How to create a cinemagraph in Photoshop

Morgan Smith's Layout avatar

As you might’ve heard, cinemagraphs are one of the top design trends of the year. They’re a stunning mix between photo and video, resulting in an elegant piece of art for your site. There are several reasons cinemagraphs are great, such as their small file size and wow factor, but the best part? They’re actually really easy to make!

So pull up your chair, open Photoshop, and follow these seven easy steps to create your own cinemagraph!

1. Choose your video file

To make a cinemagraph, you’ll start with a basic video file. Ideally, you would shoot the video yourself, but if you’re just experimenting, you could always download a stock video.

For this tutorial, I’m using a lovely video of water being poured into a glass from Coverr. There isn’t much movement to cover up, which makes it a great video to practice on.



When choosing the perfect video for your cinemagraph, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • The camera needs to stay still the entire time. If you’re shooting the video yourself, dig out the tripod to keep things as stable as possible.
  • The movement should be easy to isolate. If objects are crossing in front of each other or moving all over the screen, it’ll be harder to isolate the movement you actually want while keeping the background still.
  • The video should loop. To keep the cinemagraph timeless, it’ll need to loop. Make sure the beginning and end of your video will flow together nicely.

Once you’ve got your video file, you’re ready to load it into Photoshop.

2. Import the video file

With Photoshop pulled up, head to File > Import > Video Frames to Layers. Select your file, and then you’ll see this pop-up:



Here, you can choose to upload the entire video or use the trim controls (those little black shapes) to select a specific range. If your video is longer than the portion you’ll actually need, go ahead and trim it! The shorter you can make your clip, the easier it’ll be to work with.

Once you’re ready, hit OK.

3. Clean up the timeline

Even if you imported a selected range of video, you might still have some extra frames that you need to get rid of. Take a look at the timeline, play the video a few times, and keep only the frames with the motion you need.



Pro tip: Each frame in the Timeline corresponds to a specific layer. If you click a single frame, you’ll be able to see which layer it is. As you delete the frames from the Timeline, go ahead and delete the corresponding layers, also. It’ll help keep everything organized and easy to work with!

Once you’re done cleaning up the Timeline, it’s time to hide the movement.

4. Create the masking layer

Now you’ll create the “photo” aspect of the cinemagraph. Choose any layer you’d like and duplicate it. To help keep everything organized, you may want to rename this layer (mine is called, “Water Mask”).

Then, simply drag it to the top of all the other layers. If you hit play, you’ll notice that now you can’t see any of the video, because the still layer is on top.

Note: If you have troubles here, make sure all of the frames are selected in the Timeline. That should do the trick.

Last, add a vector mask (the white rectangle with a circle at the bottom of the Layers panel).


5. Isolate the movement

Make sure you have the vector mask selected (instead of the layer itself) and then grab the Brush Tool. Just like any mask, brushing with black will reveal the content underneath while brushing with white will hide it.

This allows you to isolate the movement, revealing only the motion you want your cinemagraph to show while keeping the rest frozen still.

6. Experiment with repeating and reversing

Depending on your video and how well it loops on its own, there’s one last trick you can use to create the cinemagraph of your dreams. Select all of the frames in the Timeline and duplicate them. Keeping the new frames selected, reverse them.


If the begining and end of your video don’t fit together perfectly, reversing the clips might be the perfect way to tie it all together.

7. Export as a gif

Once you’re happy with your cinemagraph, it’s time to export it! Simply go to File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy). There are lots of options you can experiment with here, but the two most important ones are:

  1. Save as a gif (located near the top of the dialog box)
  2. Set the looping options to Forever (located near the bottom of the dialog box)


And that’s it! You’ve just created your very own cinemagraph to share with the world. How’d it turn out? We’d love to know in the comments, or tweet your finished ‘graphs to @heyflywheel.

Comments ( 1 )

  1. Robert

    April 15, 2016

    That's a great cinemagraph tutorial. The only thing I would suggest is that using the GIF format for your cinemagraphs means that you're losing a lot of quality from the original source video. GIF is a file format that predates the Internet. Stick with MP4 videos. You'll find 1000s of examples of HD cinemagraphs at

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