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How to Make a GIF - The Complete Guide

The attention span in the digital age should now be well below 8 seconds. As for the news feed on Facebook, according to Facebook it is only 2.5 seconds on the desktop and 1.7 seconds on the smartphone. In order to attract attention, creative strategies are required that captivate the fleeting user eye. What moves is more noticeable. For example, a well-made GIF. And that's not that complicated at all.

If you want to take your social media strategy to the full level and express what you really mean online, you simply need to know how to make a GIF. With GIFs, you can design ads that really catch the eye, or you can increase contact with your followers by quoting popular motifs from popular culture.

This post will teach you how to make a GIF and how to get the most out of it on social media and beyond.

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What is a GIF?

How to Make a GIF: the Basics

How to make a GIF with Photoshop

How to make a GIF without Photoshop

How to create a GIF on the go

How to Create Screen Recorder GIFs

Tips for using GIFs on social media

bonus: Learn how to create a social media strategy and optimize your social media presence with Hootsuite in our step-by-step guide.

What is a GIF?

The Graphics Interchange Format or GIF links several bitmap graphic files into one animated picture. Each pixel within a GIF can have 256 colors, which is why GIFs generally have a lower resolution than other online videos. GIFs also have a lower frame rate - but this is beneficial because more frames per second also increase the file size. But GIFs should stay small so that they can be shared quickly and easily.

You could think of GIFs as something in the middle between pictures and videos. Their main advantage: you can tell a story quickly with their help and you don't need a lot of bandwidth to load it. That makes them perfect for use on mobile devices.

If you think GIFs are a little primitive, you're not entirely wrong: Animated GIFs are actually simple. After all, it has been around for 30 years - longer than the Internet!

In the recent past, GIFs have exploded in popularity. The GIF database, GIPHY, which is extremely popular on the web, reports more than 300 million active users every day. At the end of March 2018, Google bought the GIF platform Tenor, a keyboard app including a GIF database that helps iOS, Android and desktop users find the GIFs they want quickly. Tenor processes more than 400 million GIF searches every day.

Since GIFs are so popular, you just can't afford to go without them. That is why we will show you below how to create them and which tools simplify working with GIFs.

How to Make a GIF: the Basics

If you want to make a GIF quickly, a GIF conversion site like GIPHY, Make A Gif, or Gifs.com is the easiest way to get there. While these platforms all work slightly differently, the following steps will give you a rough idea of ​​what to expect when creating your first GIF.

1. Select the video that you want to convert to a GIF.

The best GIFs aim at familiar moments that almost everyone associates with certain feelings or situations. Pick something that is likely to go down well with your target audience.

Find the video that best captures your moment. If you don't have one on your computer or mobile device, do a search online: YouTube and Vimeo offer countless video clips.

2. Upload the video for conversion.

If you upload your own video, select the appropriate option in the respective conversion program and upload the video. If you want to upload a video from YouTube or Vimeo, copy the full URL into the URL field of the converter.

3. Set the length of your GIF.

Once the video file has been uploaded, mark the moment you want to capture with your GIF with a time stamp at the beginning and end of the scene. GIFs can be up to three minutes long, but the ideal length is two to six seconds.

4. Optional: Add text.

Since there is no sound in GIFs, you can also add text for further explanation or guidance. Subtitles provide the necessary context if you want to present something worth citing in your GIF. But you can also insert a text to emphasize a situation or a feeling that your GIF is supposed to express (eg: "Social media influencers always only think of one thing ...")

5. Download your GIF.

When you sit at the desktop computer, you will notice that the GIF you just downloaded is not animated, but just shows a series of individual images. No panic! Simply drag the GIF into your web browser to view the animation in an endless loop. On mobile devices, GIFs are instantly animated when opened.

So much for the basics. However, there are several ways to create GIFs, especially if you want to use your own source material.

Let's start with the most complicated method - creating a GIF using Photoshop.

How to make a GIF with Photoshop

Note: All of the screenshots used in this article are from Adobe Photoshop CC 2018 (Version 19.1.2).

In the Photoshop program you can string together a collection of images to form a GIF. To create the following GIF (which we are perhaps a little bit too proud of ...) we took around 20 screenshots with the Photo Booth software and saved them.


You can also use a short video file to create a GIF in Photoshop. The process is almost exactly the same except for the first step.

If you want to work with a collection of photos, start with step 1A.

If you are converting a video to a GIF using Photoshop, start with step 1B.

1A. Import your photo series into Photoshop.

Go to Photoshop File> Scripts> Load Files in Batch. click on Search and then select the photo selection (“Layers”) that you want to make a GIF by holding down the Shift key while selecting the entire list and then clicking “Open”.

The “Load Layers” screen should now look like the screenshot below. click on OK and go to step 2.

1B. Import your video file into Photoshop.

