How to make a cinemagraph

How to create a cinemagraph using Photoshop

There are multiple ways to edit a cinemagraph, but for most people, the easiest method would be to use Adobe Photoshop – software they likely already use.

Before I bring the clip into Photoshop, I will take it into Premiere Pro to edit and grade the shot to my liking, but you may not need to do this depending on how you've captured it. The following step-by-step process assumes you're starting with a clip that needs no grading.

Step 1

The first thing you need to do is to open the video in Photoshop, a process that will automatically change the layout for the purpose of editing video. 

You then want to find start and end points in the clip that are very similar to each other, as you want to have an infinite loop. 

You can do this by either dragging each side of clip to make it smaller or by using the scissor icon to cut the clip.

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Step 2

Just above the video timeline to the right-hand-side, you should see a small icon that will open up a menu of options when clicked. Click that and make sure 'Loop Playback' is checked – this will show you how the clip will look when played continuously.

Step 3

Now, in the panel on the right-hand-side of the screen, drag the group that contains that layer (not just the layer itself) down to the 'Create a new layer' icon.

Step 4

There will now be two clips on the same timeline that’ll be exactly the same. Drag the bottom clip to right to where the top clip ends so that one follows the other (see below).

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Step 5

Place the Play Head (the line you use to scrub through the clip) where the two clips meet by moving the blue marker across.

Select the bottom clip, before clicking and dragging it from the left side, which will then expand it. Pull it about half way underneath the top clip. Then, click and drag the right side of the clip until it meets the play head at the end of the top clip. I know this sounds confusing but it will mean the start and end of the clip will be the same by blending the two together.

Click the top-right-hand corner to enlarge the image

Click the top-right-hand corner to enlarge the image

Step 6

Now we need to blend the two clips together. On the timeline, next to the top clip's name, you will see a little arrow. Once you click this, four adjustment options will drop down.

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Step 7

Drag the Play Head to where the bottom clip starts. Click the stopwatch button by Opacity and this will create the first keyframe.

Step 8

Drag the Play Head again about half way along the bottom clip and add another key frame by clicking the diamond shaped button next to the stopwatch. Click onto that keyframe in the timeline (it should turn yellow) then go over to the Layers module and turn the opacity down to 0%. 

Now, drag that keyframe to the very end of the clip. What this does is the first keyframe is set to 100% and when you play through the opacity will decrease to 0% resulting in showing the clip below.

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Step 9

Next you want to stamp a new visible layer of the still image to be used. Move the play head to somewhere you’d like to take the still image from. Then by pressing Command + Option + Shift + E, this will create a new layer that is solid with no movement. Trim the top layer so it’s the same length as the other clips and make sure to move it to the top of all the layers.

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Step 10

Now you need to turn the top layer into a Mask. Do this by selecting the layer on the right-hand-side and click the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers Module. Make sure the foreground colour is set to black.

Step 11

Now we are going to paint in the areas using the Brush tool the area in which the bottom layers will play though. So, only paint where the motion will be. I like to zoom in quite a bit to make sure I’ve painted precisely where I want the motion to be. Make sure to paint with black to reveal the layers underneath.

Step 12

Zoom out and play the clip to see how it works. If you’re not happy with the mask go in add or erase bits by changing the brush colour to white.

Step 13

Now you can export your file. Go to File>Export>Save For Web. On the top right you want to make sure the type of file is set to GIF as it is sometimes set to PNG automatically. Make sure Looping Option is set to Forever, click Save and you’re all done!

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It may feel like there are a lot of steps to putting a cinemagraph together using Photoshop but once you’ve got used to the method and follow this guide it becomes very easy.