Document structure with Groups and Video Groups

Don’t get lost in the of jungle of layers involved in Photoshop animation and structure your Photoshop animation projects with Groups and Video Groups. When you’re ready to animate more than just your basic animated gif, you might get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of layers if you fail to structure you Photoshop animation document.

Don’t mistakenly think Groups and Video Groups are so different you eithers use one or the other; there is great potential in combining them. This post is a quick introduction to Groups and Video Groups, the main building blocks to structure your Photoshop document.

Group vs Video Group

So first of all, what is a Group? A (Video) Group is also known as a Layer Set.  Layer Sets are placeholders that can contain multiple Layers. A Layer Set is represented in the Layers Panel as a folder that can contain any kind of Layer. Apply layer effects, transfer modes and transparency to a Layer Set as if it were single layer.

A Group and Video Group in the Layers Panel
A Group and Video Group in the Layers Panel

When you compare Groups and Video Groups in the Layers Panel, you won’t, apart from their individual icons, notice any difference. The real distinction lies in their behaviour in the Timeline Panel.

In a Group, layers keep their initial and individual timing. Therefore layers in the same Group can be stacked on top of each other, overlap and interact by using blending modes and/or layer effects.

In a Video Group layers are expected to behave like frames and are placed in a sequence (and kept in sequence). That’s why layers in a Video Group can not overlap or be stacked in a single Video Group.

Because Groups and Video Groups are Layer Sets, they can be moved on the timeline by dragging or with the “Move Start to Playhead” from the timeline’s fly-out menu (and the corresponding functions on the Animator’s Toolbar Pro).

“Grouping” Video Groups

You can group Video Groups without any problems. You can create overlaps or stack multiple Video Groups on top of each other. By grouping Video Groups you can apply a layer effect affecting all layers (including Video Groups) inside the Group.

Video Group placed inside a Group
Video Group placed inside a Group


“Video Grouping” Groups

Although it is possible to video group a Group, the result might not be what you were expecting. When a Group is added to a Video Group all layers contained in the Group are treated as frames and placed in sequence.

Using Groups in Video Groups is a handy way to apply transfer modes or layer effects that only affects a specific group of frames/layers in the sequence.

Group placed inside a Video Group
Group placed inside a Video Group

“Video Grouping” Video Groups

It is possible to place a Video Group inside another Video Group which will behave much like a Group placed inside a Video Group. The added benefit is that a Video Group won’t explode to multiple layers in the Timeline Panel when placed outside its parent Video Group.

Make sure you’ll make it to the other end of the layer jungle, sane and alive! Structure your document like a pro with Groups and Video Groups.


  1. Hi!
    Is there a possibility to reverse order of the frames in a video layer? (PS CS6).
    I’m learning this programme by animating simple pendulum.

    Cheers, Adam

    1. The only way to do that inside Photoshop is to cut the video layer in single frames/layers and reverse the layer order. You might want to rasterise the single frame video layers before reversing the layer order.

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