Let me explain onion skinning in a nutshell if you don’t know what it is. Onion skinning is a method used in 2D animation. Artists sketch on very thin sheets and set them in front of a light source to create traditional animations. An artist can then look between the frames and compare the keyframe and in between. 

People who deal with photoshop, especially professional video creators, must know how to turn on onion skin in photoshop. This blog is designed to teach you all you need to know about onion skin, including how to activate it in Photoshop, why people need it, and what to do if your onion skin mode isn’t visible.

Therefore, give a quick read to this blog for learning everything there is to know about onion skinning.

How to Turn on Onion Skin in Photoshop

Step 1: Create a Blank Document

Go to “File” and then click on the “New” option then a new dialogue box will pop up and select the “Film and Video” option. You can select HDTV 1080p in the blank document presets and name it in preset details and click on “Create”. 

Step 2: Tick on Timeline and Layers Icon

After getting the blank document go to “Windows”, tick on “Timeline” and once again go to “Windows” and tick on “Layers”. As soon as you select the layers option, the first background layer will appear, now you need to click on that to make it a regular layer. 

Photoshop Layers

Step 3: Lock the First Layer

Now click on “Pad Lock” and then press on the “Lock all” option, in order to lock that layer as your background. Now at the bottom of that white blank document, you will see a timeline option, go to “Create Video Timeline” and as soon as you press on it, the timeline icon with layers will pop up. 

Now go to the “Layer” icon, then scroll down to “Video Layers” then click on “New Blank Video Layer”. Now a second layer will pop up, remember Layer 1 is different from Layer 2. Layer 1 shows the change from one frame to another so over time this layer changes whereas, in Layer 2, nothing changes as it does not have the film strip. 

Step 4: Start Onion Skinning

Now, select Layer 1 and if you want to sketch your piece of art then go to the Paint Brush Tool and choose the color of your brush. The next step is how to turn on onion skin in photoshop, you will see it in the timeline icon, there are three gray lines at the right end corner, click on it and you will see the “Enable Onion Skins’ ‘ option so, tick on it. 

If you want any changes while doing onion skinning then you will see “Onion Skin Settings” below it, so go there and make the necessary changes. 

photoshop onion skin

Step 5: Draw and Go to The Next Frame

Now let’s get started with onion skinning, first draw your first shape and in the Timeline option, you will see “next frame option”, as you gradually want the onion skinning, you need to do your drawing in that same manner by going to the next frame after each one is done. 

Add each drawing and click on the next frame option and draw the next one and again go to the next frame option and keep on doing that until you are done. Now go to the “Enable Onion Skins” option once again and untick it this time. After that, click on the play option to see your animation video. You can also change the speed of your animation if required from the timeline toolbar.

 step 6: Save the File

If you want to save your onion skinning as a photoshop document, go to “File” and then “Save As.” A dialogue box will appear where you can name the file and save it to the location you like. Make sure you save it in “photoshop” format and click “Save.”

Go back to “File,” then “Export,” then click on “Render Video.” Now a dialogue window will appear, where you can name your video and select the location where you want to save it, then click “Render,” and your video will be ready!

Save File In Photoshop

Frequently Asked Question

Where Is the Onion Mode in Photoshop?

The Onion Skin you’re talking about can be found in the video timeline. Check the timeline under the Window menu. Use the down arrow to press on “Create Video Timeline” in the Timeline icon. 

Then choose “Layer” and select “Video Layers” then choose “New Blank Video Layer” from the “Layers” menu. At last, select and enable “onion skins” from the menu at the upper right of the timeline.

How to Activate Onion Skin?

Follow these steps if you don’t know how to turn on onion skin in photoshop: Underneath the Timeline, select the Onion Skin icon. Above the Timeline, a set of brackets appears. Make sure that all of the frames in your tween are selected by adjusting the brackets. You get a full preview of all the frames your tween generates. 

Alternatively, click the “Onion Skin” icon in the Tools toolbar. Click the “Onion Skin” option to the left of the layer name in the Timeline view. Select “View” then “Onion Skin” and press on “Show Onion Skin” from the top menu. Click “Alt + O” at the same time.

Why Is Skin Mode Not Working?

If you’re having the same issue, double-check that your frames before and after settings correspond to your chronology. By clicking the three gray bars on the right-hand side of your timeline window, go to Onion Skin Mode Settings. 

If your timeline window isn’t open, go to Window at the top of your Photoshop tab, then down to timeline and click to turn on the checkmark. If onion skin mode isn’t already on, hit it on. Then click on onion skin settings on the same drop-down menu, and compare your frames before and after. They’re set to one frame, but you can change it to your choice and then select “OK”.

 Then take a look at your timeline in order to match your frames before and after settings, modify the layers in your timeline. You should be fine if they match. If your frames don’t match, then go to the bottom of the layer until you see a black icon with a bracket and an arrow in the center, then click on it and make the layer thinner. 

If the layers appear to be too thin, use the mountain bar in the bottom left corner of the timeline window to expand them. To go to the bigger mountain, scroll down, and options like 10f, 20f should be visible at the top. Then change your layers until they match or fit inside your guidelines.


Many people do not even know what onion skin mode is and why it is used for. In simple words, onion skinning is a feature that allows you to see previous and subsequent frames as overlays on the current frame. Onion skinning is compatible with both symbol-based and frame-by-frame animation. 

Hopefully, our blog has helped you in having a deeper understanding of what onion skin mode is and how to turn on onion skin in photoshop. If you have any queries then please let us know and if you have loved our blog then leave your valuable opinions in our comments section.

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