A Quick Photoshop Tutorial For Creating Animated GIFs
GIFs are the staple of the online world. There’s rarely feed that doesn’t include educational, entertaining, or cinematic GIFs. To some, this begs the question “How do people even create these things?” If you’ve ever wanted to take your online presence from casual newbie to experienced educator or entertainer, read on!
To create our GIF, we’re going to use Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.5 edition. If you don’t own Photoshop, you can always install a free trial onto your PC to get started.
Pick Your Footage
You’ll need footage to create a GIF. This footage can either be original or taken from your favorite video. It can be in a wide variety of formats, as Photoshop can handle most video formats available. If Photoshop does not support your video file, consider using VLC to convert your file .
If you have a large clip, you can trim it using a program like Windows Movie Maker. You can also record footage using VLC’s Record function, which will allow you to record and save video footage. To use, open your video using VLC, head to View and then Advanced Controls
The red button on the bottom of your window allows you to record what plays in VLC. Pause your video at a select location, press the record button, and play until your clip finishes. Then, press the record button again to stop recording. Your clip will save automatically to your Videos folder. You can also choose to save your file to a different folder. Head to Tools, Preferences, Input / Codecs, and change the Record directory of filename parameter to one of your choosing.
Place In Photoshop
Drag and drop your clip into Photoshop. This will open Photoshop’s Video timeline, which will allow you to edit video.
In this window, you can edit Saturation, Curves, and Levels settings to your satisfaction. If you feel out of your depth, no worries! Use our Guide To Adobe Photoshop to learn more.
If you’re using individual layers rather than a video clip, place your frames as layers into Photoshop. Once you’ve entered and positioned your layers, activate the Timeline window (Window, then Timeline). In the open Timeline window, click on Create Frame Animation.
Click on the Settings button and select Make Frames From Layers. This will create frames from your layers in the timeline. If you enter a GIF into Photoshop, this window should display automatically for all the frames in your GIF file.
Now that you have the raw video or raw frames, you need to convert them into a GIF.
Editing GIF Settings
If you’ve spent some time online, you’ve seen the difference between a quality GIF and a sub-standard display of images. These settings will provide you with the best display possible, maintaining the high quality of whatever assortment of images or video clips you are using.
Head to File, Export, and Save for Web (Legacy). This will open up the Save for Web window, allowing you to save your images in an assortment of file formats. Your files will require some time to render. Then, select the drop down menu beside Presets and select GIF 128 Dithered. This will provide the default settings for our GIF.
You will need to make a couple of changes to this settings. Change the following:
- Selective to Adaptive — These are reduction settings, which decide the color palette of your GIF. Adaptive tends to give your GIFs a smoother and more realistic color palette than Selective.
- Colors: 128 to 256 — This setting will double the number of colors to your image, creating a more seamless color scheme.
- Dither: 88% to 100% — Dithering simulates shading using small dots, similar to dithering and crosshatching in sketch work. This will subtly fill in different corresponding colors where shadows should be.
You can save these settings by pressing the Setting icon beside your Present parameter and selecting Save Setting. Name the preset whatever you’d like.
Modify Image Size to your match preferences. Ensure the chain link icon beside is engaged – it will maintain the aspect ratio of your video. Finally, change the Looping Options under your Animation settings from Once to Forever. Once you’ve made your setting changes, click Save to name and place your new GIF file.
Spread Your GIF
Here is an example of a GIF I made, using source footage from the cinematic classic 12 Angry Men.
The higher the quality of your source footage, the better your GIF will be. If you want to create a link for your GIF, drag and drop your file to an image hosting website like Imgur to upload.
What Are You Waiting For?
Now you have a proper foundation to creating high quality and infinitely repeating GIFs. All that’s left is to find videos in order to convert, or begin sketching frames yourself. If you’d like some inspiration, Reddit’s /r/highqualitygifs has a dedicated fan base which provides daily, high-quality content.
What methods do you use to create GIFs? What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!
Originally written by Saikat Basu on 16th February 2012.