How to make a cinemagraph

You may not know the proper name for it, but you’ve sure been mesmerised into a staring trance by one. Cinemagraphs are those addictive moving images that get better the longer you look at them as you take in all the moving elements. But what does it take to actually make one, and can you? Of course you can, with our help anyway! 


What is a cinemagraph?

Halfway between a video and a photograph, a cinemagraph is a still photo that features subtle looping animations to give the illusion of movement. Not just effective for sharing on social media, cinemagraphs make highly impactful site and promotional imagery.

cinemagraph by jamie beck and kevin burg

'Return to Oz' by Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg 

How to make a cinemagraph using Adobe After Effects (and a little Photoshop) 

This guide will show you how to make your own cinemagraphs using Adobe After Effects and a little bit of Adobe Photoshop. Before you get started, you need a little preparation. When shooting a video for a cinemagraph, make sure you consider the following:

1. You can use any camera that records video; a digital video camera, a DSLR or even a smartphone with a decent camera. Just make sure you have plenty of battery charge left!

2. Use a tripod. It will keep the camera still – any camera movement will make it nearly impossible to create an effective cinemagraph.

3. Pick the right subject. By this we mean something that displays movement that starts and finishes in the same place is ideal. A good example is footage of a record player playing a record. A bad example is a child running around a park.

4. Record more footage than you need so that it gives you options when it comes to the movement you decide to focus on, and makes editing easier. Ideally, for a 2-3 second cinemagraph you should shoot about 20-25 seconds footage.


Once you’re happy with your footage, and know the element you want to isolate in the cinemagraph, do the following:

1. Create a new project and composition in After Effects.

2. Import your video footage and drag it into your video timeline, framing it up in your composition window if you’ve used different dimensions for the composition and your video.

3. Copy and paste your video layer, so you now have two video layers sitting one on top of the other.

4. Select the top video layer. Using the pen tool, draw a mask around the part of your video frame that you want to move in your cinemagraph. In this example, I want the shine across the foiling just to move across the circular flower design in the middle of the sheet. 

5. Once you’ve drawn your mask, select the bottom video later. Go to your menu bar and select Layer > Time > Freeze Frame. This will make sure that the only part of your video to show movement will be the area you’ve previously masked.

6. Play through your video clip to find the 2-3 seconds of movement you’re happiest with. Move the ‘work area’ handles to that they sit at the start and finish of this 2-3 second clip.  

7. You’re now ready to export the edited cinemagraph video! Export as you usually would in After Effects, (File > Export > Add to Render Queue) remembering to make a note of where you’re saving the file. 

8. Open your new video file in Photoshop. It should automatically open as a video timeline. 

9. Go to File > Export > Save for Web to export the file as a GIF.  In the export window you can experiment with the GIF settings, (and change your file size to help save on file size,) but I’d recommend sticking to 256 colours and changing the ‘Dither’ option to ‘Diffusion’ at least.

10. Click ‘Save’, again making a note of where you’re saving the file.

11. Test your final Cinemagraph GIF file by opening it in a web browser. If you’re happy with it, it’s ready to upload to your chosen social media platform or website!



We also looked into some of the best apps out there for faster, cinemagraph creation.

Flixel not only gives you an ample 4 seconds of recording time, but it also lets you know whether your hand is too shaky. It’ll give you the choice to use your video as it is, or to make it into a cinemagraph.

This app lets you choose from your own media library as well as giving you the option to record a video without a time limit of just a few seconds. This is a great choice if you just want a simple app to do a simple job.


So go forth and create something amazing! If you have any cinemagraph apps you’d also recommend, or any other hints and tips with creating them, pop them below in the comments box and share up!  

P.S. If our tutorial got you excited about not just cinemagraphs, but about foiling (as it was a foiled card that was featured) then remember to shop our foiling range here:



24 Jan 2016 20:01
Can't wait to try this.
Keziah Herbert
28 Jan 2016 12:40
Interesting, a bit like a gif too...
I wonder if it'd work for my products. One way to find out!
28 Jan 2016 15:59
this is a new one on me - thanks for sharing :)
Sam Miller
12 Feb 2016 13:26
Great article in the Time magazine -

These unordinary GIFs have an essence of Harry Potter about them.
18 Feb 2016 15:46
Cool, would be cool to see applications of this in web
18 Dec 2016 12:29
very interesting, not heard of this before
05 Feb 2017 11:25
love these, gonna have to try!
David Brookes-Lennon
09 Feb 2017 22:45
Trying this :-)
Larissa Hirst
22 Feb 2017 12:15
Great to hear everyone - such an easy way to create something very beautiful!
Bryony Bishop
25 Apr 2017 13:51
I've only come across these recently - they look so cool!
Katherine Larcombe
05 May 2017 13:40
These look amazing! Thanks for sharing!

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