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Add some flash to your art with an animated marquee

Added on Thursday 13th of April 2006 12:24 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS/CS2, ImageReady 7/CS/CS2

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Creating a simple flicker of light is an easy technique, but if you want to make your lights appear to be running around an object, it can be a little trickier. We’ll show you how to create a marquee sign with running lights to enhance your animation skills and broaden the possibilities of your next creation.


To create a marquee with running lights, we’ll:

     Set up the initial marquee sign to get started with this technique.

     Show you how to create the layers necessary to produce this illusion of motion.

     Demonstrate how to prepare the animation frames easily in both Photoshop CS2 and ImageReady so you can follow along in either application.


You’ve seen them before: running lights or chasers, popular on theater marquees and quite possibly every street corner in Las Vegas. While it’s relatively simple to create a single blinking light effect, don’t be dissuaded from upgrading this simple approach to lights that race and chase each other around your object. The technique is a little more involved to set up, but the results are worth it.


Create the frame

We’ll begin with an image of some taxis and add a frame to it to place our lights on. The final marquee is compiled of three simple frames, as shown in Figure A. However, there’s labor in the prep work. To follow along with our example, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article and extract the file taxi.psd. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.) Then, launch Photoshop and open the file.


Note: If you want to view the completed animation, download the file from the URL listed at the beginning of the article and extract the file taxi_2.psd. Open the file in Photoshop CS2 or ImageReady and choose Window > Animation to view the animation palette. Then, click the play button play and enjoy the show!

A1-Frame 1

A2 – Frame 2

A3-Frame 3


To create the frame:

1.       Set the Foreground color to whatever color you want the frame to be. We sampled a violet from the image with RGB coordinates of 198-159-209, respectively.

2.      Choose Image > Canvas Size to display the Canvas Size dialog box.

3.      Select Inches from the Width and Height pop-up menus.

4.      Add one inch to both the width and height of the document and enter those numbers in the Width and Height text boxes. For this example, enter 5 in the Width text box and 6.95 in the Height text box.

5.      Select the center anchor box so the extra canvas size gets distributed evenly around the image.

6.      If you’re using CS and CS2, select Background from the Canvas Extension Color pop-up menu. (Photoshop 7 users don’t need to do anything, as the background color is the default canvas extension color.)

7.      Click OK to place a frame around your image, as shown in Figure B.




Add the bulbs and turn on the lights

The next step in the technique is to create the lights. First, we need to determine how many lights we want in a running series. The total number of lights around the frame needs to be divisible by the number of lights in the running series so we don’t wind up with any stray bulbs. Second, we want the running lights to be evenly spaced around the marquee. For this technique we’ll keep it relatively simple and choose three lights for a series, so we’ll place 21 bulbs around the frame.


To add the light bulbs:

1.       Set the foreground color to white.

2.      Click on the Create A New Group button new_group (Create A New Set in 7 and CS) at the base of the Layers palette to add a new Layer Group. Rename the folder First set.

3.      Choose the Ellipse tool ellipse_tool from the Toolbox and select the Shape Layers button shape_layers on the Ellipse tool options bar.

4.      Press [shift] and draw a circle in the top-left corner of the frame, as shown in Figure C. As you can see, the circle is colored white and the layer is inside the layer group.



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