As I was mucking about the yard yesterday, I noticed this brightly colored caterpillar trying to climb the wall at the base of my house:

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

After spooking him/her with the camera click, I took a series of shots as it walked along the edge of the rock– it said GIF POSSIBILITY OF MOTION.

When I looked at my photos, it was a good sequence, but unfortunately, I had lightly moved the camera so the background was inconsistent. And I did not have a full traverse section. So I decided to see how much I could “fill” in Photoshop once my series was imported.

The first thing was to make a background layer without the caterpillar- I took the one from where it was left most positioned, made a copy of the layer, moved it to the bottom of the layer stack, and then deleted the area around him/her. I then use the clone brush to fill in the area


This new caterpillar frame I moved to the first frame, so we start with an empty stage. I then selected all frames, and activated the layer so it was visible in all frames, as a background behind the others.

Then for each layer, I did a loose lasso selection around the caterpillar, set the feathering to 2 pixels, inverted the selection, and deleted all the stuff but the main actor.

caterpiller alone

In a few frames, there were some remnants of rock, so I went in close with the erase tool set for a featured paint brush, and detailed out some of those fragments. In a few places, the caterpillar’s feet were now above the rock, so I went back to be background layer, and cloned brushed in a bit more of the rock to raise it.

I needed a few more frames with the head entering on the right, and the tail leaving on the left. For these, I selected the empty frame, selected “New Frame” from the animation palette window– this creates a copy of the blank frame. I moved this frame to the place I needed it. I then selected a caterpillar layer that had a different head shape then the previous frame, made a copy of it. I then slid the caterpillar into position, party off frame– I ended up adding about 4 of these frames.

If you want to peek at my PhotoShop (CS5.5) file, I got yer download right here

It’s not perfect,up close in a few spots it has a Monty Python-ish motion, but good enough for now. Lesson reminded for doing this- (1) use a tripod to reduce camera lateral movement. (2) Get a complete empty subject frame to use as a background. (3) Keep experimenting with layer techniques.

The post "Keep Moving Along" was originally yanked out of the teeth of a rabid chicken at CogDogBlog ( on August 25, 2013.

1 Comment

  • Rochelle Lockridge

    This is neat Alan. I like the colors of the blue caterpillar against the pinkish rocks. Very much an Arizona color scheme. Nice to include your Photoshop file too. I find it helpful to look at what’s under-the-hood when I’m learning a new technique. Who knows…. your caterpillar may end up in a future GIFFight. :-)

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