How to Create an Editable Animated RGB Glitch Effect in Adobe Photoshop

Tutorial Assets

To follow this tutorial, we are going to use the following resources:

  • Woman smelling flower
  • Man and smartphone

1. How to Add Images as a Smart Layer

Step 1

Make a New Document with the size 450 px x 700 px. Click the OK button. It is essential to set its Color Mode to RGB Color.

Create a new document

Step 2

In this tutorial we are going to add a glitch to a free photo from Pixabay. Copy and then Paste the photo onto the blank canvas. Depending on the image dimensions, you may need to resize it.

Woman Stock from Pixabay
Resize the stock

Step 3

Name the layer imageRight-click the layer and then select Convert to Smart Object. It is important to convert the base image into a smart object to retain the image quality and to help us easily edit the content. 

If you are not familiar with the concept of a Smart Object, I suggest you read this short article by Martin Perhiniak. In the Layers panel, a Smart Object is indicated by a black and white icon on the lower-right corner of the layer’s thumbnail.

Convert to smart object
Smart object in layers panel

2. How to Prepare the Glitch Animation

Step 1

We are going to use lots of layers, so it is always a good habit to keep them organized using group layers. Add a new Group layer and name it RGB glitch animation. We will start building the first frame. Inside the group layer, add another sub Group layer and name it 1.

Add new group

Step 2

Duplicate the image smart layer by Alt-dragging it into the Group 1.

Duplicate the image

Step 3

We need to restrict the image blending options to specific channels only. Double-click the smart layer we have just duplicated and then deselect G and B. Name the layer R for Red Channel.

Turn off red channel in the layer R
Turn off the red channel in the layer R

Step 4

At first, it seems there is nothing happening. We’ll get back to it later. For now, Duplicate the layer twice and select only the G and B check boxes respectively to turn on the green and blue channels. Name those two layers G and B.

G for the green channel and layer B for the blue channel
Turn off all channels except the blue one in the layer B

Step 5

So, what exactly is happening here? The image is made of three colors, or channels, to reproduce the colors you see on the screen. In the Advanced Blending option, we only turn on one channel. Below is what we have when the original image is hidden and only layer R (Red channel) is revealed.

Only one channel is active

And this is what happens when the image layer is revealed. When it is revealed, we will have all RedGreen, and Blue Channels active, which ends up as a regular image.

All channels are active

Step 6

Apply the available Distortion Filter to the one channel layer. Click Filter > Distort > Wave. Use a small Number of Generators. We don’t want the result to be too extreme. Since we are using a Smart Object, we have an extra advantage with the filter. The filter is automatically turned into a non-destructive Smart Filter which can be freely edited anytime.

Apply distortion to the layer
Apply distortion to the layer

Step 7

Repeat the Distortion Filter on the other layer. You can instantly apply the last filter to the active layer using the shortcut Control-F. If you want to edit the parameter first, use Control-Alt-F. In the Wave filter dialog box, hit Randomize to make a different kind of distortion.

Apply distortion to the other layer
Apply distortion

Step 8

Repeat a similar distortion effect on the remaining layer.

Apply distortion

Step 9

We need more distortion. Duplicate all the three layers. Alt-Drag to duplicate them.

Duplicate the layers

Step 10

To differentiate the result, we can modify the Wave filter setting. This can be done by double-clicking its name in the Smart Filter list. The Wave dialog box will pop up, and you can change its parameters. Or you can also try other Distortion Filters, such as Shear.

Edit the Wave filter settings
Change the Wave filter parameters

Step 11

Alt-Click the Add Layer Mask icon to Hide the layer. Do this to all the layers.

Add layer mask

Step 12

We need more layers for the next frame. Duplicate the group layer and name the copies 234, and 5.

Duplicate the group layer

Step 13

We’ll start revealing the glitch. Hit D to revert the background color to white. Make a new selection using the Rectangular Marquee Tool. Hit Control-Delete to Fill the selection with white and reveal the selected area.

Reveal the glitch

Step 14

Repeat this step on the other layers in each group layer. To add multiple selections, hold Shift while dragging the Rectangular Marquee Tool. As in the previous steps, Fill the selection with white.

Reveal the glitch 2
Repeat this to all layers
Repeat this to all layer 2
Do this to all group layers

3. How to Add an Old TV Scan-Line Pattern

Step 1

Now, we want to add the subtle scan-line pattern which appears in old VHS videos. Make a New Document with a canvas size of 5 px x 3 px.

Make new file for TV scanline pattern

Step 2

Add a New LayerFill the top half of the canvas with black. We don’t need the Background layer, so just Hide it by clicking on its icon or simply Delete it.

Fill upper part of the canvas with black

Step 3

Select the whole canvas area. Click Edit > Define Pattern to save the canvas as a Pattern. Give it a recognizable name such as tv-scanline. We don’t need the pattern file anymore. We have already saved its pattern. You can simply close it without saving.

Save as pattern

Step 4

Return to our main glitch file. Add a New Layer and name it tv scanline. Click Edit > Fill. Select Contents: Pattern and select the tv-scanline pattern we made earlier.

Make new layer and fill with tv-scanline pattern

Step 5

We want the pattern to stay subtle. Reduce its Opacity to about 40%.

Keep the patterns subtle

Step 6

Let’s add a vignette effect. Add a New Layer and then use a very big and Soft Round Brush to paint black on the corner of the canvas. Reduce the layer’s Opacity to keep the vignette effect subtle.

Add a vignette

Step 7

Add a New Layer and then add random colors to the edge of the canvas.

Add random color

Step 8

If we want to, we can turn off some of its channel.

Turned off certain channel

4. How to Create a Frame Animation

Step 1

We are now starting to add animation to the scene. Open up the Timeline panel from the Window menu. Click the Create Frame Animation button.

Create Frame Animation

Step 2

We are now at the first frame. For the first frame, Hide all the group layers inside the RGB glitch animation and reveal only the first group layer. Make sure to set the frame duration to 0.1 seconds and the Loop setting to Forever.

First frame
Set frame duration and loop

Step 3

For the second frame, reveal the second group layer and Hide the others. For the third frame, reveal the third group layer and so on.

Continue making the next frame
Fifth frame

Step 4

We can continue Duplicating the group layer for the sixth frame and so forth, but it will significantly increase the file size. We can get around this by revealing a random combination of layers from all the groups layers.

Create next frame from random combination of layers

Step 5

Keep on adding frames onto the scene. You can test the animation result by clicking on the Play icon on the bottom of the Timeline panel.

Test the GIF animation

5. How to Save a GIF Animation

To Save the animation, press Control-Shift-Alt-S to open up the giant Save for Web dialog box. Select file type: GIF. It is currently the only sensible type of image file that supports animation. GIF has limited colors and may give the final image a pixelated or blocky look. To achieve higher quality, you can increase the number of colors used and use Diffusion in the Dithering drop-down option. Click the Save button.

Save animation using Save for Web feature

Note: Since the final GIF size is bigger than 200 KB, which is the limitation for an Envato Tuts+ image, we have to show it as a movie:

6. How to Edit the Smart Object Content

Step 1

Remember that we used a Smart Object and its copies throughout this project. Every copy of the smart object that we placed in every group layer is identical. We can edit one of those Smart Objects and all of its instances will be automatically updated. To edit the image, double-click the first Smart Object that we placed at the root of the Layers panel. We can use any Smart Object in fact, but this one is much more convenient since it is not hidden inside the group layer.

Edit the Smart Object content

Step 2

The Smart Object will be opened as a separate image file.

Open the smart object separately

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