Makin’ GIFs in Photoshop

In this tutorial we will go over how to make two types of GIFs: One that you animate yourself in Photoshop, and one made from a video using After Effects and Photoshop.


A. Creating Frames

Open the file you want to animate in a blank Photoshop document. For the purpose of this tutorial we will be rotating a beach ball, but the same steps can be taken to do a hand-drawn animated GIF.

To animate GIFs in Photoshop we use Layers as Frames. Copy and paste the beach ball multiple times so that it creates multiple Layers as shown. For each Layer, rotate the beach ball a little more than the previous Layer, using the selection tool in the upper left of the tool box. You can see the angle of the rotation next to the  top right corner of your selection as shown, and you can edit the rotation more precisely using the settings at the top.

You can play with the opacity of each Layer in the Layers Panel in order to see the difference between Layers. This can function similarly to an “Onion Skin” if you are doing hand-drawn animation.



Repeat this process until you have about 7 iterations of the rotated ball–You can make more with smaller rotations for a smoother animation if you want. Make sure the last frame is what would occur right before the first frame, and not a copy of the first frame.

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B. Animating the Frames

Now that we have all our Layers, we can animate. Go to Window > Timeline.

The Timeline window will open up at the bottom with a button in the middle saying “Create Video Timeline.” Click the arrow to the right of it and select “Create Frame Animation.”

Next, click on the icon with three lines in the top right corner of the Timeline window, and select “Make Frames From Layers.”

Your Layers will appear as Frames in the Timeline Window. If there is an empty, white frame at the beginning (like your “Background” Layer), select it and click the Trash icon in the bottom bar of the Timeline Window. If you simply click “Delete” on your keyboard, it may delete other frames by accident. Make sure to remove this extra frame, because if it is left it will interrupt your animation.

You can now click the “Play” button in the Timeline bar, and it will play your GIF:


 You can alter the speed of the GIF by clicking the down arrow next to “0 sec.” You can alter the speed of each frame individually, or, to alter all of them, click the first frame, hold the Shift key, and click the last frame, then click the arrow in any of the frames.

The smaller the number, the faster the GIF. One Frame per Second will be fairly slow, 0.2 will be closer to the average GIF, and 0.00 will be the fastest.




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C. Export as a GIF

Choose where you want to save your GIF to, then save your GIF as a Photoshop file first:

To save as a GIF, go to File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy)


A new window will pop up, and GIF will be the default format option! You can mess with the sizing and color preferences if necessary to make sure the file size isn’t too big, but with a short, 7-frame GIF as this one, it shouldn’t be necessary.

Check at the bottom of the settings where it says “Looping Options” and make sure it’s set to “Forever” and not “Once.”

If you click “Done” it will save whatever changes you made in this window, but won’t save your GIF file. Click “Save” and choose where to save your GIF.

Your Beach Ball GIF is complete!

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2)Video to GIF

To create a GIF using an existing video, for example, a “Reaction GIF,” we will use After Effects first before bringing the content into Photoshop to repeat the steps above.

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A. Editing in After Effects

In the window highlighted in blue on the left of the screen, Right-Click the bottom chamber and click Import > File.

For the purpose of this section of the tutorial, I’ve downloaded a Funny Puppy video from YouTube using the program ClipGrab.You can do the same or use a file already downloaded to your computer, depending on what you’re trying to make.

Your file will appear in this panel.


Drag the file into the left side of the Timeline, which is the panel directly below it that spans the bottom of the screen.

At the end of the Timeline, you’ll see two bars above with blue ends. The bottom one is what we’ll use to alter the length of the video (if you hover over it, it will say “Work Area End,” this can also be done with the bar at the beginning of the Timeline.

Slide the bar to the beginning and end of the portion of the video you want to make a GIF:

To make this more precise, go to the end of the Timeline again and hover over the blue end of the top bar. It will say “Time Navigator End.” If you slide this left, the bar bellow it will stretch back out, revealing new time markers. Basically, if you upload a 3 minute video but want a couple seconds of it, the timeline originally will show increments in minutes, but when you slide the Time Navigator it will show increments in seconds: It’s important to crop the video down to the exact beginning and end you want, because it will be much harder to do in Photoshop.

For finishing touches, go to Composition > Composition Settings, or simply click Command-K on Mac, or Control-K on Windows:


Your video might have black bars on the side. To fix this, you can change the size of the video in Composition Settings. This one is a square, so we just need to change the Width to the same size as the Height.








Using the “Work Area End” Bar should change the Duration time on its own, but to be safe you can alter the Duration time here in Composition Settings.

While here, you can adjust the Frame Rate if you’re looking for a smaller file and a choppier looking GIF. I’m keeping it at 30 FPS to maintain a smooth GIF.






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B. Exporting as a PNG Sequence

Now that we’re done editing the clip, it’s time to export it. Go to File > Export > Add to Render Queue

The Timeline will turn into the Render Panel below. Click “Lossless” next to “Output Module.”

The Output Module Settings window will pop up. Normally for an After Effects file we would export it to QuickTime, but to make a GIF, click Format > PNG Sequence. Then click Ok.












Next, in the Render Panel, click the file name next to “Output To.” This is where you’ll save your GIF.

At the bottom of the Save window, make sure “Save in subfolder” is selected, and make a name for your folder. Click Save!

Then click “Render!” Rendering may take a moment depending on how long your clip is.

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C. Turning the Video Clip into a GIF in Photoshop

Now, open a new document in Photoshop. Find your PNG sequence folder that you just rendered.

Select all of the files within the folder. You can do this with Command-A or Control-A, or you can hold Shift as you select the first and last file.

Click “Enter” as many times as necessary, until each file is its own Layer in Photoshop. This may take a while depending on the length of your clip and the Frame Rate you chose.


The next steps are the same as above, from our beach ball GIF. If your Timeline isn’t already open, go to Window > Timeline. Click the arrow next to “Create Video Timeline” and select “Create Frame Animation.” Click this button. Then go to the triple line icon in the upper right of the Timeline panel and select “Make Frames From Layers.”

Reminder: If there is a white frame as the first frame, click it and click the Trash icon below it in the Timeline.

I would not recommend altering the speed of the Frames for a video-GIF unless you want to freeze on a certain Frame for a longer period of time.

Save it, first as a Photoshop file (.psd)

Then go to File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy)…

The GIF window will pop up, where you can alter the Colors, Resolution, etc… If you are now worried about the size of your file, reducing the colors and resolution can help that.  Reminder: Check at the bottom of the settings where it says “Looping Options” and make sure it’s set to “Forever” and not “Once.”

Save it as a GIF, then click Done!

Now you have TWO GIFs! 🙂