How to make a GIF in Photoshop – step by step

How to make a GIF in Photoshop

Animated GIFs are very popular today especially when posting on social media. There are more possibilities for how to create a GIF. Let me show you how to make a GIF in Photoshop in a few easy steps:

  • Load a group of images into the Photoshop Layers
  • Align Layers with imported images
  • Create Frame Animation and Make Frames from Layers
  • Export animation as a GIF file

Contents

Load group of images to make a GIF

Before we start to make a GIF, let’s find and select a group of images most suitable for our GIF. I usually use photos I took as a time sequence of the same scene. In our particular case, I chose pictures of flamingos moving in the water. The images are from Bolivia from the Altiplano plateau.

The reason why I am using Photoshop to make a GIF is I have everything under my control. I can edit and prepare my images to make a GIF. I use all Photoshop functionality like Camera RAW filter, use merged bracketed photos, or even utilize powerful filters like Luminar 4.

We have more options for loading photos. We can use Adobe Bridge, where we select and mark a group of images. Then we go to Tools-> Photoshop-> Load Files into Photoshop Layers.

How to make a GIF in Photoshop - Load files

Photoshop then loads all selected photos into separate layers.
To achieve a stable animated GIF, we need to align the individual layers. When we take photos without a tripod, the images will almost always be shifted a bit. Therefore, we need to perform layers alignment.

Align Layers with imported images

When all the photos are loaded into separate Layers, we will align them. As we have already mentioned, this is important for achieving a stable GIF. Select all Layers by clicking on the first layer and then Shift-clicking on the last one.
Go to Edit-> Auto-Align Layers.

A dialog box will then appear. Here we select the Auto option. Photoshop can align all Layers very solidly with this automatic option.

We have perfectly aligned layers, but we can see cropping of some layers. We will treat this manually.

Another way to load images is directly from Photoshop. Go to File-> Scripts-> Load Files into Stack. Then a dialog menu will appear. After pressing Browse, we will select a list of photos on our local disk or the cloud space.

The advantage of this method is that we have the function Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images. It will provide us with their automatic alignment immediately after loading the photos into separate Layers. This saves one step compared to the previous method, where we used Adobe Bridge.

Let’s now proceed to crop each Layer manually. As we have already mentioned, this cropping arose during automatic alignment. Let’s start with the first Layer. If we click on the eye icon with the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) key pressed, only the selected Layer will remain visible.

So we choose the crop tool and manually crop the unnecessary edges of the image.
This way, we will gradually display all Layers one by one and trim the edges that do not contain any pixels.

Create Frame Animation

Now we come to the very step of creating an animated GIF with our photos. First, we will display the Timeline where the animation itself will take place. Choose Window-> Timeline. The Timeline is displayed at the bottom of the screen.

How to make a GIF in Photoshop - Timeline

The next step will be to choose Create Frame Animation, suitable for animating individual pictures – frames. The Timeline itself is created, and the first default frame appears.

Make frames from Layers

In the next step, click on the small hamburger menu in the Timeline’s upper right corner. Select the Make Frames from Layers option.

We see that a group of frames will be created for us. We can try pressing the Play button at the bottom of the Timeline.

We see that the animation has started. But I noticed that it was reversed. To fix this, press the Timeline Hamburger menu again and select the Reverse Frames option. The order of the frames is automatically rotated and running correctly.

I’ve realized the sequence is running too fast. So let’s select all frames in the Timeline. Click on the first frame and the Shift +Click on the last one. Now click on the little arrow on any frame next to the duration info – in my case, it is 0 sec. Now select 0.1 sec. It will set the duration time of each frame to 0.1 seconds.

The duration of the sequence is set to Forever. You can change it to any other custom repeating.

Export and Save as a GIF file

Our Last task in the process of how to make a GIF file in Photoshop will be to export our animation and save as a GIF file.
Go to the File-> Export-> Save for Web (Legacy) menu.
A dialog box will open where we will set a few parameters.

For me, the most critical parameter of the final GIF is the file size. As we want to share the GIF file to the website or social media, it is always crucial to keep the file size as low as possible.

The main reason is the loading time. If your website or any online content loads for a long time, you risk your visitor won’t wait for it and leave.

The opposite side of the size is the quality of the GIF file. So the exporting and saving GIF is a process of trying the combination of various parameters.

So the first thing we have to set is the File type in the right-hand top corner of the dialog box. Click and select GIF.

As we already mentioned, always look at the final file size. The info is placed in the left bottom corner:

My final settings in this example of how to make a GIF were driven by minimal file size. So I set the number of colors to only 32. It is really low but sufficient regarding my particular photo color scheme. You can see the actual color table below.

I also decreased the Image size to 300×194. It is a small size but for the animated GIF purpose, it is enough.

And I finally ended with the file size 115.6K, which is acceptable and won’t be affecting the page loading time a lot.

Conclusion

So we went through how to make a GIF in Photoshop, and you can see it is easy and quick. We described one method of making a GIF, and it was from the group of images taken by a camera.

Just for a refresh: if you are shooting, always think whether a particular scene would be good to make a GIF later. Try to keep the camera or smartphone steady and pointing in the same place while pressing the shutter to take more images.
There is also another possibility – to make a gif from the video. It could be done in Photoshop quickly as well.

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