The GIF Giving Guide: How to make your own GIFs in GIMP

Last week I showed you how to make you own GIFs to hand out this holiday if, like me, you have a certain level of fancy software. This week I do it entirely with the free stuff.

Just as before, you will need a clip of whatever you want to turn into a GIF. This time I edited mine with iMovie. Friends, I hate iMovie a lot. It’s an un-intuitive piece of shit. Still, once I figured out that to cut a clip you go to Edit>Split Clip at Playhead, I managed to totter along and get everything I needed done done.

  1. First, you need to render your video clip into an image sequence. With your clip loaded in your video editing software, somewhere in the neighborhood of export, there should be an option for exporting as an image sequence. In iMovie, you get it by clicking “Export” from the drop down menu in the export dialogue box then selecting “Movie to Image Sequence” in the next one. I exported at 15 frames per second and to a PNG file. GIMP can handle most image file types, so if your editor wants to save to a TIFF or what have you, it’s probably fine. The fifteen frames per second is to save on file size, so if it won’t do that, then go in and delete every other file once it renders. I HIGHLY recommend setting up a separate folder for this to all render into. It’s going to make a image file of each frame and that can get cluttered fast.screencap of the iMovie Export to Image sequence
  2. Then, open up GIMP and go to File>Open as Layers. Then click the first image in your sequence and, holding down shift, click the last image in your sequence so that all the files are selected. When you click open, you should end up with a single file with each image on its own layer. Make sure they are in numerical order with the first image as the lowest layer.Screencap of dropdown to Open to Layers in GIMP
  3. This is where you can edit your image if you want. I cropped mine to remove letter-boxing and scaled it smaller. If you want to add to the image, you have to do it on every layer. Each layer is going to become a frame in the animation, so whatever changes you make need to be on the layers themselves. If you want to have the same change on multiple layers, I recommend creating it on a separate layer. Duplicate that layer as many times as you need and then merge the duplicates with the original layers.
  4. When all the changes you want to make are finished, click File>Export. From the drop down menu, select GIF. In the pop up box, click “As Animation,” “Loop Forever,” “Use delay entered above for all frames,” and “Use disposal entered above for all frames.” The delay I found worked best was 4 milliseconds (your results may vary), and you’ll want to set the frame disposal to “One frame per layer (replace).”Screencap of Export Images to GIF sequence in GIMP
  5. Click Export and you have a new GIF. Make sure it’s under 1Mb. If it isn’t, you can go back and scale your image smaller or shave a few frames until it is.

    Animated gif from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home of Kirk arguing with a cabbie and saying "Well, double dumbass on you!"
    Kirk is not very good at swearing

If you missed my post on how to do this in Photoshop last week, it’s here.

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Opifex

Opifex is a former art student, unrepentant nerd, and occasional annoying liker of things before they were cool. She keeps two sets of polyhedral dice in her purse, in case the first set stops being lucky. That's kind of how she rolls.

9 thoughts on “The GIF Giving Guide: How to make your own GIFs in GIMP”

  1. I can’t find the export as image sequence in iMovie. I can find export in the share dropdown, but the other options are “Export using Quicktime” and “Export Final Cut XML.” I tried just plain export and the only options that came up were for image size. (I’m not sure what version I have; I opened it up to check and of course it needed to update something that will take 20+ minutes so I can’t open the About file.)

    However! I made a gif from a static image earlier using Photoshop Elements. Mwahahaha. (Click to make it run.)

  2. Of course, I am HIGHLY biased since I may happen to work for a certain company that may happen to make it (ahem), but I strongly suggest the Photoshop route – Creative Cloud subscriptions are pretty cheap (especially if a student) and they do make a ‘lite’ Elements version as well as mobile versions.

    But, yes, GIMP (sigh), carry on ;)

    And to this day I still keep the old, pre-F’d version of iMovie around. Did I mention Premiere comes with that Creative Cloud subscription? (I’ll stop now, promise!)

    1. Don’t get me wrong, I would rather work in photoshop any day of the week. Waaaaaaay more control over the end product. Also changes that don’t need to be baked in to every layer. But just in case someone has no money for software, I wanted to show that you can make GIFs free.

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