How To Rotoscope In Photoshop

New to animation? Try rotoscoping! If this sounds daunting, we urge you to continue with this article, follow the steps, and see for yourself. 

To rotoscope, you will open your reference video, zoom into the layer to see each frame, create a new layer, overlap the first video layer and this new layer, begin drawing on the layer for all frames, add a background layer, and then add a new layer to add color. 

To understand each step in detail, continue reading. 

What Is Rotoscoping?

Rotoscoping is an animation technique that traces motion picture footage frame by frame to produce realistic action. It is commonly used to create special effects for movies and videos and traditional animation. 

By tracing over the footage, animators can create realistic movements and create realistic animation. The footage is later removed, leaving only the animated sequence. 

Open The Video

First, you need to open the video you will use as a reference. 

  1. Select the video layer.
  2. Click the little downward arrow at the end of the timeline bar. 
  3. In the dropdown menu, click Set Timeline Frame.
  4. In the window that opens, choose a lower rate of frames per second. We are going to be going with 12 fps. 

Zoom Into The Layer To See Each Frame

It would help if you saw each frame separately. To be able to do that:

  1. Under the layers panel, look for a slider with a plus sign on one end and a negative sign on the other. 
  2. Slide towards the plus sign.
  3. This will not change the video. 
  4. Above the layer, you will begin to see numbers. These are the number of frames, and you can differentiate between each frame easily now. 

Create A New Layer

To create a new layer on which you can draw:

  1. Go to the top panel and click on Layers.
  2. In the dropdown menu, go to Video Layers and then choose New Blank Video Layer. 
  3. A new layer will appear and be put alongside the first layer in the timeline. 

Put The Two Layers Together

To work on the two layers by drawing about the first one, the layers need to overlap. To do so:

  1. Go to the layers panel on the right side of the screen. 
  2. Click and drag the second layer outside the Video Group. 
  3. In the timeline, take the second layer and drag it to place it above the first one. 

Draw On The New Layer

The fun and most exciting parts are here. Draw on the layers by following these instructions first:

  1. Select Layer 2 in the layers panel on the right side of the screen.
  2. Go to the brush tool in the tools panel.
  3. Choose a brush and adjust the size according to the requirements of the animation. 
  4. Begin drawing and be patient. 

Add A Background

The animation would require a background. To add a background:

  1. Open up a new file.
  2. Here, open up the image that you wish to use as the background. 
  3. Now drag this image and move it to the tab that contains the rotoscoping file. 
  4. Once you release your cursor to drop the image, you will notice a new layer forming. 
  5. Set this third layer behind the second layer, so the animation falls onto it. 
  6. Extend this layer across the frames in the timeline. 

Continue On All Frames

Now that you know the process, continue moving on to the next frames. Turn the background layer off while you do this. Keep tracing the object that needs to be animated. This may take a while, but keep going. 

Add Color To The Animation

What is an animation without color? To add color:

  1. Create a new layer by going to Layers > Video Layers > New Blank Video Layer.
  2. This is your Layer 4. 
  3. Place this below Layer 2. 
  4. Extend the layer across all frames. 
  5. Select Layer 4 and then select the brush tool. 
  6. Move from one frame to the next while adding color to your animations. 

Export The File

Play the video to see the masterpiece that you just created. Once you are satisfied with it, click File in the top panel. Go to Save as, name the file and save it. 

If you still need help finding yourself, look into this video to learn more: 


Rotoscoping is a time-consuming process, and it may greatly test your patience. However, be patient and understand that each frame will take a while. Do not give up, and keep going. The result will make it all worth it.