Deke's Techniques 225: Animating Bird Wings with Puppet Warp in Photoshop

In this week's free Deke's Techniques episode, Deke begins the process of using the Puppet Warp feature in Photoshop to animate the wings (and comic balloon speech, of course) of this fierce bird of prey.

The Puppet Warp feature in Photoshop allows you to bend and twist parts of your image whilst leaving other parts in place. By applying incremental warps to the wings on multiple copies of this bird, he sets up the flapping wing animation (and bird squawking) that he'll put in motion in next week's episode. 

Meanwhile, I have three key takeaways from this week's movie:

1) Good puppet warping requires good isolation of your puppet-to-be.
You could apply puppet warp to a flat image, but the fact is you really want your subject isolated on its own layer. Then you can fill in the background underneath, where it once was, so that as you stretch and skew your unsuspecting subject, the background stays pristine and ready for whatever you throw at it. 

In this case, check out the meticulous mask Deke put around the falcon. Once the bird was moved to its own layer, a dose of Content-Aware fill (plus some Gaussian Blur to smooth it over) prepared the background for the multiple iterations that are about to occur. 


2) Puppet Warp pins serve the dual function of holding some parts in place and preparing others for movement.
For instance, in the image below, the solid red circles represent pins that are holding our puppet's head, body, legs, and tail in place. The two circles with white dots in the middle are selected and ready to serve as handles for warping the wings. (Note that these pins are my artist's rendition; the real interface has smaller black pins, but I'm over 40 and like red.)


3) Get ready to move slowly. 
It's entirely possible you might forget every clever thing you meant to say while you're waiting for the latest set of wings to render. Puppetry requires patience (and cleverness requires concentration.) 

*) If you're Deke, more is better.
By the time the movie ends, Deke has an image with 19 different wing positions for our feathered friend. Each one is on a separate layer and ready to become part of Deke's ode to flapping wings next week. 

Tune into next week's episode in which Deke not only puts these wings in motion, but also gives our hero some decidedly un-regal, but delightfully animated, dialog. (If you'd like to see how that speech bubble is prepared, check out this week's exclusive movie at Not a member? Get a free week trial at 

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