Make Your Own Fancy Photo Flip Book!


Sure, you can press a button and take a mini motion picture.

But what about the well-loved, handheld, movie-in-your-pocket flip book? Our favorite form of animation, the flip book is the original, prehistoric movie. We’ve doodled thousands of stick figures in the corners of our notebooks. It’s time for photos.

We’ve made digital flip books. We’ve made stop-motion videos. We’ve even uploaded photos and purchased a flip book from FlipClips for 10 bucks or so.

Then we stumbled across The Curious Blog’s beautiful, handmade flip book.

We had to try it ourselves.

We’re flippin’ out over the final product: a squat little choppy movie, our DIY photo flip book will make your thumbs sore from showing it off to all your photo-loving friends.

Photojojo’s DIY Photo Flip Book

Why Flip Books Are Cool

Cinema for your thumbs, flip books excite the curious kid in us. They remind us of how simple a moving picture can be and to appreciate the smaller, personal moments captured in quick video. They’re portable, interactive, always entertaining. Adding photos to the flip book experience is like peanut butter finding its jelly.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to take one of your favorite short videos, cut it up into 100 still frames, and then turn it into a simple, pocket-sized flip book.

What You’ll Need

ingredients_thumb.jpgYou’ll find most of what you need in your garage/basement/office. For the screw posts, try your local craft or bookbinding store.

  • Photoshop CS3
  • Camera with video capabilities
  • Photo printer
  • Matte 4×6 photo paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Drill
  • Various drill bits, the largest at 13/64″
  • C-clamp
  • Scrap of wood for drilling into
  • Mat board or stiff card stock
  • A couple rubber bands
  • Two 1″ screw posts (aluminum, brass, or steel)
  • Leather or fabric scrap (optional, for binding)

Step 1: Shoot the Video

You’ll want to shoot in standard mode, at a rate of 15 fps or 30 fps (both are common on point-and-shoots with video capability). The video can be any length, but keep it short and simple. You’ll be cutting it down to 3 or 6.6 seconds.

Also, when you bind the flip book, you’ll lose the left chunk of your your video’s frame. Keep your subject at the right half of your frame while shooting.

Step 2: Set Up Your Photoshop Work Area

2setup_thumb.jpgOpen Photoshop.

Open your video.

Under Image>Image Size, verify your video is 320 x 240 pixels. If not, resize to these specifications.

You’ll also want to open the Animation palette at the bottom of your screen (click Window>Animation). There are two modes in which you can view your video: Timeline and Frames. By clicking on the button at the bottom right of the animation palette, you can switch between the two modes. Timeline mode allows you to see the frames per second; Frame mode allows you to see the keyframes of the whole animation. We worked primarily in timeline mode.

Step 3: Cut Video

The ideal length for this sort of flip book (according to us, mind you) is about 100 individual clips/stills. That means, by shooting 15 fps, you’ll want about 6.6 seconds of video. If you shoot at 30 fps, you’ll need about 3 seconds.

In Photoshop, play with the sliders in the animation timeline palette to see which several seconds of your video you want to make into a flip book. Take a mental note of the start and stop points (we’ll address why in the next step).

Step 4: Turn Video Frames into Layers

4import-video_thumbd.jpgIn Photoshop, choose File>Import>Video Frames to Layers.

Choose your video. Click “Load.”

In the next dialog box, choose “Selected Range Only.” Hold down the shift key while moving the slider key under the preview of your video. This is where your mental note of your video’s start and stop points comes in handy as there are no time markers on this preview. Click “OK.”

Step 5: Verify Your Layers


If you selected your video’s range properly, you should now have around 100 layers in Photoshop. If you have more, delete some at the beginning or end, depending on what looks good to you. You can press the play button in the animation palette to get an idea of what your flip book will look like. Cool!

Step 6: Save the Layers as Files

6exportlayers_thumb.jpgStill in Photoshop, choose File>Scripts>Export Layers to Files. In the dialog box that pops up, you’ll want to select a destination for all the 100 individual stills and create a prefix for their file names. For the sake of organization, you might want to create a new file for all the stills. Don’t select “Visible Layers Only” unless, duh, you’ve made all your layers visible.

Click “Run.”

BE PATIENT. This takes a looooong time. Like multiple-halves-of-hours long.

Step 7: Create Contact Sheets

7contact-sheet_thumb.jpgNow you’ll be making contact sheets with 4 stills on each printed 4×6 sheet of photo paper. Select File>Automate>Contact Sheet II.

In the dialog box, select the folder into which you saved all the stills. Specify the document size as 4×6 inches. The resolution should be set at 300 ppi. Select “Flatten All Layers.” In the “Thumbnails” box, you’ll want to arrange the stills in 2 columns and 2 rows and select the “Auto-Spacing” option. Be sure “Use Filename as Caption” is unchecked.

Click “OK” and wait a few minutes for this automation to run. All the contact sheets will be open on your screen. Save them.

Step 8: Print the Contact Sheets

ContactSheet_thumb.jpgPrint out each of the 25 contact sheets on your 4×6 photo paper IN ORDER (from 1-25). As they print, you’ll want to mark the order on the back of each still. Photoshop places them in order, starting in the left upper corner and moving clockwise. They’ll look like the image at right.

Step 9: Cut the Stills from the Contact Sheets

cut_thumb.jpgThis is also a time-consuming step… But you can speed things up if you have a paper guillotine (the big, sharp chop block thingamajig). Use scissors and cut exactly around each still, leaving a small white border on the left where the binding will go. Stack them in order, starting with 1 and ending with, of course, 100.

It’s fine if the edges aren’t perfect, so long as the right edge can be lined up square. This is where you’ll flip the book with your thumb.

Step 10: Make a Stack

clamp_thumb.jpgStack the stills so the right edge is neat and tidy. Place two pieces of your scrap board on the top and bottom. Use several rubber bands to hold the whole contraption in place.

Clamp the stack to a scrap piece of wood and then on top of something you don’t mind drilling into, should the drill keep going.

Mark two dots on the left edge where you want the screw posts to go.

Step 11: Drill!

drill_thumb.jpgHere’s where it gets tricky. Drill straight down at a high speed into the stack of card-paper-card-wood with a small drill bit to make a pilot hole. Then use your 13/64″ drill bit to make the final holes.

Keep the whole contraption tight, tight, tight so that your holes line up and the edges stay put. You might want to ask for help here–have a lovely assistant press the stack down while you drill.

Step 12: Insert the Screw Posts

screwposts_thumb.jpgCarefully, insert the 1″ screw posts through both sets of holes. Wind in the other end.

Step 13: Optional Fancy Binding

If the holes you drilled are less than perfect, you might want to spiffy up the binding a bit. Use a leather scrap or a piece of fabric and cut holes that line up with the screw posts. Wrap the material around the left edge, screw in the screw posts, voilà! You could also cut small pieces of cardboard to fit along the top and bottom left edges between the screw posts and the paper.

Handmade Vs. Web-Bought

The edges might be a little woozy, you might have a few fingerprints here and there. You might even mess up the order. But with the final product in your hands, the richness of the experience comes through.

Of course, you can always order your flip book online … And we’d never dis them, but really, who can turn away from the handmade object? Especially when it moves…

See it in Action

DIY Photo Flip Book! from Photojojo on Vimeo.