Creating A Neon-like Animated Flashing Picture For BBM In Photoshop

So people have seen these amazing flashing display pictures I use on BlackBerry Messenger, and they are like, Neo how on earth were you able to achieve this. This sort of questions have been asked a lot from several people, from laymen to actual designers. Admittedly, when designers like me ask “how” and say “wow” it actually gives me a high feeling of accomplishment and makes me smile. In this tutorial, I will be walking you through the process of creating something similar to what you see on my BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) display pictures.

Now the basic, things you will need are:

  • Adobe Photoshop 7 and above,
  • Adobe ImageReady 7 and above,
  • BlackBerry Smartphone with BBM installed.

That’s all you need, that and a bit of patience. A rule of thumb however to remember at this point is that, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) currently restricts the size of usable display pictures. If the picture has to be a perfect square, and must be below 32KiB, anything that exceeds this will pop up a notification that the picture will not animate.

Setting Up Your Work Space

First of all, lets launch Adobe Photoshop and create a new document of dimensions 300 x 300 (i.e 300 width, 300 height) which of course is a perfect square. Now, lets fill our canvas with a solid background color black (#000000).

Create a new document

Create a new photoshop document.


Now we fill the canvas with black, the HEX color code for black is #000000. Now, create a new layer, and select your text tool. At this point, I should probably mention that fonts are important in any design out there so choose something bold. Now, we make sure the text tool is colored with a real dark gray color (#2c2c2c) then write something above the background layer. Make sure its legible and bold, and it has about 10px padding between the characters and the edge of the document. Something like what I have:

We should now have something like this.

Next double click on the text layer to reveal the layer options for the text layer. Next click on the text “Color overlay”. Don’t just check the box, click the text. This will check the box AND open a menu for “Color overlay” from there make sure you select white as the overlay color of the text.

Set the "Color Overlay" to white.

Set the “Color Overlay” to white.

Next, select the “Outer Glow” option, the same way you selected the “Color Overlay” i.e by clicking on the text and not the check box. This should bring up a set of new options, we make sure we change the spread and size to 7 and 20 respectively as shown in the diagram. Feel free to get creative with it, but what we want is to achieve a nice glow effect.

Set the Outer Glow to resemble this.

You should now have a nice glowing text. Next we save our document and open it up in ImageReady 7. Now, we are going to make a flickering animation. We will try to be as realistic as possible to get the same effect as a neon light that has faulty light bulbs. To achieve this, after opening the image in image ready, we make sure the “Animation” palate is open. To check press “Alt + W” on Windows, and make sure Animation is checked, if it is then you should see a palate that looks something like whats below.

Animation work space

Now we will start creating frames. Each frame has an amount of time it spends on a frame before moving to the next one. If you can master transitions and timing then you will never have to use the tween function ever. Anyway, now we change the “10 sec.” to something shorter like “1 sec.” you can change it by clicking directly on the seconds text. Next, since we want the animation to flash indefinitely, we change “once” that’s at the bottom left corner of the Animation space to “forever”.

Next lets create a new frame, we can do this by simply duplicating the current frame. The icon next to the trash icon on the bottom right does just this, so lets click the square-like icon once. This should duplicate the current frame so we will have two frames that are exactly identical.

Duplicate the current animation frame.

Now, for tutorial purposes, we’ll stop at these two frames. Of course we can continue but lets stop here to make sure we are  within the 32KiB limit imposed by BlackBerry Messenger for gif images. So now we make sure the second frame is selected, then we go to the layers panel on the right of the screen, and click on the eye icon next to “effects”. What this will do is, turn off all effects for the current frame, hence returning it to its normal state.


Remove the effects for the current frame

Now we should have two frames that don’t look too alike in the animations panel. If you click the little play icon on the animations icon you should now see the image flicker every one second. You can play with the seconds between flicks as much as you want and you can also add a new frame and just play around with it. Make sure though that you stay within the 32KiB limit. To check just how much KiB the current gif is, the click on “optimized” on the image panel. This will give you an idea on how big the gif will be after its rendered.

Check the size of the image being created.

As shown above the current file size is 15.03KiB which means, it will animate just fine on BBM. So we go ahead and save that by clicking File > Save optimized as…t… and type in the file name. After saving the photo as gif format we can now send the photo to our BlackBerry smartphone via Bluetooth or USB, and use it as our current display picture. We should now have something like this below:

We hope this has given you some ideas on how it is and how we roll, and how we create some of our stunning display pictures. We’ll love to hear feedback, use the comment box and share the post, this will encourage us to post more, thanks so much.