How To Make Gifs

I know that there are several gif making tutorials here on Tumblr that may be better than anything I could write but I’m willing to give it a go anyhow. I have, on several occasions, been asked if I would write a tutorial on gifs and I have decided to finally do it.

Warning: This is probably going to end up being extremely long and detailed so bare with me. If I haven’t explained something properly enough, feel free to drop by my ask/submit and let me know that.


Step 1:
Well first of all, you obviously need a video to make a gif from. Bear in mind that this video has to be in a format which Photoshop can actually open. The ones I know of that work are avi, mp4 and m4v. The ones I know of that don’t work are mkv and rmvb. If your video is in either of these formats, or some other one entirely that happens to not work, then convert them. There are many conversion softwares out there that can help you do that. If you don’t want to do that, you could always just redownload the file but in avi format (that’s the format which I see most videos are in).

Now that you have your video, simply open it in Photoshop like you’d open any other file. You’ll notice that all you see is a black screen (or the very first frame of the video). You can’t play the video or do anything with it until you’ve made the animation window visible. Go to Window and press on Animation. This is how Photoshop will look:

(Full size)

You can actually get to work now. If you’d like to turn on audio while you watch, do that by pressing on the speaker. Press the play button (or the spacebar) to play the video. If you’re like me and you have to go through the entire episode again to see which parts you want to gif, then play it until you get to one of those parts. If you already know which part you want to gif, then find it by skipping through the video.

Step 2:
The buttons right next to the play button can help you pin point the exact point where you’d like to gif. Now set that as the beginning point by clicking on the animation window menu and clicking on Set Start of Work Area. Play the video again and once you reach the end of the part you want to gif set it as the end point by pressing Set End of Work Area. Just follow the red arrow:

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(Full size)

Step 3:
Export the selected part of your video now. Go to File > Export > Render video. This window should pop up:

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Select the folder you’d like the file to be saved in. I used to resize the video in this window but have found it better to resize later. So, just press Render.

Step 4:
In a few moments, Photoshop will finish rendering your video. When that happens, you then go to File > Import > Video Frames to Layers. Locate the rendered video and open it. Check the box next to Limit To Every 2 Frames. Now you will see this:

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Once you’ve done that, you can change the two to any number you want. I usually go with 3. You may be wondering what the point of this is. Well, you don’t really need every single frame and the less frames you have, the smaller in size the gif will be. So when I go with 3, it ends up making a gif where every third frame of my video is shown. If the selection I’ve made is longer, I sometimes go with 4 instead of 3. 

Make sure the box next to Make Frame Animation is selected before you press OK.

Step 5:
A new window will now be opened where you’ll see your gif. Mine ended up having a total of 17 frames. Now that the gif limit has been increased from 500KBs to 1MB, it’s actually much easier to fit a lot more frames in one gif.

If this is the first time that you’ve tried making a gif, you’re going to have to change the looping options. You’re most likely going to want your gif to play over and over again, not just once and then stop. You’ll find 'Once' written right below your first frame. Click on it and change it to ‘Forever’. If you’ve already made gifs before, it’s probably going to already be set to Forever.

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I tend to set the time delay right now. Select all the frames (you can either do that by selecting the first one, scrolling to the end, holding shift and clicking on the last frame or by clicking on Select All Frames from the animation window’s menu). Below each frame, you’ll find the frame time delay that has already been selected for you. Click on the little arrow that’s pointing downwards (or anywhere in that area really) and select one of the options. I choose 0.1 seconds in this case.

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Step 6:
What I like to do next is sharpen the gif. After getting really annoyed with the whole sharpening of each frame separately thing, I made an action to do the sharpening for you. You can find the tutorial and the download link HERE.

Step 7:
Now I select all the frames and copy them. I’m going to paste them into a new window that is 500x250px large. There are other ways to resize but this is the way that I’ve gotten used to.

(Full size)

(Full size)

I tend to choose Paste Over Selection but it doesn’t really matter which you choose (although if you choose Paste Before Selection or Paste After Selection, you’ll have to delete the frame that just displays the background).

Now I resize the layers by selecting all of them, pressing Command+T (or CTRL+T on PC), holding the shift button and resizing. If I resize the layers to include all the parts in the window, then there will be blank space to fill. Using the eyedropper, I choose colors from the far left and right. I create a new layer (or layers) and cover the blank parts with the appropriate colors so that it looks like an extension of the gif. 

I sharpen again. This is made really easy using my sharpening action.

Step 8:
Coloring the gif comes next. I usually just use one of my PSDs. I open it in Photoshop and drag the group of layers from that file to the gif I’m working on. I make sure I have the first frame selected before I color. You need to make sure that the first frame is always chosen when you’re making changes or else the changes won’t be applied to the entire gif.

If you’d like to try one of my PSDs on your gifs, feel free to download some of them HERE. But please don’t forget to provide credit.

This is basically what I have now:

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And with that, I think I’m done. Now, I have to save the gif.

Step 9:
Go to File > Save for Web & Devices. This is what will show up:

(Full size)

As you can see, there are many different options to choose from. I usually don’t play with anything but the number of colors. You may not need to mess with the number of colors if your gif already satisfies the Tumblr limit. You can check to see by looking right below your gif in this window. As you can see, my gif is 860.9KBs. That’s below 1MB. In fact, I usually have to keep the size at 998KBs or less or else uploading it on Tumblr will result in a gif that doesn’t move. Just thought I’d mention that if that happens to turn out to be the situation for you too.

Alright so, if you end up with a gif that is above the limit, you can either delete a frame or more or you can lower the number of colors. Keep in mind though that the less colors, the worse the quality of the gif. Instead of wildly guessing how many colors you’d need to stay within the limit, there is an easier way. At the very top part to the right, you’ll see that Preset is written. On the further right, there is that little icon that leads to a menu. Click on Optimize to File Size. In the window that pops up, change the Desired File Size to 1000 and press OK. Pay attention to the size the gif is now. As I said above, for me, it needs to be 998 or lower. If your gif is at exactly 1000, just decrease the number of colors until it reaches 998.

Now preview the gif by pressing on the Preview button down there at the bottom. Make sure the speed of the gif is acceptable and that everything is fine and dandy. I felt mine was kind of fast so I slowed it down a bit.

Step 10:
Finally, save the gif. Here is my end result:


And that’s basically it. The more you practice, the easier it will be, trust me. Experiment and don’t give up. Sometimes things will work out and look good while other times, they won’t. Even I, someone who has been using Photoshop for a long time now, still find myself learning new things all the time and improving more and more the more I practice. I hope this tutorial has helped you out and I hope I haven’t forgotten anything. 


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