As a tech blogger, I am often asked to write about software and application walkthroughs. Screenshots are the way we take to illustrate what the specific web app, software, or a step-by-step guide is supposed to do. I have often found this to be a bit inconvenient when it comes to emphasize things like tabbed software, an action that changes in stages, or anything else that would be served better with a step-by-step illustrated example.
A screencast is one way to artfully describe a tutorial. Using an animated GIF could be a simpler option if you don’t want to climb the learning curve of a screencast tool. Let’s check out how we can use Photoshop (I am using version CS5) to create a quick GIF animation. I am no graphics guru, but the simple steps are easy to follow and can help to enhance our work as bloggers.
Example of an Animated GIF:
Let’s take the example of the Firefox Options window to show how we can use animated GIFs to show all the tabs that have their own individual settings.
The Fast and Simple Way To Create An Animated GIF
1. An animated GIF is a series of images that plays in succession. We need to take screenshots of all the images we want to use for the sequence of the animation.
2. Take the screenshots and place the images that you want to use for the animated GIF in a folder. You can optimize the individual images at this stage.
3. In Photoshop CS5, create a new image that is a fit for the raw images you have in the folder. Here we are using an image size of 397px x 400px.
4. Drag all the images you had saved in the folder into the new document in Photoshop. When you drop the images into the new document, the first image displays an overlaid cross. Now, click the Commit Transform checkmark on the top-right or press Enter to position the images as separate layers. Keep clicking till all the images are loaded and visible in the Layers panel.
5. You can rearrange the layers according to the sequence of the animation.
6. Go to Window – Animation, to open the Animation palette.
7. From the Animation palette menu (the downward arrow on the top-right of the palette), click Make Frames from Layers. You can also click Reverse Frames if needed. The layered file is placed on the Animation palette which each layer changing into an individual frame for the animation.
8. Click the small icon in the bottom-right corner to change the view of the palette from Timeline view to Frame (Convert to Frame Animation) view. Select all the frames in the animation palette.
9. In the next step, we set the time delay for each frame according to the animation we want to produce. Click the drop down button just below each frame. Custom delays can be set up in the menu which pops up. Each frame can be set individually with specific time delays. If all frames are selected, all frames can be set to the same time. You can also use the pop-up (marked Forever) to set the animation loops. Forever can be used if you want it to loop indefinitely or any specific amount from the pop-up.
10. The animation is ready to be saved as a GIF file. Go to File – Save As (alternatively, Save for Web & Devices). The complete animation looks like this:
More advanced Photoshop animation techniques can involve tweening but the basic principles of animation remain the same. The method described here is short and sweet and could come handy for bloggers without advanced animation skills.