How to make GIFs with Photoshop (or these free alternatives)

These are the best ways to make an animated GIF

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How to make an animated GIF using still images (for free)

If you don’t have access to Photoshop, there are free methods to make a GIF, although the quality of the final product may not be as high. There are various free programs (such as GIMP or Pixlr) that offer the basic functions of Photoshop, thus allowing you to create still images and play them in sequence, as well as websites that allow you to cut GIFs from video. Neither of these processes will be as effective as Photoshop, however they are cheaper and fairly straightforward.

Using still images

There are several in-browser apps that allow you to make GIFs out of a series of still images. As an example, we’ll use Ezgif. This site allows you to upload a series of images, arrange them, and turn them into an animated GIF. Of course, to do so will require a set of images that work in sequence. To do this, we’ll need a free Photoshop substitute. We’ll use Pixlr in this example.

Step 1 — The first thing to do is create a new image. Choose the canvas size, but keep in mind that the larger the file size of a GIF, the more slowly it will load, so try to cut down on the amount of stuff you will be fitting on the canvas. Simpler and smaller is often better.

Step 2 — Once you have a canvas, make the first frame of your GIF. For this example, we’ll use the shape tool to create a person out of a circle, rectangles, and lines, saving this image to create the first frame.

person gif 1

Animation consists of playing a series of images with slight changes to give the illusion of movement, so to make a GIF, you will need to make multiple images, each with a slight variation from the last one. For the sake of simplicity, this gif will only have a few frames, so it will not be pretty, but it should illustrate the concept.

Step 3 — For the next frame, we’ll make the figure raise his arms by erasing them and drawing new arms raised upward. Save the image to create the second frame.

person gif 2

Step 3 — Next, we’ll use the Type tool to make text appear, and save this image as the third frame.

person gif 3

Step 4 — Then, we’ll add some more text and save it as the fourth frame.

person gif 4

Step 5 — With our frames ready, we will upload them to Ezgif. Select the tab labeled GIF Maker and click the Choose files button. Select all the image files associate with your GIF.

Step 6 — Next, click the button labeled Upload. When the image files are done loading, make sure they are in the correct order. You can also set the delay time, which is the time between frames, and choose how many times (if at all) you want the GIF to loop.

gif maker walkthrough 1

Step 7 — Once done, click the button labeled Animate it!

gif maker walkthrough 2

Your GIF should then appear, along with buttons to edit it or save it to your computer.

How to make an animated GIF from a video (for free)

If you want to use a particular snippet of a video for a GIF, there are numerous sites that can help you make them with very little input on your part. Ezgif, Giphy, ImgFlip, Gfycat, and many other online services allow you to make GIFs without the aid of credit card, although the convenience comes with a sacrifice in the level of control you have.

Step 1 — Using one of these online tools is incredibly straightforward. As an example, we will use Giphy. This site allows you to either paste the URL for a particular video, or upload a video file from your computer. Enter the URL or upload your video and continue to Step 2.

giphy screenshot 1

Step 2 — Once you have done that, you will be able to choose the point in the video where the GIF will begin, and choose how long the GIF will run. You can also enter a caption, if you wish.

giphy screen 2

Step 3 — Once you have decided on those elements, simply hit the Create GIF button and allow the site to take care of the rest.

The process is more or less the same for other sites, including ImgFlip. If you want more control over the resulting quality of your GIF, however, you should probably stick with Photoshop. That said, for basic video-to-GIF functionality, sites like Giphy should work fine.

And that’s it! You are now a GIF guru (or a GIF Jedi, if you prefer the soft g pronunciation), and your social media feeds are about to become infinitely more exciting. Although, we should probably caution you: With great power comes great responsibility; choose your moments wisely and don’t flood your friends with an overwhelming onslaught of low-grade cat GIFs, no matter how cute they may be. There is a time and place, and quality always trumps quantity. The GIF may be modest, but it is also legend; it deserves your respect. Study it, practice it, master it.

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