Gift Guide

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

Perhaps you have a few choice Internet friends to whom you would like to present a very special GIF this holiday season, but the internet has been less than forthcoming with providing you with a GIF of the scene you had in mind. Or maybe you want to make your very own GIF to give it that custom, hand-made feel, but don’t know how. I’m here to help. Let it never be said that I didn’t learn a few things in art school. Here’s how to create a GIF from a movie in Photoshop.

  1. First you will need to get a clip of the movie out of which you want to make a GIF. Two thoughts here. First, creating archival copies of your own movies is legal. Second, there are plenty of programs that will help you do that. I use one called HandBrake. You also want to make a file that is just the clip you actually want to animate, not the whole movie, TV episode, whatever. I use Adobe Premier to cut mine down, but a free program will probably work just as well.
  2. Then you need to bring that file into Photoshop. For reference here, I’m doing this in CS3 on a Mac OS 10 system. Go to File>Import>Video Frames to Layers. Select your file, and a dialogue box will pop up.Screencap of the Photoshop menu path described above.
  3. Click the boxes for limit to every 2 frames and for make frame animation. If your clip is a little longer than what you actually want to GIF, you can use the option to import a selected range only.Screencap of the Photoshop options described above
  4. To bring up the animations control window, you’ll need to click Window>Animation.Screencap of the Photoshop menu dropdown described above
  5. Now, because we only imported half the frames (to keep file sizes small) we’ll need to make the animation run a little slower than Photoshop will initially recommend. Down in the animation control bar, select all the frames and click the little number underneath the first one. Click other and then set the time to .06 of a second.Screencap of the Photoshop dialog box described above
  6. If you want to make any changes to your video footage, now is the time. I cropped off the letter-boxing and made the whole image smaller. If you want to add some text or another image on top of the footage, then, with all the frames selected in the animation bar, create a new layer. Make sure it’s on top of all the other layers. Whatever you put on that layer will be visible for the whole of the animation. You can then go in and by clicking on each frame in the animation bar, toggle which layers are visible for that frame by turning the visibility control in the layers pallet on or off with the frame selected if you want to have text blink on, or similar.
  7. To save your GIF go to File>Save for Web & DevicesScreencap of the Photoshop menu dropdown described above
  8. From there, a big ole box will open up that will let you control some options on how to encode your GIF, all while giving you a handy dandy output file size. You’ll want to keep that under 1MB while giving as much quality to your image as possible. There will also be some animation controls that will let you preview your GIF. The salient points here are to make sure your file type is set to GIF and to use as many colors as you can without going over that 1mb mark.Screencap of the Photoshop Save for Web/Devices dialog described above
  9. Enjoy your new GIFScreencap from Mirrormask of a man with a mask saying "No! I don't want to be a waiter!"


For those of you that are without the magical Photoshop box, next week I’ll cover making a GIF in GIMP, a free image editing program. Fair warning though, that one can be a bit of a PITA.

By 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.

4 replies on “The GIF Giving Guide: How to make your own GIFs in Photoshop”

I was hoping this would work in Photoshop Elements because I am cheap, but it looks like you can only import a single frame from video. Boo. I’ve made a really crappy handmade gif in there, but it was really tedious to do it frame by frame. I can’t wait for the GiMP tutorial!

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