It's the GIF's internet, we just live in it. GIFs are those short animations people share via email and on websites. You know the sort of thing: a flipbook for the internet age. Usually meant to be amusing, occasionally beautiful, always easy to share. GIFs are static image files that display moving images. Pretty neat, huh?
In this article we show you how to make GIFs from videos and still images.
How to make a GIF without Photoshop
There are two ways to make GIFs: easy but limited, harder but more full featured. As most of the easy ones are free, however, we recommend you try them first! Free and easy is our favourite method every time.
A quick search online will throw up multiple online GIF-making programs. Three of our favourites are MakeAGif, GIFMaker and Imgflip. They are all pretty similar - some do require you to pay to remove a watermark, others may ask you to sign up for a free account.
Each service differs slightly, but the basic principle is that you upload either a video clip or a series of still images. Then you are required to do a minor amount of editing to get things as you would like them, before exporting back to your desktop a GIF you can share. It couldn't be more simple.
How to make a GIF on Android
But what about if you want to make a GIF on your Android smartphone? Thanks to the release of the once-iOS-exclusive Motion Stills app on Android, it's incredibly easy (and free!) to do so. But before we go any further, it's worth mentioning that the Android variant of Motion Stills is different to that available on iOS. Why? On iOS, Motion Stills converts Apple's Live Photos into stabilised GIFs.
Of course, Android doesn't offer the Live Photo functionality, so what are Android users to do instead? The Motion Stills app for Android allows users to record videos in-app before being turned into beautifully stabilised GIFs. You can't import existing videos, however.
There's also the Fast Forward feature that allows users to capture longer clips to create time-lapse GIFs. Speeds can be adjusted from 1x- to 8x depending on the desired effect, and you can export from one of three sizes. It's not perfect because it can't create GIFs from existing content, but it's a great, free option for Android users to consider.
How to make a GIF from video with Photoshop
The services mentioned above may not be enough for more adventurous GIF makers, however. So here is our GIF-making guide for Photoshop warriors. (Incidentally, by Photoshop in particular we mean high-end image editors in general. The GIMP is free, for instance, and will also work in a similar way.)
So, to make a GIF from video with Photoshop, you will need - you guessed it - a video clip. Make sure it isn't too long: GIFs work best when they are short and punchy. No more than three seconds, five at a pinch.
Now, in Photoshop navigate to File >Import > Video Frames to Layers. Choose your video file, and it will be uploaded into Photoshop and transformed into a series of still images. You can import the entire video or use sliders to select a portion of the footage.
You are pretty much there, at this stage. You can now adjust settings to make your GIF work the way you wish it to. Once you are happy simply go to File > Save to Web to export.
Photoshop offers lots of settings that allow you to decrease the file size. You need to find the smallest file size at which your GIF looks okay - any more than 1MB and it will slow up web page load times. Any more than 500kb and your friends won't thank you for making them download your GIF on their mobile phones.
This really is a suck it and see process, but we would suggest you reduce the quality in increments, having first reduced the size at which your GIF appears to the smallest visual size at which you are happy.
Once you have the file size you need, hit File > Save as. Congratulations, you made a GIF!
(The GIF above appears courtesy of Wikipedia.)
How to make a GIF from still images with Photoshop
It is marginally more tricky to make a GIF from still images, but more in the preparation than in the actual Photoshop work.
Before you do anything else, get together all the still images you wish to sequence into a GIF. Put them together in one folder to which you can easily navigate. The quality and linear nature of your images will dictate how well this project works out.
Open Photoshop, and go to File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack. Browse to the folder you created and select the images. Once you hit Ok a new composition will open, your images will be rendered as individual layers in a single image. All you have to do is arrange the layers - put the first image to the bottom, right the way through to the final image at the top of the stack.
Now you can sequence those layers. In Photoshop CC and CS6 open Window Timeline. (In CC you have to also click the drop-down menu in the middle of the Timeline window and select Create Frame Animation.) If you are using Photoshop CS5 or older, open Window and Animation.
The next step works the same way in all versions of Photoshop. Simply click the small, right-facing arrow in the upper righthand corner of the window, and choose Make Frames From Layers.
Use the menu underneath each frame to set for how long it appears. You can also use the menu in the bottom left-hand corner to set how many times the entire GIF will run.
Your GIF is now created. Again, simply go to File > Save to Web to export.
Photoshop offers lots of settings that allow you to decrease the file size. You need to find the smallest file size at which your GIF looks okay - any more than 1MB and it will slow up web page load times. Any more than 500kb and your friends won't thank you for making them download your GIF in their mobile phones.