Tech Tuesday: How to Make an Animated .gif in Photoshop
If you read last week’s Tech Tuesday post, you might remember my “Ode to Adobe Color CC” that I posted in the form of an animated .gif. If you missed it, here it is again:
I could stare at these animated .gifs for hours. They are just so much fun, and the possibilities are endless! In case you are wondering what in the world an animated .gif is, let me explain. An animated .gif is a graphic image that moves. It is made by combining several static images into one .gif file. If this sounds complicated to you, do not fret! The wonderful world of Photoshop has made it very simple for anyone to create an animated .gif.
You’ll notice that the .gif I posted this week does not “jiggle” as much as last week’s. This is because I went back and edited the static images so that they were all cropped to exactly the same size. In this post, I will show you how to make a perfectly framed animated .gif.
First, you will need a series of images you want to animate. The original Adobe Color CC .gif I created was made up of thirty-two screen shots. To save time, I reduced the number of images for the revised .gif in this post to sixteen. As you can see, the fewer images you combine, the choppier your .gif will be. Adding more images will give a smoother effect to your .gif.
Once you have all of your images, your next task is to put them into one file. Open your first two images. At the bottom taskbar, click on Layout > All Column, so you can view both images simultaneously. Select the move tool, and drag one image from one window to the other.
Click on that file, and make sure you have two layers. Once you’ve confirmed this, you can close the other file. With the Move tool selected, move the layer around until you think it fits perfectly over your original image. A true test is to click the little eyeball to the left of your original layer, turning its visibility off. Then, click the little eyeball on your newest layer, turning its visibility on and off a few times. If you can see any movement on the image, then you may need to continue adjusting with the Move tool. Slight to no movement? You are ready to add more layers! Repeat the above with each image, and add each image to that original file so that you will end up with several layers in one individual file. In my case, I had sixteen layers. This is truly the most consuming part of the entire process, so if it starts to feel monotonous, hang in there! A beautiful animated .gif is right around the corner. 🙂
Once you have all of your image layers aligned, named (but Deb never names her layers), and in the right order, take a moment to congratulate yourself. Great job! Now you have to resize your file so that you can animate it later. To do this, go to Image > Resize > Image Size. In the new window, find the Width box and change this number to 800 pixels or less.
Now for the fun part! Go to File > Save as and save your file as a .psd. You never know if you will need to go back and fix some layers. Now save the file again, but this time use File > Save for Web. In the dialog box, select GIF and check the Animate box. At the bottom of the dialog box you will find Looping Options and Frame Delay. Due to the radial nature of my .gif, I chose to loop it Forever, so the colors would continually move and change. Frame Delay refers to the amount of time between each image appearing in the .gif. I chose a very short amount of time (0.2 seconds) because it gives the .gif a smoother motion.
Name your file accordingly and then click Save. To view your .gif, find the file, open it in whichever application you prefer, and celebrate your accomplishment! I took the Pixeladies “PSE Essentials II” class, and that is where I learned how to work with layers, two images at the same time, resizing, and “Save for Web.” I would not have been able to create this animated .gif had I not learned how to do that first. By the way, the Pixeladies are teaching the series again this fall. Click here for more information.
Now I must embark on a brief tangent about the correct pronunciation of the term “.gif.” Since the acronym itself stands for “Graphics Interchange Format,” many people assume that .”gif” is pronounced with a hard G, as in “gift.” After researching the matter for myself, I understand that the correct pronunciation is actually a soft G, as in “jiff” (like the peanut butter). To quote Charlie Reading on The GIF Pronunciation Page, “Choosy programmers choose “GIF.” Ultimately, the creator of the .gif, Steve Wilhite, has the final say in its pronunciation, and he insists on the soft G. If you need definitive proof to put the matter to rest once and for all, watch this video of Steve Wilhite’s acceptance speech at The Webby Awards. That really says it all, doesn’t it? 🙂