Photoshop Animation Tip #1 – Create an Assets Document

I’m always struggling with Photoshop’s default behaviours when setting up a new document for 2D animation. So I’ve created myself an “Assets Document” to keep sane for dealing with Photoshops crippling behaviours.

With Layer animation, creating  a new empty layer/frame always results in adjusting the layers duration back to a few frames instead of the default length of 10 seconds. Alex Grigg created a set of actions in his tutorial to circumvent this behaviour. He created an action which will create a new layer by duplicating the selected layer and then delete its content.

When using Video Layers, creating a new empty Video Layer will result in an empty Video Layer with the duration equal to the duration of all the footage on the Timeline combined. Great for animating “Straight Ahead” or rotoscoping but not so great when you’re working from keys to contact positions to passing positions and in-betweens.

But a well prepared “Assets Document” can help you overcome these problems with ease (and add more structure to how you use the Layers Panel).

What is an Assets Document?

Good question! An Asset Document is nothing more than a Photoshop document with an empty canvas, containing every Layer or Video Layer with my preferred duration or number of frames (4) and Frame Rate.

This is how I’ve set up my Assets Document

I usually set the document timeline frame rate to 24 Fps, being the intended frame rate for final output. In my assets document I’ve created color coded and named layers for Layer Animation and I’ve created three Video Layers at different frame rates; each containing only four empty frames, for animating on ones, two’s and fours; Bill Plympton’s recommended frame rate :-)

Layers panel
Assets Document – Layers panel

 How to use it?

Simply have the Assets Document open next to the project you’re currently working on and shift-drag the desired layer from the Asset Document’s Layers panel onto the canvas of your current project. This will paste the empty layer, smack in the middle of your canvas- including the color-coding, duration or number of frames, Frame Rate, Layer-name and; unless you’re working in a Video Layer Group, unfortunately also the location on the Timeline.

Move the new layer’s in-point to the current time of the playhead by clicking the Time Line drop-down menu and selecting Move & Trim > Move start to playhead (or just create a keyboard shortcut for it, like I did). When you’re using Video Layer Groups the new layer will be inserted after the currently selected segment.

Timeline with the different “imported” layers

Note that all Video Layers contain four frames. See the difference in duration of the Video Layers based on its frame rate in relation to the frame rate of the Timeline.

I hope this idea will help you in your animation-process!

Did you come up with an interesting solution to beat Photoshop into submission? Share your insights in the comments below.