If you want to convert a short video to a GIF using Photoshop, the first thing you need to do is to convert the frames of the video into individual layers. To do this, go to File> Import> Layered Video Frames.

Now a new window will open asking you which part of the video you want to import. You don't have to import all of the frames to make a GIF. In our example, I only imported every third frame and only half of my existing video footage. When you have finished making your selections, click OK.

If you have imported your video file in layers, continue with step 4.

2. Create a timeline for your GIF.

Scroll down in the "Window" menu item to click Timeline to open.

A small window will now appear under the first image in your list: Create video timeline. Click the button itself and change the selection to Create frame animation.

3. Convert your photo layers into a loop animation.

At the top right of the "Timeline" window you can see a small menu icon that looks like a stylized hamburger (outlined in yellow).

Click on this menu, scroll down and click Create frames from layers.

The "Timeline" window now shows you a preview of the animation in the selected order. You can also drag and drop each frame to change the order. (I named my files in the correct order to save myself this step.)

Click the triangular one at the bottom of the timeline reproductionSymbol (outlined in red in the image below). Also make sure you select the option in the lower left (outlined in yellow) drop-down menu Unlimited to have your GIF loop play not just a few times, but an infinite number of times.

4. Export your GIF.

click on File> Export > Save for Web (Legacy).

This will take you to the menu shown below, which at first glance seems quite complicated. But don't worry - just set it in the “Default” menu GIF 128 Dithered a.

Then change the value "Colors" to 256 (the maximum number for a GIF).

You are now ready to export your GIF. If you want to check it again beforehand, click on in the lower left corner of the export dialog preview. Then your preset web browser will open and play an endless loop preview of your GIF.

Now click on to save, name your GIF file, choose a location, and download it to your computer.

And that's it. Congratulations! Now you know how to make a GIF in Photoshop.

How to make a GIF without Photoshop

If you don't have a subscription to Adobe Creative Suite, don't be desperate. It is well known that many roads lead to the GIF.

Make your own GIF from a YouTube video.

1. Go to giphy.com and click “Create”.

2. Enter the URL of the video you want to make a GIF out of.

3. Determine the starting point of the animation and set the length of your GIF.

4. Optional: decorate your GIF.

There are various options for this. You can add text (different fonts and colors are available on GIPHY) or add stickers, filters or hand-made annotations to your GIF. I didn't add anything because I didn't want to distract from AyaBambi's nice dance moves.

5. Optional: Add hashtags to your GIF.

Add hashtags if you want as many people as possible to find and share your GIF. Use your brand name and a few common related terms so that the GIF is found as often as possible.

bonus: Learn how to create a social media strategy and optimize your social media presence with Hootsuite in our step-by-step guide.

To the free guide

6. Upload your GIF to GIPHY.



And you're done again! In order to now incorporate the GIF into your social media posts, simply insert the GIPHY link or download the GIPHY file to attach it to your post (which method you use depends on the respective social media platform - more on that later).

PS: You carry out the same steps if you want to upload a previously created GIF. All you have to do is paste a link to your GIF URL instead of the YouTube video link mentioned earlier.

How to create a GIF on the go

With mobile apps like GIPHY Cam you can record your own GIFs on your smartphone. It's extremely easy - anyone who has ever used Snapchat can also use GIPHY Cam.

1. Start the app and record your GIF.

Tap the Photo button to take a short series of photos, or hold the button longer for a longer GIF.

2. Optional: Select a filter or add a sticker / text.

3. Save your GIF and share it with the rest of the world.

How to Create Screen Recorder GIFs

With apps like GIPHY Capture, ScreenToGif, LICECap and GifCam you can create GIFs of your screen activities. This option is particularly suitable for illustrating a short instruction article (e.g. for online help) if you want to visualize the individual work steps.

1. Start the screen recorder software.

When you start the software, you will see the screen area that will be recorded - such as the area outlined in red in the screenshot below.

2. Drag the recording mask over the area you want to record.

With GIPHY Capture you can record everything that is within this recording mask (also outlined in red below). To enlarge the area, click in the lower right corner (outlined in yellow) and adjust the area by dragging.

3. Record your screen activity.

Press the round red button in the middle to start the recording - and again when you want to stop the recording. A thumbnail preview of your GIF should now appear in the bar below the recording area.

4. Customize your GIF settings.

Now zoom out the capture area and take a closer look at the GIF options menu. Here you can set several properties of your GIF - including the type of loop (forwards or backwards or played with the "ping-pong" option), the pixel size and the frame rate. Now drag the tabs inwards from the right or left to crop your GIF. You can also enter captions in this menu.

Once everything is set to your satisfaction, you can press the blue “Calculate Size” button to see how large your GIF file is. I reduced the quality of my GIF when I realized it would be more than 8MB (the ideal size is under 3MB).

5. Save your GIF.

You can now save your GIF on your computer or use GIPHY Capture to upload it directly to GIPHY's online archive.

