How To Create Animated GIFs in Photoshop

May 18th, 2017
Malyse McKinnon
Made with Astropad & Photoshop

Animated gifs are useful for adding more narrative and dimension to images. It’s possible to make animated GIFs in Photoshop from video files, photos, and illustrated images. It even has an Onion Skinning feature, helpful for frame-by-frame animating; especially if you’re planning to draw your frames.

Whether you want to try a new project, craft a storyboard, or adding some flair to your portfolio, check out our quick guide for tips on creating your own animated GIFs using Photoshop.

Drawing from Scratch

New to animating and want to practice? Best way is bringing out the Timeline panel by going to “Window”, then “Timeline”.

In the “Create Timeline” option, select “Create Video Timeline”.

In Window menu, select Timeline

On the Video Timeline, Layers are organized as Tracks, and can always be rearranged. The purple bars represents the timing, the time duration of the frames within a Track.

Example of Video Timeline: Tracks organized to the left, frame time duration are purple.

Each duration can be adjusted by click and dragging them horizontally on the Timeline. To set the timing; they can be lengthened, shortened, or even moved along the Track.

Durations can be adjusted by click and dragging them on the Video Timeline

Press the play icon to playback your sequence, and move the playhead to pinpoint a specific spot on the Timeline.

Moving the playhead. The red line helps show any included durations.

Does playback feel slow? Or the sequence is moving too fast? Along with setting the time duration of your frames, set your Timeline Frame Rate. This is accessible in Timeline’s expandable menu (top right corner). Adjusting the Timeline Frame Rate will change how many frames per second (fps) your animated GIF file will go by.

At default, Photoshop sets it at 30 fps which is good to work in, but depending on your project you may want less or more.

Check how smooth your transitions are by “Enabling Onion Skins”

Available in Timeline’s expandable menu. Onion Skinning lets you see multiple keyframes at once; overlaying the previous image at lower opacity, with the selected image in the sequence. This way you can preview the change between them, and get a better idea if any in-between images are needed to smooth out that change.

Working with your Pre-made Images

If you already have a series of images made, then start by going to “File”, select “Scripts”, then “Load Files into Stack”.

This method helps loads the individual images as layers, that will each be frames. Open Timeline, but instead of using the Video Timeline shown in the previous examples, select “Create Frame Animation”. Unlike using Video Timeline, Frame Animation lines up your images in sequential order, and helps organize and visualize your sequence frame-by-frame.

Each frame is shown, along with their timing below each image.

When using “Frame Animation” each frame is lined up in sequential order

These timing are the delay of each frame, representing how long do they are seen on screen. To change it, click directly on the timestamp. Options pop up to adjust the delay by seconds, which can be customized or choose one of the preset seconds.

Set specific seconds for delaying each frame
Can’t find an Onion Skin option? Use Tween!

This option is not available when Timeline is set to Frame Animation; but instead you can use “Tween”. In Timeline’s expandable menu, the option to use Tween is available. Just as with Onion skinning, you can see an overlay of the previous image in your sequence; but what it does better is adjust the opacity to show how the frames enter and exit the sequence. It gives a better idea of the frame transition by the second, not just between the images.

Have a video file?

Using a video file in Photoshop there are different ways to work —

Go to “File”, then “Import” and “Video Frames to Layers”. This will separate the video frames into individual Photoshop layers. Open Video Timeline or Frame Animation, depending on your project or preference.

Or open the file in Video Timeline, and split each frame manually.

Saving your Masterpiece

Once your file is ready, it’s time to save it as a GIF. Go to “File”, “Export”, then “Save for Web”.

Another window will pop up with different options for color handling, image size, and more. These will need to be adjusted before the final save. If you want the GIF to be continuous, select Animation Looping Options and change to “Forever”.

Click “Preview…” in the bottom left corner to preview your finalized in GIF in the web browser. When everything looks ready, click Save.

What do you think about animated gifs? How option do you use this feature in Photoshop? Share with us in our Astro Community forum!

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