How to Make an Animated GIF in Photoshop (Easily!)

How to Make an Animated GIF in Photoshop (Easily!)
How to Make an Animated GIF in Photoshop (Easily!)_61853d3088214.png

How to Make an Animated GIF in Photoshop (Easily!)

A GIF is a picture with motion. A GIF can be a short video clip or a series of still images that appear to move. GIFs do not need to be complicated to be effective. Even simple motion is eye-catching. GIFs are used in marketing or to create a meme, often for a humorous effect or to make a statement. In this article, we will show you how to make a GIF in Photoshop. Each step is easy. So, let your imagination flow!

GIF made in Photoshop of a lighthouse boat and water reflections
Three images taken on a tripod make up this GIF.

What is a GIF?

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. There is some debate about how to pronounce the term. Some pronounce it with a hard ‘G’ as in ‘graphic’. Others pronounce it with a ‘J’ as in ‘jiffy’.

It is a file type like JPEG or PNG. But the file holds many separate image frames and quickly shows them in a sequence. This gives the illusion of motion. It becomes an ‘animated GIF’.

How to Make Animated GIFs from Still Images

GIFs give the illusion of movement by using two or more frames. Most of the elements in the image will stay the same. But at least one element changes between the frames. It may be an object or person moving. An animated GIF does not need to be complicated. One frame may have a word or symbol, the other does not.

You can use a series of still photos taken as part of a time-lapse. Or you can create the change yourself in post-processing. Many frames with small movements create a smoother GIF. Fewer frames with larger movements look like stop-motion.

how to make a gif in photoshop: GIF portrait of a woman with her eyes closed and open
Two images—eyes open and eyes closed—make up this GIF.

Step 1: Select Images

Choose the images you want to use in the animated GIF. You need only 2 images to create the illusion of movement. And you can choose as many as 100. But more than 100, and your GIF may be slow to load on a website.

Let’s create a GIF in Photoshop that shows a photo in different post-processing stages in a before and after comparison.

how to make a gif in photoshop: Three images of a lighthouse before after post-processing
On the left is the finished image. On the right is the RAW file.

Step 2: Open Images as Layers in Photoshop

Load files as individual layers in one Photoshop file. From Lightroom, highlight the images and select the Photo drop-down menu. Select Photo > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop.

If you are opening files directly into Photoshop, save your files in the same folder. In Photoshop, go to the File drop-down menu and select File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack.

Then click Browse and navigate to the images that will make up your GIF. Click Open. And click OK.

You may wish to auto-align layers by going to the Edit drop-down menu and selecting Edit > Auto Align Layers. You have several choices, but Auto usually does a good job.

You can duplicate a layer and add text or graphics. Merge text with the duplicate layer by going to the Layer drop-down menu. Select Layer > Merge.

how to make a gif in photoshop: Photoshop screenshot layers panel to merge in text
Add text to a duplicate layer and merge layers when finished.

Step 3: Size Images for the Web

You can open RAW files or other file types in Photoshop. But to create a GIF, there is no need for all those extra pixels. Large images slow down the animation, and the file becomes too large for easy viewing on the web. The ideal size for a GIF is 480 pixels on the long side. But you can make it as large as 720 pixels.

Go to the Image drop-down menu. Select Image > Image Size. In the Image Size window, enter the smaller pixels size. And click OK.

how to make a gif in photoshop: Photoshop screenshot of image size options to resize a lighthouse picture for a GIF
Enter the pixels in the Image Size window.

Step 4: Create Frame Animation

You need Photoshop’s Timeline window when you are working with video or animation. To open it, go to the Windows drop-down menu. Select Window > Timeline. A new Timeline window appears at the bottom of your workspace. Click on the arrow in the middle of the window. Select Create Frame Animation from the menu.

how to make a gif in photoshop: Photoshop screenshot of timeline window and animation options for a GIF

You will see the top layer appear in the Timeline window.

how to make a gif in photoshop: Photoshop screenshot of timeline window with a top layer of animation for a GIF

Step 5: Make Frames from Layers

To see all layers, click on the three lines in the right top corner of the Timeline window. This opens a new menu. Select Make Frames from Layers.

how to make a gif in photoshop: Photoshop screenshot of timeline menu to make frames from layers for a GIF

The layers appear as individual frames in the Timeline window. You should now see all the layers. Drag the frames to a different position to change the order.

how to make a gif in photoshop: Photoshop screenshot of Timeline window with individual frame layers for a GIF
Each layer in the Timeline window.

Step 6: Set a Time for Each Frame

By default, the time will read 0 seconds under each frame. Click the caret next to the time under each frame. You can change the time for individual frames or highlight and change all times at once.

Click the Play control to preview your GIF.

