetitive motion.

smoke cinemagraph

You can even stray from the method proposed above. The following example involves our masking method, but uses a simple hand motion instead of two transitioned clips to create movement.

back forth hand cinemagraph

A perfect clip for this effect would be one with subtle movement and a still camera, as the following example shows.

fishing cinemagraph

Here’s another example that meets the near perfect conditions required to create a calm, everlasting GIF.

wheat cinemagraph

As you can see, we found a surplus of film clips to create cinemagraphs. You’ll find the same applies with your footage.

Going and Going and Going…

This Photoshop effect How to Create a Text Highlight Effect in Photoshop If you want to highlight text in Photoshop, then this is the easiest method for getting it done. Read More creates lasting videos in more than one way. Not only do they loop indefinitely, they also have the ability to create simple, cinematic videos in a few minutes.

Although the process may prove difficult in the beginning, a few of these projects will turn you from a novice to seasoned cinemagraph professional in no time!

Like cinemagraphs? What others would you enjoy seeing? Let us know in the comments below!

Related topics: Adobe Photoshop, Cinemagraph.

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