An Animation Project Your Students Will Absolutely Love

Do you remember the first flip book you made out of a pad of Post-it notes? We’ve all done it, and you’ve probably seen your students do it, too. Why not tap into that interest?

Our students spend their days immersed in animation via social media, television, apps, movies, and video games. Because of this, when you teach them how to animate, it blows their minds. They’re amazed at what they can create with such a simple process!

If you’re looking to explore animation with your students, try bringing everyday objects to life!

In this project, students will record a video clip of an everyday object, then add drawn elements on top in each frame. In this way, they’ll use the idea behind stop-motion animation to make their objects “come to life.” Note: it’s important for your students to have a good working knowledge of Photoshop before beginning this project. They’ll be asked to use layers as well as the brush tool. Check out a finished student example below!

Follow these 4 easy steps to get started.

1. Get Inspired

If you don’t follow Sean Charmatz on Instagram, you should start. He is the true master of bringing everyday objects to life. Before you begin this project, inspire your students by watching a few of his “Secret World of Stuff” videos. You’ll find your students laughing along with the videos while developing great ideas for their projects.

2. Record Video Footage

Before students can start bringing their objects to life, they must record a video clip of an everyday object. Using a classroom set of iPads or tablets will do the trick. Allow your students to explore your art room looking for things they never seem to notice. Challenge your students to develop a creative story for an otherwise mundane object like a tape dispenser or stapler.


This type of silly prompt is perfect for middle schoolers. If you’re looking for even more strategies to engage your kids, check out the Pro Learning Pack, “Strategies for Managing Middle Schoolers!”


Once students have chosen their object, they will need to film it doing something. Encourage your students to work together. One student can record while the other manipulates the object. For example, students might film a paint bottle getting squeezed, a paintbrush painting, or a sponge wiping a table. Video footage should not be very long. A 5-10 second clip is ideal. Once the video clip is recorded, have your students export the file to a computer to get ready for editing.

3. Add Animated Drawn Elements in Photoshop

Once the file is exported to the computer, students can begin adding their animated, drawn elements using the following steps.

Step 1
To begin, open the video file directly in Photoshop. The video will open as a video layer with an icon that looks like a small filmstrip on the bottom left corner. Make sure your students do not rasterize the layer, so it remains a video file.

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Step 2
To edit in animation mode, you must open up the Motion workspace. To do this, go to the toolbar and click the “Window” drop-down feature. From here select “Workspace” and click “Motion.”

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After the Motion workspace is selected, a timeline window will open below the main workspace. See the image below to make sure you have opened the animation timeline correctly.

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Step 3
Before students begin editing, go to the options panel in the top right corner of the Animation timeline window. From here, have your students select “enable onion mode.” This will allow students to see the drawings they made on the previous frame. From here, your students will be able to edit the video file.

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Step 4
To begin editing, create a new layer. Because it is not a video layer, the layer will show up as purple in the animation timeline, whereas any video layers will be blue. Make sure the purple layers are above the blue so no parts of the drawing are hidden.

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Start drawing on the new layer directly above the segment of the video. When you are ready to move onto the next frame of the video, click the “next frame” button located by the “plan” button. From here, students can use the brush tool to continue drawing over the next frame of the animation. For a quicker result, encourage your students to simply duplicate the previous layer and make slight edits on the next frame, just like they would in a stop-motion animation. Students will repeat these steps to finish their video animation.

4. Export and Enjoy

Finally, students will need to export their video file. To do this go to File>Export>Render Video. From here, select “render” and a progress bar will appear. Depending on the file size, this can take a bit of time. Following these saving steps are very important so students have a moving video file! For an added bonus, encourage your students to add sound. They can do this through the Photoshop feature or by uploading their file into iMovie.

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Teaching your students to animate is a wonderful way for students to think methodically and critically. You will be shocked with the creative ideas your students develop. To see more examples of how this project can work in your classroom, check out these student examples!

Do you teach animation in your classroom? What method do you use?

Have you ever animated in Photoshop? What tips can you add?

Abby Schukei

Abby is a middle school art teacher in Omaha, NE. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

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  • Lauren Petiti

    This might work for younger students, but I don’t know that this is a good thing for older students (high school age). If we’re talking about animation in an art class, I’d use a project that not only talks about technology but also talks about the art form of animation. I don’t want to just have technology for the sake of technology in an art class, no matter how avant garde it might be. Whenever I see a push for tech in the art classroom, I think of a quote from John Lasseter (CCO of Pixar Animation): “Art inspires technology, and technology inspires the art”. I don’t know that doing this takes animation to the level it could go, nor does it help students develop an appreciation for animation as a medium rather than just something to be used for humor. It’d be interesting to see where we could take a project like this while incorporating more of some of the basic concepts of animation. It might be a good starting ground.

    • Abby Schukei

      Hi Lauren, thanks for reading! I use this lesson in an 8th Digital Art and Design class during our animation unit. We start with two basic introductory animation projects. The 1st GIF animations: https://www.theartofed.com/2017/01/11/step-step-guide-gif-animations/ and this as a 2nd basic lesson. Before we begin we talk about the history of animation, specifically focusing on photographer Eadweard Muybridge. This is the presentation we start with: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1K_rrXOGMjMTdEz1KSNJlLXFtL4bCzUsXfeP62ab_1a8/edit?usp=sharing

      I’m a big tech user and I wholeheartedly agree with you that we shouldn’t be using tech for tech’s sake. I’m a big proponent that technology shouldn’t be simply used to replace the art making process, but to enhance it. Although, this project might not be an advanced lesson it will teach scaffolding skills for students to develop further animation concepts working with both still frame and video images.

  • Bob Scroggins

    Check out hombre_mcsteez on Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/hombre_mcsteez/
    He creates animations with transparencies, sharpies, and white-out. He does use digital now, too. He came to China for a short time to teach kids at an international school in Beijing about animation, so his type of animation is do-able by students. And it’s fun!

    • Abby Schukei

      Very cool! Thanks for sharing!