How to Animate a Vector Mask Position in Adobe Photoshop

  • Thread starter KristinaW
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May 7, 2021
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A few weeks ago, I wrote about how to add a vector mask to video in Adobe Photoshop. I’ll give you the link to that post below. Adding vector masks to video is something that’s critical to learn about and understand because it’s called for all the time. Videos in videos, animated videos, working with a combination of images and videos – there are countless combinations when it comes to something like this. The thing is, while it’s important to become fluent with the vector mask thing, it’s even more important to learn how to move those masks around. If you aren’t sure why moving masks around might be helpful, think about how many video transitions you see on a daily basis. Those transitions use the same principle as the one I’m going to cover below.

Combining Vector Shapes with Clipping Masks for Video in Adobe Photoshop

In today’s post, I’m going to discuss the very simple process of animating a vector mask in an effort to reveal a hidden video in Adobe Photoshop. I’ve already gone ahead and set the two videos and the vector shape up inside of one tab and I’ve also gone ahead and created a clipping mask relationship between one of the videos and the vector shape layer. All this took me about 30 seconds to complete, so if you’re not sure how to go about doing something like this, I encourage you to read through the link I just shared above. Either that, or you can simply click here.

Demo Videos​

For this post, I randomly selected two videos that were around the same dimensions. Any size differences were cropped out. Then, since both videos were in different tabs, I dragged one of the video layers over into the other video tab. I dropped it there, which created my primary project tab. After that, I added the vector shape layer, which happened to be a rectangle and finally, I created the clipping mask. Here’s a screenshot of part of the two videos.


Since the videos weren’t as crisp as I would have liked them to be, I added an adjustment layer to increase the contract. Here’s a capture of the Layers panel.


The top layer is the adjustment layer, which affects all the layers below with increased contrast, the second layer down is the hidden video that will be revealed, the third layer is the vector rectangle shape and the fourth layer is the primary video that will reduce in size because of the impending animation.

Altering the Vector Mask Position​

To create this animation, the same rules need to be followed for that you would for any other type of animation. Basically, I’ll need to create a start point and an end point (keyframes). The only tricky part is remembering to add the correct type of keyframe. At first glance, I might be tempted to add keyframes to the Position row. What I really want to do is add them to the Vector Mask Position one. Attempting to change the position of a vector mask inside of Photoshop isn’t possible by using only the Position keyframe feature. I’ll show you what happens if I try.

I’ve gone ahead and selected the vector shape layer in the Layers panel. Then, I clicked on the small arrow in the timeline that sits to the left of that layer name. Doing this opened up the animation controls for that layer. Take a look.


If I click on the timeline in the Position stopwatch icon, I’ll immediately see this warning pop up.


It says, “Animating the layer position may not have any effect. You may need to animate the mask.” That’s interesting because at first glance, many people may think they’re attempting to animate the actual layer shape, but in essence, they’re attempting to animate the mask, just as the warning stated. To work around this warning, I’ll steer clear of the Position control and I’ll skip down a few spots to the Vector Mask Position row. That’s where I want to be.

Before I click in the row though, I’ll need to slide the mask over to the left, so it’s just off screen. My goal with this animation is to have the video in question start off in a hidden state and then slide in, while the video is playing, to the half way point. That’s where I’ll have the animation stop and the video content continue on playing. Sort of like an animated split screen.

I’ve repositioned the mask so it’s off screen. At this point, I’ll go ahead and make sure the playhead is at the 0:00 second mark and then I’ll click the little stopwatch icon that sits to the left of the words Vector Mask Position.


Next, I’ll push the playhead to the 3:00 mark. That’s going to be the end of the transition. After that, I’ll hold down the Shift key on my keyboard to lock any layer mask movement into a horizontal plane and then I’ll drag the layer mask over so the video stops at the center point. When I let go of the mask layer with my mouse, the end point keyframe will automatically appear.


And that’s all I need to do. If I play the video back and want to make any adjustments with the timing, I can easily drag the keyframes around. Those would be just small tweaks.

Basically, adding an animation for a vector mask layer is much like adding one for a regular layer. Again, the only area you need to pay attention to is which type of keyframe you apply.

Here’s a look at the final video.

I hope I clearly explained how to add an animation to a vector mask in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them down in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!

COMMENT: Hi there, It seems you’ve animated a vector layer above the video however I’m curious as to how to animate an actual layer mask of a layer. For me, it’s a smart object that I am hoping to hide then reveal but there is another object below it so it’s a bit complicated. I keep trying using the above type of method but the mask doesn’t move at all. Can you help? Thanks so much!