September 22, 2014 | Melanie Chandler

How to Make Animated GIFs Using Photoshop

Making Animated GIFs Using Photoshop

Yay for more animated GIFs!

Like I promised in my last post, I'll be walking you through how to make animated GIFs from either a video or a series of images using Photoshop.

Don't have Photoshop, but have an email address? Download a free trial! I'm using Photoshop CC, but the steps should be similar in previous versions.

Let’s start with creating an animated GIF using a video.

Step 1: Set Up Your Workspace

So, you've opened up Photoshop. Now what?

In the top right-hand corner, make sure your workspace is set to "Motion." If not, click the drop down menu to change it. Mine usually defaults to "Essentials."

Now, navigate to File > Import > Video Frames to Layers. Another window will pop up allowing you to choose your video from your own files. For this example, I used Chase Cleckner's latest video blog.

Note: You will need the actual video file. You won't be able to use a YouTube video or any other hosted video link.

Photoshop Step 1 for Video

Step 2: Select Your Video Clip

Once you select your video from your files, Photoshop will prompt you to select the video range you want to import. You can choose to import the entire video, select from range, or limit to every X number of frames.

Since GIFs are usually relatively short, I chose to select from a range. It leaves you with a manageable number of frames to work with. You'll see what I'm talking about in the next step.

To select a range of frames to use, drag the brackets under the preview so they wrap around the clip you want to use. The "Limit to Every [X] Frames" lets you customize how choppy the GIF will be. The higher the number of frames you select, the choppier the video will be.

The option "Make Frame Animation" animates the transitions between layers. I usually leave this option checked.

Photoshop Step 2 for Video

Step 3: Edit Your Video Clip

You can add adjustments to individual layers or to the video as a whole. To apply adjustments to multiple layers, first select the layers then group them. Navigate to the menu bar and go to Select > All Layers. Right click on any of the selected layers and choose Group from Layers. Photoshop will now prompt you to name the group.

Once grouped, you can now apply layer adjustments to the group. Below, I threw a couple of layer adjustments onto the group to show you what can be done, but didn't use any of it for my final product.

Across the bottom, all your frames will appear in your timeline. Don't see your timeline? Go to "Window" in your menu bar and select "Timeline." This will show the frame-by-frame view at the bottom of your Photoshop window.

Here, you can delete frames to trim your clip. The original clip I selected from the step above produced over 100 frames, which is way too many. I just selected the frames I didn't want, deleted them, (click the little trash can button in your timeline) and ended up with about 14 frames.

Photoshop Step 3 for Video

You can also adjust the timing of your frames (individual and multiple) by clicking the drop-down menu under the preview of your frame. Select multiple frames by holding down your shift key and clicking the range of frames.

To preview your GIF, click the play icon below your timeline.

Step 4: Save Your GIF

Happy with your awesome animated GIF? Now you're ready to save. I cropped mine and reduced the image size since I didn't need it to be enormous. Navigate File > Save for Web on your menu bar.

This will bring another window up. Make sure your file format is set to GIF. You can also set the length of your animation: once, forever, or custom. Forever looping is usually my choice.

Photoshop Step 4a for Video

Photoshop Step 4b for Video

Result: a Magically Delicious Animated GIF!

Chase Lucky Charms GIF

Next, let’s create an animated GIF using a series of still images.

This way is a little different from creating a GIF from a video. You string together still images, layering each frame from the bottom up.

You can either use a sequence of photos you already have and upload them as layers, or create each layer of your animation individually in Photoshop. To keep things simple, I'm going to walk you through using Photoshop to create an animated GIF using a preexisting sequence of images.

Step 1: Set Up Your Workspace

So, this step is just like the one in the video tutorial above. Once you open Photoshop, make sure you are in your motion workspace. In the top menu, navigate to File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack.

Photoshop Step 1 for Photos

Step 2: Load Your Photos

Now, a new window labeled "Load Layers" will appear. Click "Browse" and select all the images you want to use from your computer. The images you selected should now show up in the "Load Layers" window. Hit "OK" to load them into your workspace.

Photoshop Step 2 for Photos

Step 3: Create Your Frames

The images you uploaded will show up in your layers on the right. Next, you need to create frames out of these layers.

Click the "Create Frame Animation" button in your timeline. Don't see your timeline? Go to "Window" in your menu bar and select "Timeline."

Click the drop-down menu in the top right corner of your timeline, and make sure "Create New Layer for Each Frame" is checked.

Select all your layers (or just the layers you want to turn into frames) then navigate back to the same drop down menu and click "Make Frames From Layers." Now the layers you selected will now show up in your timeline.

Photoshop Step 3a for Photo

Photoshop Step 3b for Photo

Step 4: Edit Your Frames

So, now that you have these frames, what do you do? You edit! Just like in the video tutorial above, you can edit individual layers or the group as a whole.

Start by adjusting the timing of the slides. I wanted this GIF to be a little choppy, so I increased the timing. You can also delete frames you don't need by selecting the frame and clicking the trash can icon in your timeline, and reorder frames by dragging and dropping slides within the timeline.

To preview your GIF, click the play icon below your timeline.

Photoshop Step 4 for Photo

Step 5: Time to Save Your GIF!

Are you happy with your GIF? Great! It's time to save.

Navigate on the menu bar File > Save for Web. A new window will pop up. Make sure your file format is set to GIF and click save. You can set the length of your animation: once, forever, or custom.

It will prompt you to choose where on your computer you want to save it to. Give it a name and wham-bam, you're done! To view your final GIF, just drag and drop it into any browser and it will auto play.

Photoshop Step 5a for Photo

Photoshop Step 5b for Photo

Result: A Colorful Flying Hummingbird!

Flying Bird GIF

Yes, I know this post was a little lengthy, and I thank you for sticking with me to the end. I hope you found this tutorial helpful, and happy GIF-ing!

Planning to share your GIFs via social media? Make sure your profiles look as great as they do!

Social Media Image Sizes Guide and Templates


Melanie Chandler

Melanie Chandler

As design director, Melanie Chandler leads the design team and works with them to create consistently compelling and engaging website designs, images for digital marketing, and other visual content to communicate corporate identity and drive traffic on websites and social media.

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