How to Make a GIF in Photoshop

GIFs are everywhere. You’ll find them on BuzzFeed, on Reddit, on Vine, and even on blogs hosted by the Republican party. GIFs are the internet equivalent of the pithy witticism; they allow you to say a lot without uttering a single word.

Making GIFs is one of the most basic features in Photoshop. Learn more such features and functions in this Photoshop 101 course.

In this blog post, we’ll teach you how to create animated GIFs in Photoshop. We’ll first learn how to create a GIF from an existing image. Later, we’ll learn how to convert an existing video into a short GIF.

How to Make a GIF in Photoshop from Existing Images

Creating an animated GIF essentially means ‘stitching’ different images together to create an animation. For the purpose of this tutorial, we will create this animation:

This is composed of four images. You can download them here, here, here, and here.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Copy all four pictures into a separate folder.

Step 2: Import Files into Photoshop

Go to File -> Scripts -> Load Images into Stack

On the next screen, select ‘Folder’ then browse to the folder you just created.

Hit OK. Photoshop will now import all your images into separate layers, like this:

Now that we have all our images loaded into Photoshop, we can set about creating out animation.

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Step 3: Create the Animation

The animation process in Photoshop can be accessed through the ‘Timeline’ window. Open it by going to Window -> Timeline.

A new window pane will pop up at the bottom. There will be a single button in the center of this pane. Click on the dropdown arrow next to this button and select ‘Create Frame Animation’, like this:

You should now see one of the images in in the Timeline window. You’ll also notice a little dropdown menu in the top right corner of the window. Click on it and select “Create New Layer for Each Frame”

Nothing happened, right?

But that’s because we haven’t actually added our images to the animation. To do this, open the same menu again and click on ‘Make Frames From Layers’.

This basically creates a new frame for each of the layers you have in the Layers panel. You’ll notice that your Timeline window now has all four of your images.

You can now reposition and resize individual images so that they fit in the same canvas size (hit CTRL + T). Once you have the right size and position, you can click on the arrow below each image and select the delay between subsequent slides.

For the purpose of this animation, I choose the duration as 0.5 seconds. You can also choose from the preset duration or enter your own by selecting ‘Other..’

You can also select the order of the images by dragging individual slides into different positions.

There’s another dropdown menu below the slides that says ‘Once’. This controls how many times the animation should repeat. Click open this menu and select ‘Forever’ for an endlessly looping animation.

After you’re done, click on the ‘Play’ button on this toolbar to preview your animation.

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Step 4: Saving Your Animation

In this final step, you will save your animation as a GIF. The easiest way to do this is to press CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + S, or go to File -> Save for Web…

In the window that pops up, select ‘GIF’ as the format. There will be a preset menu above this. Choose ‘GIF 128 Dithered’.

Two things to note here:

  • 128 refers to the amount of colors in the GIF. GIF is a low quality image format. It cannot faithfully reproduce the colors of a JPEG. Its maximum color range is 256 colors, vs 16M for JPEG. Therefore, the higher number you select, the better the quality of the GIF. Be warned though: better quality GIFs are also slower to load. Keep that in mind if you are using large image animations on the web.

  • Dithering is a process in GIF processing that reduces banding in gradients. It makes the resultant image appear much better, but also increases file size dramatically. In an image like the one we used above, dithering is essential. For images in a few solid colors, however, it is recommended that you deselect dithering.

Click on ‘Save’ to save the image. Now open it in your web browser – you should see the animation on an endless loop.

This was easy enough – but what if you want to make a GIF from an existing video?

There’s a solution for that as well.

How to Make GIF from Existing Video

Let’s say you want to turn this video of a dramatic chipmunk into a GIF:

You can download this video (or any other video for that matter) using a free YouTube video downloader tool such as Savefrom.net or Keepvid.com.

After you’ve downloaded the video, follow these steps:

Step 1: Import Video into Photoshop

The first step is to import the video into Photoshop. Do this by going to File -> Import -> Video Frames to Layers.

Open the video you just downloaded.

A window will pop up asking you to select the length of the video that has to be imported.

Since our video is pretty small – just 5 seconds – we will chose ‘From Beginning to End’. For longer videos, you can select ‘Selected Range Only’ and specify the length that should be imported.

Make sure that you select ‘Make Frame Animation’ before hitting OK.

Step 2: Create the Animation

If you’re following through from the earlier example, you should already have the Timeline window open. Otherwise, follow Step #3 outlined above and open the Timeline to create the animation.

As before, you can select the duration of each frame (default is 0.04 seconds as seen above) and the number of times the animation needs to be repeated. For this example, we chose ‘Forever’.

Hit the ‘Play’ button to test your animation. If everything looks alright, move on to the next step.

Step 3: Save the Animation

As with the earlier process, hit CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + S or go to File -> Save for Web…

In the window that pops up, select GIF with 128 colors and 70-90% dithering.

After you’ve saved the GIF, open it in your browser. This is what you should see:

So now you know two methods to create GIFs in Photoshop – using existing images, or importing a video. You can learn more advanced Photoshop tips and tricks like this in course on mastering Adobe Photoshop CS 6.