Photoshop Tutorial: Create an Animated Sky Silhouette

Through various websites, including my own, I’ve been creating Photoshop tutorials for more than four years. In all that time, the most popular tutorial I’ve ever created – bar none – was one on designing a sunset silhouette piece of artwork. Since that tutorial was released, I’ve had a number of requests for an animated silhouette tutorial. This is my response: something that I feel is both artistic, and attractively animated.

Following the steps in this tutorial – only ten of them – you will be able to create an animated piece that smoothly transitions from night to day behind a silhouette of your choice. All that you need to create it is Photoshop – any version from 7.0 through current will work fine. ImageReady is also used, but is bundled with all full versions of Photoshop. In other words, it won’t work with Elements.

Note that there are two images attached to this article. One image is the finished animation, an example of what can be created with these steps. The other image is this tutorial in .gif format with illustrations – but you will find that following along here will be more beneficial. All text has to be kept brief in the image version of this tutorial because I don’t want it to take an hour to download on your screen.

The Steps


Open a new canvas in Photoshop (File, New). This canvas should be sized 350 x 150 pixels in RGB mode. Set your foreground color to orange (#db5809) and your background to yellow (#fae608).


Duplicate your background layer (right-click the layer and choose “Duplicate”). Then, hit your layer styles (in your toolbar – Layer, Styles) and choose “Gradient Overlay”. Apply the orange-to-black gradient smoothly from left to right. You might want to adjust the slider so that more yellow or more orange are showing, depending on the look you like best.


Set your foreground color to blue (#1d4e80) and create a new layer (Layer, New, Layer). Fill the new layer using your paintbucket tool with the blue. Then, set your foreground color to white and use star brushes to lightly dot the sky with white stars.

Star brushes for adobe photoshop download for mac can be found in many places on the Internet – some of them available as free downloads. The ones I’m using in this image are from Photoshop’s default brushes. To access them, open your brush palette and choose the “Assorted Brushes” set. You can adjust the size of the individual brush using the slider in that same menu, which will give you the look of many different stars of several different sizes.

You might also find that you want some of your stars lighter than others. To do this, you would just need to create another new layer and place your stars on it as normal. Then, slide the “Fill” option on your Layers Palette down so that some of the stars look more faint than others.


It’s time to add our shape. Set your foreground color to black, and hold your shift key down on your keyboard while you drag the shape to keep proportions.

As with brushes, there are many places on the Internet that you can grab shapes from. It is harder to find free shape resources than it is to find free brushes, though. The Photoshop shape I’m using in this image comes from, where it is sold under the “Study of a Woman” set.


Now we want something for our shape to “stand” on. Use black and your elliptical shape tool to draw a sloping sort of hill beneath the shape. You don’t want it to cover up too much of the bottom portion of your original shape, but don’t place it low enough that your original shape looks like it’s floating, either. Once your hill is created, duplicate this layer and your shape

layer, so that there is one set of shapes for each “night” and “day”.


We’re ready to animate, but first we want to make life a bit easier by getting this series of layers down to only two. Click the “eye” beside your night layers, including the shapes for it, which will make them temporarily “invisible”. Then, right-click one of your day layers. Choose “Merge Visible”, and all your day layers will be on one single layer. Do the same thing with your night layers, turning off your day layer first. You’re left with only two layers instead of several, which will make animating go much more smoothly.


To animate our image, we have to move to ImageReady. Within Photoshop, click “File” and choose “Edit in ImageReady”. Photoshop will move your canvas with its layers intact over to the other program for you – it just might take a minute, so be patient.


When your canvas has been all moved over to ImageReady, find the “animation window”. If this window isn’t showing, click “Window” in your ImageReady toolbar and tick “animation”. When you find it, you will want to note the buttons for “duplicate frame” and “tween”. These are the only two buttons you’ll need for this effect.


By default, ImageReady will have just one layer, usually the first layer – our day layer – in the animation frame. Click the “duplicate frame” button to duplicate the first frame, and you will have two “day” frames. Now, highlight the second frame and move to your layers palette. Turn the “eye” off beside the day layer, and on beside the night layer. You now have two frames, each showing a different state – night, or day.


Technically, our animation will now run from night to day. But we want it smooth, so we’re going to

highlight the first frame, and click the “tween” button.

In the dialogue that appears, put 10 for the number of frames and leave all the other default settings alone. Click ok.

You can now save – File, Save – and you have an animated silhouette. Want to see mine? Check the second image attached to this article.