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Where Marketers Go to Grow

December 11, 2015 // 8:00 AM

How to Make an Animated GIF in Photoshop [Tutorial]

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create-animated-gifs-photoshop.jpeg

If you've spent any time on the internet at all, you've probably come in contact with an animated GIF. It's an image file that allows you to feature animated images that makes it seem like the image is moving. Think of them as a hybrid between a still image and a video.

Why are GIFs great additions to your marketing? They're easy to consume, provide a new way to capture your viewers' attention, and can have a serious emotional impact. Considering content that makes us feel something encourages us to share, these tiny animations are worth experimenting with.

The best part about GIFs is that they aren't too hard to make. If you have access to Photoshop and a few minutes to spare, you can create an animated GIF in no time.

Click here to download our free guide to learn how to design high-quality graphics.

In the following tutorial on making animated GIFs, I'm using the Creative Cloud 2015 version of Photoshop, but the steps should be similar in other versions. 

How to Create an Animated GIF in Photoshop

Here's an example of an animated GIF you might make using this tutorial:

marketing-trivia-GIF-example-1.gif

Alright, let's get started!

Step 1: Upload your images to Photoshop.

If you already have images created ...

Gather the images you want in a separate folder. To upload them into Photoshop, click File > Scripts > Load Files Into Stack.

load-file-into-stack.png

Then, select Browse and choose which files you'd like to use in your GIF, then click OK.

load-multiple-images.png

Photoshop will then create a separate layer for each image you've selected. Once you've done that, skip to step two.

If you don't already have the series of images created ...

Create each frame of the animated GIF as a different Photoshop layer. To add a new layer, chose Layer New Layer.

add-new-layer.png

Be sure to name your layers so you can keep track of them easily when you make your GIF. To name a layer, go to the Layer panel on the bottom right of your screen, double-click on the default layer name, and type in the name you want to change it to. Press Enter when you're finished.

name-layers.png

Once you have your layers in there and you've named them all, you're ready for step two.

Pro Tip: If you want to combine layers so they appear in a single frame in your GIF, turn visibility on for the layers you want to merge (by clicking on the "eye" to the left of each layer name so only the eyes for the layers you want to merge are open). Next, press Shift + Command + Option + E (Mac) or Shift + Ctrl + Alt + E (Windows). Photoshop will create a new layer containing the merged content, which you should also rename.

Step 2: Open up the Timeline window.

To open Timeline, go to the top navigation, choose Window > Timeline. The Timeline will let you turn different layers on and off for different periods of time, thereby turning your static image into a GIF.

open-timeline.png

The Timeline window will appear at the bottom of your screen. Here's what it looks like:

timeline-in-photoshop.png

Step 3: In the Timeline window, click "Create Frame Animation."

If it's not automatically selected, choose it from the dropdown menu -- but then be sure to actually click it, otherwise the frame animation options won't show up.

create-frame-animation.png

Now, your Timeline should look something like this:

timeline-with-frame-animation.png

Step 4: Create a new layer for each new frame.

To do this, first select all your layers by going to the top navigation menu and choosing Select > All Layers.

Then, click the menu icon on the right of the Timeline screen.

timeline-icon.png

From the dropdown menu that appears, choose Create new layer for each new frame.

new-layer-for-new-frame.png

Step 5: Open the same menu icon on the right, and choose "Make Frames From Layers."

This will make each layer a frame of your GIF.

make-frames-from-layers.png

Step 6: Under each frame, select how long it should appear for before switching to the next frame.

To do this, click the time below each frame and choose how long you'd like it to appear. In our case, we chose 0.5 seconds per frame.

choose-frame-time.png

Step 7: At the bottom of the toolbar, select how many times you'd like it to loop.

The default will say Once, but you can loop it as many times as you want, including Forever. Click Other if you'd like to specify a custom number of repetitions. 


choose-loop-number.png 

Step 8: Preview your GIF by pressing the play icon.

play-icon.png

Step 9: Save your GIF to use online.

Satisfied with your GIF? Save it to use online by going to the top navigation bar and clicking File > ExportSave for Web (Legacy).

save-for-web.png

Next, choose the type of GIF file you'd like to save it as under the Preset dropdown. If you have a GIF with gradients, choose Dithered GIFs to prevent color banding. If your image employs a lot of solid colors, you may opt for no dither. 

The number next to the GIF file determines how large (and how precise) the GIF colors will be compared to the original JPEGs or PNGs. According to Adobea higher dithering percentage translates to the appearance of more colors and detail -- but it increases the file size. 

save-for-web-preset-dropdown.png

Click Save at the bottom to save the file to your computer. Now you're ready to upload this GIF to use in your marketing! 

Upload the GIF file into any place online that you'd put an image, and it should play seamlessly. Here's what the final product might look like:

marketing-trivia-GIF-example.gif

How to Use GIFs in Your Marketing

1) On social media.

Pinterest was the first to enable animated GIFs, followed by Twitter. And by the summer of 2015, Facebook also jumped on the GIF bandwagon. On any of these social feeds, animated GIFs can be a great way to stand out in a crowded News Feed.

For example, check out how Samsung used a GIF to promote a product:

Want to include animated GIFs in your own social media posts?

2) In your emails.

Animated GIFs display in email the same way a regular image does. So why not spruce up your emails by replacing still images with animated ones?

Not only could this help capture recipients' attention from novelty alone, but it could also have a direct impact on your bottom line. An A/B test conducted by BlueFly concluded that emails featuring an animated GIF pulled in 12% more revenue than their non-animated version.

Make use of GIFs by showcasing products, making event announcements, or otherwise enticing readers. Check out the GIF below from women’s clothing shop Ann Taylor LOFT: They made a present look like it's shaking to create intrigue and get recipients to click through to "unwrap" their gift.

loft-unwrap-animation-repeat.gif

Image Credit: Litmus

3) In blog posts.

Your blog post doesn't have to be about animated GIFs or structured like a BuzzFeed-style listicle to include GIFs. (Although we do love a good dose of silly listicle GIFs every once in a while.)

For example, my colleague Ginny Soskey created a simple, animated GIF to explain the definition of a call-to-action for this blog post.

Definition-of-CTA-1.gif

Here's another example of an animated GIF from our post on office kitchen recipes:

School-Lunch-1.gif

How will you use GIFs in your marketing? Share with us in the comments.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in September 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free guide to designing high-quality graphics

  how to design high-quality graphics

Topics: Design Content Marketing

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