So I started making animated gif images for a little side project lately and encountered a problem for which I couldn't find any information online.

Basically, since the subject in the future gif is diagonally moving across the image, I moved the layers sideways on some frames to negate the horizontal moving and keep the subject in the center (more or less). I did this because I wanted the width of the image to be smaller than the height and keep the subject always in the center. I don't know if there is a better way for "motion tracking" in photoshop (It would be nice if I knew one though), because I'm pretty new to generating animated images.

After that process, in most frames one side of the image was empty, since i moved the layers in the direction of the other side. So I finally tried to crop the image to finish it and encountered the problem: those empty parts of the image remained, they somehow moved themselves to the new set broders of the image, and through this, they deleted parts of the actual subject I wanted to portrait. This was somewhat unexplicable to me, because I always thought cropping an image would completly ignore the left out parts of an image and delete them. I hope what I'm saying is not to hard to understand. English is not my first language and I dont know any photoshop jargon.

So my question is basically how do you crop a gif correctly after moving some of the layers, and is there something I might have overlooked.

I hope you can help me with this, and otherwise I'm sorry for having wasted your time.

EDIT: to clarify the problem a little bit, imagine a video in landscape format video which I imported in photoshop with the import "video frames to layers" option. Now, the subject to which I want to limit the image to moves from the upper right corner to the under left corner (not all the way though). My final product should be a portrait format animated gif which should always have the subject in the center. So what I did was moving the layers a little bit to the right, every following frame a little bit more. Thus, in the left side of the canvas appears a thin line of "empty nothing" (I dont know how you call this in photoshop jargon), which gets thicker with every subsequent frame, because the layers are moved to the right, so there is no "image" in that part of the canvas. Finally I had the subject centered in the canvas on every frame, so I tried to crop out the rest of it (right and left side, I left the height as it was) to have only left the center of this image, with the subject on it. But this didnt work out as planned, because the empty part on the left side was in the now portrait format image as well. Basically, the left side of the final gif is empty in the same way the uncropped image was, deleting important parts of the final product. I hope this explains it.

  • Can you upload what you have thus far to better grasp what you are talking about? If I understand you correctly, you cropped out a image and when it animates the areas of the image you couldn't see came into the canvas? – Javi Feb 18 '14 at 23:39
  • @Javi I didn't want to mention this because I didn't want to appear unprofessional. But the thing is, the image is a tiny bit NSFW, so i think it might be better to not upload it here. I will edit the actual post and try to clarify the problem situation – user20010 Feb 18 '14 at 23:54

The answer to this question is... use After Effects.

You probably could solve this problem in Photoshop, by learning to bend your ways around its ways of doing things, but it will be clumsy, destructive and time consuming.

That's time that would be far better spent learning the methodologies of After Effects.

After Effects, by way of introduction and encouragement to take the time to learn it, is by far the best product Adobe makes. It's daylight to second place.

// Which is Lightroom.

Photoshop is a cash cow and industry stalwart, but it's long ago become a burden of its own weight. The timeline features and export features it has are part of that bloat, are not well thought out and not worth the time it takes to learn them unless you're already a Photoshop addict.

It appears, from your lack of understanding of the terminology and approaches of Photoshop that you're not yet an addict of its ways and paradigms.


Jump to After Effects immediately. It can do everything you're currently trying to do, natively, and much more, and it's actually got some reasonable paradigms. It has its share of problems, but nothing like the nightmare that is Photoshop or Illustrator.

And After Effects is actually better for the kind of image editing you're likely wanting to do... as although it's an animation and compositing application, it is also very capable at still image editing.

And if you learn After Effects instead of Photoshop it will put you in great steed for the future as you'll be able to more easily learn things that are more interesting than editing NFSW stuff, faster.

The best place to start learning After Effects is Vimeo, followed closely by youtube.

---- A quick note about learning animation software ------

It is difficult because all your preconceived notions about how best to animate something, and how simple it should be to animate something will prevent you from seeing the truth of animation design software:

That animation design software was not well designed, and is just about all running legacy User Interface conventions and ideas that predate thinking about usability from a humane perspective.

So you have to really suffer for first by letting go of the idea that these powerful applications have been well thought out... they have not.

The only possible exception to this is the one that's no longer in existence... Combustion from Discreet. But it's gone, so don't bother looking for it.

Just sack up some coffee, spend some time in front of youtube and vimeo... and do one other thing...

LET GO OF PRE-existing design ideas while you're learning!

It's faster to iterate through what you learn some features to do, and expand your knowledge from there, than to try to do something specific that requires you learn 20 aspects of a program's approaches and paradigms.

And you'll get to your destination in a better way if you take the journey as a joy rather than an obstacle.


  • Wow, this is a great answer, alltough it doesnt solve my actual problem. I will definitely look into After Effects and check out some tutorials. Thank you for your time! I would upvote your answer, but it seems like I dont have enough "reputation" to do so, sorry. – user20010 Feb 19 '14 at 17:32

I was able to work around this issue (with PhotoShop CS5) with the following:

  1. Select a frame in the animation.
  2. Duplicate the layer that was moved.
  3. This duplicates it into every frame. To fix that, select frame 1 and turn off the duplicated layer (which removes it from every frame).
  4. Select the frame again, turn on the duplicated layer (this time it will only be added to this frame), and turn off the original layer.
  5. Repeat for every frame.

After doing this, cropping the image then worked properly.

This was extremely tedious (even for an animation with only 9 frames), but it worked okay.


I know it's late on this, but I just found your question and it had been a problem of mine until I figured it out. If the layers are not smart objects, the cropping will get messed up. Try converting them all to smart layers and then crop.


I know it's an old question, but I had the same problem today while editing an animation in Photoshop. Then I figured out Crop tool has a checkbox called "Delete cropped pixels" and unchecking it fixes the issue for me.

Delete cropped pixels

I don't really know the reason why deleting cropped pixels messes up positions for other frames in animation, and if this is just a side effect of something else, but I tried it a couple of times to confirm that with that box checked it causes the issue, and when I uncheck it before cropping all the frames stay in their places as they should.

Hope it helps.

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