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Quick Tip: Create an Animated 3D GIF in Photoshop CS6

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In this tutorial, we will explain how to take a flat logo and animate it using Photoshop's new 3D and Timeline features. Let's get started!


Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.


Step 1

Open the logo in Photoshop. Note that the PNG file contains transparency—this is important when we convert to 3D. There's no need to adjust the image size since we will change it at the end when we save it as an animation.


Step 2

Select the Crop Tool and extend the top and bottom to give our scene more space. Hit Enter to commit to the changes.

Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to select just the 'envato' text (the leaf is excluded) and click on the "Add Layer Mask" icon in the Layers Panel. This will isolate just the text.


Step 3

To make things easier, I've renamed the only layer to "Text." Go ahead and make a copy of this layer, rename if "Leaf," and click on the Layer Mask (this targets the mask, making it editable). Press Command/Ctrl + I to invert the selection and thus, isolating the leaf. The result should look identical to the original image that we opened. The only difference is that the text and leaf icon are now on separate layers.

With the "Leaf" layer still active, go to Layer > Layer Mask > Apply. This will remove all delete all pixels that were hidden by the mask.

Next, go to 3D > New 3D Extrusion From Selected Layer. This will automatically bring up the panels we need to work in our 3D scene.. If not, you can always go to Window > Workspace > 3D to force those panels open. Notice that the "Leaf" layer now appears as a 3D object llayer.


Step 4

In the 3D panel, select the "Leaf" object (denoted by the extruded star icon) and go to the Properties Panel and set the Extrusion Depth to 35. Also, deselect Catch Shadows and Cast Shadows.

We now need to move the "Leaf" object to the exact center of our scene. Before we do this, it will help to change our camera to a better view. Select the "Current View" layer in the 3D panel, then select the "Top" preset in the View setting .

On the canvas, use the onscreen widget to position the leaf in the exact center of our scene (denoted by the intersection of the red and blue lines).


Step 5

Currently, our canvas is showing the Top View. Select "Default Camera" in the 3D panel to reset the camera. Notice that the leaf object does not appear to be in its proper position. We will fix this in the next step.

Currently, the leaf appears out of position. To fix this, use the camera tools in the top menu to move the camera until the logo is properly placed. By moving just the camera, we can make the leaf object appear to be back in it's proper position. It is important that we do not actually move the leaf object like we did in Step 4.


Step 6

Now, we're ready to animate—click Create Video Timeline in the Timeline Panel. If you don't see the timeline panel, then go to Window > Timeline.

When you do this, you will see all the layers displayed as separate video layers in the timeline. In this case, we will have two video layers.


Step 7

Since we want to animate the "Leaf" object, we need to access its properties in the timeline. Twirl-down the "Leaf" layer to show all properties that can be animated. For this aniamtion, we will focus on the "3D Scene Position."

Click the stopwatch icon to Enable Keyframe Animation. This will add our first keyframe to our timeline (denoted by the yellow diamond).

Since Keyframe Animation is enabled, Photoshop will automatically add a keyframe when we make changes to the scene's position (or rotation). Before we start rotating our scene, we need to indicate how long it will animate for. Do this by dragging the Current Time Indicator (denoted by the blue slider) to another point in the time bar.


Step 8

Back in the 3D Panel, select the "Scene" layer and go to the Properties Panel. In the Properties Panel, select the Coordinate icon and change the "Y Angle" value to 360. This will rotate the scene around its Y-axis 360 degrees.

Notice that a new keyframe has been added to our timeline. Using the Current Time Indicator, you can scrub back and forth to see how our 3D object animates. Since our "Leaf" object was placed in the exact center of our scene, we should see the leaf spinning in place.


Step 9

Our goal is to have the "Leaf" object appear to continually rotate around its axis while only showing the front face of the object. To do this, we first need to make a copy of our "Leaf" layer. In the Layers Panel go ahead and copy this layer. Notice that a copy of this layer also appears in our timeline.

Next, scrub through the timeline until the "Leaf" object makes three-quarters of a turn.

Grab the beginning of the "Leaf copy" video layer and drag it to the red line. This video layer is now cropped and will start animating right after the three-quarter turn.

Now, scrub over the first part of our animation and find the point at which the object makes its first quarter turn. This time, drag the ending of the "Leaf" video layer so it stops at the red line.

Finally, slide the "Leaf copy" video layer over to the red line. Scrub through the timeline to check that the animation is smooth.


Step 10

Before we render any frames, we have to tell Photoshop which frames we want rendered. Use the Current Time Indicator to scrub through our animation to locate the point where our object appears to make a full rotation. Use the slider immediately below the timebar to set the end of the work area. Now, only these frames will render.


Step 11

With our scene complete we can set up the final animated GIF. We will cover two options to save out our animation: Option 1 will quickly save out a low-quality GIF; Option 2 will take more time, but allow us to produce a high-quality GIF.

The first option is to go to File > Save for Web. This option skips the rendering process and will save out the frames as they appear on our canvas. Go ahead and change the settings as you see fit. Click Save when done.

Here is an example of the final animation using Option 1. Notice that the edges of the leaf appear jagged.


Step 12

The second option will require our scene to be rendered first. It is highly recommended to save at this point. Now, go to File > Export > Render Video and make the changes as shown. Make sure to select "Photoshop Image Sequence" as the output. This will render our scene as individual frames.

After all the frames have rendered, we can open them as an animation. Go to File > Open As and navigate to the folder we just created with all of our rendered frames. Select the first frame and click "Image Sequence" at the bottom of the window. Click Open. You will also see a dialogue box for the Frame Rate, just click OK.

The rendered images should automatically appear in a new timeline as a new animation.


Final Rendering

The last step is to save out the animation as a GIF. Just repeat Step 11 and you're done!.