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How to Create an Animated Work-in-Progress Action in Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

How do you make your art? We would love to see! In this quick tip, I'll show you how to create an animated GIF in Adobe Photoshop to show the evolution of your digital work.

Show Off Your Art With Quick WIPs

So what's a WIP? WIP is short for work in progress, which basically means anything that you post online that you're currently working on. Artists use these posts as a way to connect to their followers while giving them a behind-the-scenes insight on their upcoming projects.

And whether you're simply showing your progress or using it as a quick lesson, creating an animation of your work is a great way to have more interaction with your audience.

1. Prep Your GIFs for Social Media

Since the whole point of posting your works-in-progress is to share them with the world, here are a couple of things to consider before you create your GIFs:

  1.  Dimensions: There are typically limitations for width and height across social media. So try to always become familiar with the differences for each site. You can adjust the dimensions of your work easily by going to Image > Image Size and entering new numbers for Height or Width.
  2. File Size: GIFs can get really big, so when it's time to Save for Web, make sure to optimize, optimize, optimize! Finding a balance between file size and loss of detail is quite an art, so just do your best.
  3. Sketch and Finished Versions: Don't be shy when it comes to showing your progress, or limit yourself to a quick run-through of the steps. Feel free to break down your art into several GIFs dedicated to the sketch, middle progression, or finishing touches.

2. Create an Animated GIF of Your Art

Step 1

Open up your art file in Photoshop. Just like I mentioned earlier, adjust the dimensions according to the site you'd like to display the animation. For GIF files, smaller sizes tend to work better so in this instance, I'll go to Image > Image Size and change the dimensions from 800 x 800 pixels to 500 x 500 pixels.

Step 2

Now create a New Document with the same dimensions. To make things easier for the animation, flatten your art in stages. Think of them as slides that you'll Copy (Control-C) and Paste (Control-V) into the new document.

Animate Your Art as a GIF in Adobe Photoshop Art by Melody Nieves
Here's a preview of the final painting, a digital study of this PhotoDune Reference.

Add the sketch first, then the next stages of your art until you work up to the final result.

Set the Layers in Order for Your GIF Animated Art

For this animation, I'll show the evolution of this digital painting with five layers.

Separate You Art into 5 Stages of Progression for Animated GIFs

Step 3

Now go to Window > Timeline. Select Create Frame Animation and Hide the Visibility of each layer except the first one. Then set the Frame Delay Time to 1 second.

Create First GIF Animated Frame in Photoshop

Step 4

To create more frames, hit the Duplicates More Frames option before Unhiding the Visibility of the second layer.

Duplicate Animation Frames in Adobe Photoshop

Step 5

Continue this step until you have a frame for each new layer. On the final result, set the Frame Delay Time to 5 seconds for a longer pause at the end. Also make sure to set the Looping Options to Forever for a continuous animation.

Set Frame Delay Time and Looping Options for Animated GIF in Photoshop

For the best quality, make sure to experiment with the different settings when you Save for Web as a .gif file. You may have to limit the colors or adjust the Color Reduction Algorithm for a high-quality result. Here is the final animation.

How to Create Animated Art GIF in Photoshop

3. Now Turn It Into a Photoshop Action!

Bypass some of the hassle by creating a Photoshop Action! This will allow you to apply these same changes in a fraction of the time by recording your steps now and applying them later to future works.

Step 1

Start your animation over in the Timeline panel by deleting all the frames except for the first. Set the Time Frame Delay back to No Delay.

Setup GIF Animated Photoshop Action

Step 2

Then go to Windows > Actions to bring up the Actions panel. Hit Create a New Action to begin recording. Select Layer 1 and apply the same settings for the Frame Delay Time as before.

Start Recording Your GIF Photoshop Action

Step 3

Continue adding more frames and unhiding the Visibility of each layer. Because it's being recorded, you'll also have to change the Opacity from 0 to 100%.

Unhide Layers and Increase Opacity for Photoshop Actions

Step 4

When you're finished with the last frame, hit the Stop button to stop the recording.

Hit Stop Button to Stop Recording Photoshop Action

Let's Refresh

Now that your Photoshop Action is complete, use it for all your new pieces! Just make sure to follow these crucial steps:

  • Separate your art into five different layers of progressing stages beforehand.
  • Play the Photoshop Action.
  • Manually adjust the Looping Options at the end after the Photoshop Action.
  • Save for Web as a .gif file, finding a balance between file size and loss of detail.

Enjoy Your Animations!

Creating animated GIFs is an awesome way to allow your fans and admirers to appreciate your great work. For more amazing Photoshop Actions, feel free to explore what's available from Envato Market

And for more beginner tips, check out my other articles here on Envato Tuts+:

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