Tips for using GIFs on social media

The best social media platforms for GIFs are Facebook and Twitter. Instagram only supports GIFs uploaded as video files. (As of April 2018)

Share GIF on Facebook

It's easy to share a GIF on Facebook: all you have to do is copy and paste the link to your GIF, wait for the preview to pop up - and you're in the green. For best results, Facebook recommends:

  • Choose high quality images or animations.
  • Use a link that ends in .gif.
  • Use a GIF with a file size of less than 8MB.
  • Use a GIF with text that is less than 20% of the image area.
  • Don't use GIFs that automatically flash or are grainy. (Follow Facebook's rules for advertising.)

Share GIF on Twitter

To share a GIF on Twitter:

  1. Enter your tweet (or a GIF URL) in the field at the top of your timeline or click the button Tweet.
  2. 2. Click on the camera-Button to upload a GIF from your computer.
    OR
    Select a GIF from Twitter's built-in GIF library and click the GIF-Symbol. You can only send one GIF per tweet.
  3. After you've selected a GIF, the image will be attached to your tweet.
  4. Click the button Tweetto post your GIF.

Now you've also learned how to share GIFs on Facebook and Twitter. Then we would like to introduce you to a few different approaches on how you can integrate animated GIFs into your social media strategy.

1. Get your target audience's attention.

Remember, a good social media strategy can't be all about conversions and sales. One of the things that is so much fun on social media is discovering GIFs that you can then share with friends.

Humor is one of the most effective ways to reach your target audience and keep them engaged. Choose GIFs that will go down well with your audience and make them feel personally attached to your brand.

And remember:

You don't have to bury your GIFs under brand mentions either - that will only annoy your customers. Rather, make sure that your social media cultural innuendos are current or of timeless quality. Your target group shouldn't get the idea that you are not up to date.

2. Upgrade your instructions.

GIFs are ideally suited to give instruction texts an optical component. InStyle's 18 Ways to Wear a Scarf guide is a wonderful example of how good instruction GIFs can work. The reason the GIFs in this article work so well is that they show what to do and what the end result is - all in less than five seconds!

The Huffington Post recently released a huge collection of fitness GIFs for those of us who don't like going to the gym. Each GIF shows in a short video loop how to do an exercise correctly. This saves the user the hassle of fast-forwarding and rewinding YouTube videos (or dragging his tired body to a personal trainer).

3.Promote your products.

The fact that GIFs are so easy to share and can also go viral very quickly also makes them an ideal advertising medium.

Last year, Converse and advertising agency Big Spaceship launched a back-to-school marketing campaign with actress Millie Bobby Brown. The “First Day Feels” campaign contained 32 reaction GIFs from the Stranger Things- Actor and was incredibly successful: With more than 276 million views and 11,500 shares between GIPHY and Tenor, she made it to Converse as the Firmly establish a shoe brand for tweens and teenagers at the start of school.

4. Reinforce your visual branding.

GIFs are undoubtedly more stimulating than static images - especially when used sparingly. You can of course overdo it and create an optical nightmare that is reminiscent of the 1990s on GeoCities (some strive for that on purpose). Such wrong turns can be avoided, however, by choosing GIFs with muted colors and shades that do not interfere with the browsing experience - like this cool, unobtrusive GIF from Nike.

You can of course do just the opposite and create a head-turning GIF that is absolutely freaky.

For example, the mail order company Blackbox, which was founded by those responsible behind Cards Against Humanity, recently placed this crazy GIF by pixel artist Paul Robertson on the homepage of its website.

The visual overstimulation in this GIF stands for exactly what Blackbox is all about: the dispatch of products by independent artists from all over the world, which should also be fun. Robertson's GIF was extremely well received on Twitter, retweeted nearly 850 times and received 2,500 likes!

5. Make your data more visually stimulating.

GIFs are also a very useful way of adding dynamic elements to graphics and diagrams. This makes data visually more interesting and can be processed in such a way that its development and collection is easily recognizable and thus also more lively. I particularly liked this example from info we trust, which shows which of the 112 flowers in Jefferson Monticello's garden grow at which time of year.

Admittedly, this is a very complex example, but you can also use GIFs to visualize your data in a simpler way. Google has been providing the Data GIF Maker for this purpose since last year. All you have to do is enter your numbers - Google will do the rest!

However you want to incorporate GIFs into your marketing strategy, whether on social media or elsewhere, you should use them carefully and make sure that they reflect your brand's values ​​- and that you and others enjoy them!

Hootsuite makes it easy to add your creative GIFs to your social media posts. Manage your social media channels from a single dashboard and interact with your followers on all networks. Try it for free today.

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By Fergus Baird

Fergus Baird is a freelance writer and editor. He's currently building the web's most bizarre professional portfolio, featuring content on human embryology, holograms, Scottish rap, and battery-charging neckties.