The Parallax Effect – Practice


The parallax effect is the use of layers, panning and zooming to create a fake 3D out of a 2D still image. It’s often used in 2D scrolling games such as Super Mario, because it adds more depth to a very flat image.

See how the clouds and the mountains move at a much slower rate than the foreground, giving the illusion of 3D. It’s like when you look out of a car window and although the roadside flies by quickly, you can watch the clouds for ages and they barely move.

Parallax is also commonly found in websites.


The text moving at a separate time to the background gives the scrolling more fluidity and in my opinion it makes the website look more professional, as well as being more peasant to look at.

The smoothness of parallax is kind on the eyes, and the scrolling/zooming are natural movements. That’s why we want to use it in our installation, as it would be a nice simple video that visitors to the bar could watch without too much thought. It’s not that I think the audience will have short attention spans, it’s just that they’re not going into the bar specifically to see these videos, they’re going in to experience the world of Mark Millar and have a few drinks with their friends, so it’s unlikely they’ll actively focus on our films.

How to parallax an image

There were many helpful videos that showed us how to do the parallax effect and it turns out it’s fairly simple to do, all you need are Photoshop and Premiere Pro.

We practiced parallaxing using a panel from Millar’s comic book series ‘Huck’. We made sure to choose an image that had a central figure that would be easy to cut out in photoshop and a fairly plain background.

Originally when we did this we ended up with these two layers:

We made Huck a separate layer but didn’t bother to fill in the gap he left behind, as we thought putting Huck as a layer on top would cover it up. However as you can see from the video below, having to hide the hole in the background layer meant we could only move Huck a certain amount before it was visible, and this limited us into how much movement we were able to add. (password huck)


This is what our background looked like after it’d been filled in with the clone stamp tool on Photoshop. Having a clear background like this is important as it gives you more flexibility with the layers, meaning you can move them in more exaggerated ways.

Here’s our second attempt (password: huck)


Now i noticed during research that there seems to be two main ways parallax is used. One is where the image is separated into general layers and moved/enlarged/rotated in a way that makes it interesting to look at, but that isn’t specific to the picture. This is the kind of parallax evident in the Huck one we created, and also this gif taken from my research:


But parallax can also be used to help tell the story of the image. For example, take the other gif from my research.


You move past the doors in front to reveal the elephant behind, and unlike the other one this movement is specific to this particular image.

I wanted to have a go at parallaxing a scene from a comic in a way that was more relevant to the image, because comic books are always so full of action and drawn movement, it seems the perfect way to enhance them.


From the image I chose, I ended up with three separate layers: the background, the text, and the main body in the drawing. I chose to make the man one layer, because I wanted to see if I could use Premiere Pro to add movement to him that mimicked him falling through the air. To achieve this I used a combination of the position tool and the rotation, and the end result is quite effective. I also made the writing a separate layer so that I could move it, because making it grow in size makes it seem “louder” and more aggressive.

All in all I’d say that the parallax effect is going to be a key part in our video, and if we can make a sequence where all of the images are like the ones above, it could look very effective.

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