Cinemagraph Tutorial for Beginners

A cinemagraph are still image in which a specific part is looping infinitely.

Most of the time, the cinemagraphs are published in GIF format, because their use is generally seen on webpages or social platforms.

In this post, you will learn how to create a cinemagraph animation using Adobe After Effects.

For the example, I have taken a video of myself spinning on a chair while my colleagues are working. The purpose is to freeze everything around me and keep only the chair moving and looping.

To do this, you need to have the beginning of the animation same as the ending. You’ll get something like this:


How to do a cinemagraph?

Taking the video can be with anything, going from a professional video camera to a mobile phone.

After taking the video, open it in After Effects and follow the steps mentioned below.

  • Create a new composition by dragging the video to the “new composition” icon.
  • Define the beginning and the end of the loop and use “B” and “N” shortcuts to cut the composition.
  • Right click on the layer and choose “Trim to comp area”. This is to cut the part you will be using, from the rest of the video.

Now that you have the useful part of the video, you need to freeze the elements that you don’t want to move in your cinemagraph.

To do this, duplicate the layer of the video (Ctrl + D).


  • Select the bottom layer.
  • Stop the cursor on the frame you would like to freeze.
  • Right click on the layer and choose “Time” and then “Freeze Frame”.

As simple as that.

Now, on the top layer, draw a mask around the object you would like to be moving with the pen tool.


Click on the stop watch icon of the mask path. You can press “m” twice to get the mask settings.

Important Note: Animate the mask by moving its points along the video to cover the moving object of the cinemagraph.

In the mask setting, choose a feather value to blur out the mask edges and blend the shadows with the scene.

Cinemagraph_Mask Settings
Cinemagraph_Mask Settings

Congratulations! The basic steps for creating a cinemagraph are done.

Creating the Loop

Select all the layers and pre-compose them by pressing ctrl + shift +C.  You’ll get a new comp with one layer to work with.

To speed up the animation, right click on the animation layer, choose “Time” then “Time Stretch”. I personally chose 25% which speeds up the video x4.

Cinemagraph_Time Stretch
Cinemagraph_Time Stretch

For the reverse effect, copy the layer and move it after the first one, then right click on it go to “Time” and choose “Time-reverse layer”.

Cinemagraph_Reverse Time
Cinemagraph_Reverse Time

Important Note: Pre-compose again to group and copy the layers as many times as you like your loop to be.

You can add a level adjustment layer to color correct the final video.

Cinemagraph_Adjustment Layer
Cinemagraph_Adjustment Layer


To render the video, use the shortcut Ctrl + M and export it as QuickTime with an H264 compression.

You can use the video as it is right now. Another option is to take it to Photoshop and export it as a GIF animation. There, you can make the size of the video smaller and decrease the frame rate.

Here you have it, a simple cinemagraph animation. I hope you enjoyed it!


Written by Christine Abdel Massih

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