Try different time options. If you have a lot of frames and want a smooth motion, choose short times. If you want a stop-start effect, select a longer time. An excellent total time for a GIF is around 6 seconds, though the loop may be shorter. Many GIFs are just one gesture or motion lasting no more than a second.

how to make a gif in photoshop: Photoshop screenshot of Timeline timing menu and play control for a GIF
The caret next to the frame to change the time. And the Play control to preview a GIF.

Step 7: Choose a Loop

By default, the GIF will play on a loop forever. To change this, open the looping menu. You can play the GIF once, three times, or select another option.

Again, click the Play control to preview your GIF.

how to make a gif in photoshop: Photoshop screenshot of timeline frame loop menu for a GIF
Open the loop menu to change how many times the GIF repeats. Click the play control to preview GIF.

Step 8: Save for the Web

To save your animated GIF file for the web, go to the File drop-down menu. Click File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy).

how to make a gif in photoshop: Photoshop screenshot of save for web window options for lighthouse GIF
Choose a Preset, Save, and preview the GIF in a browser window.

In the Save for Web window, select the GIF 128 Dithered preset. This limits the number of colours in your image and makes the GIF faster to load. But it still preserves colour gradients in your photo.

Clicking the Preview button will open your GIF in a browser window.

Click Save. Choose a location and click Save again.

how to make a gif in photoshop: GIF before and after post processing Lighthouse made in Photoshop
Final GIF

How to Make an Animated GIF from Video

You can create an animated GIF in Photoshop by looping short video clips. You only need a second or two of video. The hardest part is deciding on where to start and stop the loop.

Step 1: Open Video in Photoshop

You can either open the entire video in Photoshop. Or you can import select frames from the video.

Lightroom will import video clips. But you cannot send a video from Lightroom to Photoshop. Open the video directly in Photoshop by going to the File drop-down menu and selecting File > Open.

Navigate to the video file and click Open. The video will automatically open directly in the Timeline window.

how to make a gif in photoshop: Photoshop screenshot of video in the timeline window for a GIF

To import selected frames from a video, go to the File menu. Choose File > Import > Video Frames to Layers. Then navigate to the video file and click Open.

In the Import Video to Layers window, move the beginning and end sliders at the bottom to choose the video section you want to import.

Most video files capture 30 frames per second. But you do not need this many frames to create a GIF. So check the Limit To Every box and enter a number. Every 4 or 5 frames is good. Use the fewest number of frames to get the motion you want.

Check the box next to Make Frame Animation. And click OK. Each frame of the video then becomes a layer.

Then, follow the previous steps above to create a GIF from still images.

how to make a gif in photoshop: Photoshop screenshot of import video to layers window for a GIF

Step 2: Resize for the Web

GIFs load faster when they are small video files. So, resize your video for the web by going to the Image drop-down menu. Select Image > Image Size.

In the Image Size window, enter a size between 480 and 720 pixels on the long edge. (You can also change the size when you save your GIF for the web.) And click OK. You may get a warning that transforming a video layer requires converting it to a smart object layer. Click Convert.

how to make a gif in photoshop: Photoshop screenshot image size window for a GIF
Selecting pixels and clicking OK

Step 3: Select Frames for the GIF

Move the start and endpoints to bracket the video section that you want to use as your GIF. Again, an excellent total time for a GIF is around 6 seconds, though the loop may be shorter.

Play the section on a loop a couple of times. Pay particular attention to how the video looks when it loops back to the beginning. Many GIFs abruptly restart. Slightly moving the start and end position can minimise the jolt.

how to make a gif in photoshop: Photoshop screenshot of selecting video frames for a GIF
Setting the beginning and end position and playing the section to test loop.

Step 4: Save for the Web

To save your animated GIF file for the web, go to the File drop-down menu. Click File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy).

Clicking the Preview button will open your GIF in a browser window.

Click Save. Choose a location and click Save again. You now have a video loop.

how to make a gif in photoshop: GIF of lantern festival at night
Final animated GIF from video loop

Conclusion

Animated GIFs are easy to make in Photoshop using a series of images or short video clips. Use the Create Frame Animation command in the Timeline window. Then export the GIF for the web.

Do not worry if your GIF is less than perfect. There is a tradition of animated GIFs having a handmade look to them. This is partly because the GIF format itself is limited. It has become an expected GIF look.

Once you create your GIF in Photoshop, upload it to social media or your website. It should play seamlessly. You can add GIFs to an email. And they even play in Word documents.

We hope it’s been easy to learn how to make a GIF in Photoshop!

Do you want to learn how to take stunning time-lapse movies? You should watch our Total Time-Lapse video course to effortlessly create them without a fancy camera or expensive training.

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