How to Create an Animated GIF in Photoshop CS5


Introduction: How to Create an Animated GIF in Photoshop CS5

About: Allos, I am Nikki, and I'm a highschool animation student. I like sunsets and long walks, but mostly I like holing up in my room and doodling.


Step 1: Step One: Are You Prepared?

Before you can start your animation, you must ask yourself a few simple questions:
Do I have hands to hold a mouse or pen to draw with? If you answered yes, you may continue.
Do I have a computer, and does it have Photoshop on it? If you answered yes, you may continue (but I'll take this time to say that the instructions I give you may not work for all types of Photoshop, I'll only tell you how to do it in CS5, but the procedure is similar is other types)
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: Do I have a desire to animate? If you answered yes, you may continue, but first let me tell you why this is the most important. Animation is a long a tedious process, but the end result is worth it. If you aren't driven to finish a project, it may never see the light of day. Don't get frustrated or discouraged, everyone started somewhere, and once you get the hang of it, it's really more fun than work. 

Congratulations, if you've made it this far, you are ready to animate, let's get going then, I'll just show you what you need to open.

Step 1.5 : Opening a New Animation: 
Opening a new animation is just like opening a regular photoshop document. All you have to do is open Photoshop and go to File>New, or hold Ctrl+N. This will open a menu that asks you what you'd like your new document to look like. In the width and height boxes I usually put in 8x8 by typing 8 in both spaces and changing the drop boxes parallel to 'inches'. I also change the resolution to 300 pixels/inch. This makes the image less blurry and I can do more detailed work. When I change the animation into a GIF at the end, the resolution will go back down to 72px/inch, so you can leave it if you prefer. 

Step 2: Step Two: Creating Your Masterpiece

You can animate anything you want with Photoshop, but for now, I'm just going to use a girl turning around. For the sake of the instructable, I'll leave it very simple.

What I've done here is chosen a colour I like, in this case dark blue, and used the fill bucket to create the background. Then I chose the brush tool and drew the back of the girl I'll have turn around. I use the little colour swatch thing at the bottom left to chose the colours for her dress, hair and skin. 

Before you go any further, let me explain layers, because they are most important when animating. Layers are like sheets of glass you place over one another. The first layer is the background, and you can't delete it. Each time you add a new layer, its a new, transparent sheet of glass, and each time you draw on the layer, it will cover up whatever is underneath it. This is crucial in animation, because you can create 'frames' with layers, but in order for it to work, you have to make sure none of your layers have transparent spots. Like glass, if you cover the whole layer, you can't see the last frame underneath, but if you erase, you take the 'paint' off, so if you make a mistake, draw over it in the background colour or something.

When you're satisfied with your drawing, go over to the Layers menu at the bottom right of the screen and drag and drop this first layer over the 'create new layer' icon (looks like a little piece of paper with its corner folded up). This will create an identical layer over top of the last one and there will be no transparent spots. Now the first layer, your background, has become your first frame n your animation. On your second layer, you can start to paint over and add subtle differences to show your subject is moving.

Remember, the most frames you use, the smoother and more realistic the animation will be. When you have finished one frame, click and drag it to the 'new layer' icon again and continue. 

Step 3: Step Three: Let's See This in Action

So, you've managed to draw frames that you think will become a beautiful animation. Now let's see how they look. 

In Photoshop CS5, if you go to Window>Animation, a snazzy little timeline will appear at the bottom of your screen. all of your images may be jumbled into one, so what you should do is go to the top right of that timeline and look for the menu icon (looks like an arrow pointing down will four lines), click it, and then select 'Make frames from layers'. This will turn all of your layers into frames in an animation. Now if you hit the play button at the bottom left of the timeline, you can see your animation play though. This is where you can see if you've made any mistakes, or if you need to add more frames--if this is the case, you can just click the icon at the bottom of the timeline that looks like the new layer icon. This will do the same thing as copying a layer back in the layers menu. 

Now you may be wondering why I didn't tell you about this before. Granted, it does make the process easier, I find it's sometimes glitchy or jumpy and has a mind of its own, so I prefer to start simply by using layers, and then use the timeline later. If you have no problems though, feel free to try it out from the get-go. 

Step 4: Step Four: How to Turn Your Brainbaby Into a GIF

Now that you're finished and satisfied with your work, you have to save it. Simply saving the file as a PSD or a JPG won't work, the image won't move. A type of file that will move though is a GIF (which stands for Graphics Interchange Format, meaning the visible frame can change, creating simple animations like ours). To save your animation, you must go to File>Save for Web & Devices. This will open a menu with many bells a whistles. The only thing you care about though, is if that 3D looking little drop box says GIF, if it says anything else, like JPEG, PNG etc, it won't work, so make sure you choose GIF. Then all you do is hit 'Save', save it to your computer, perhaps in a folder called "I am Awesome" or "My Epic Animations". If your computer is old or has very little RAM,  ou may have problems rendering the animation. This is because it is too big, and if you can, you should cut it down a little--I've never exceeded 40 frames, so that would be my cut off limit for simple animations like these.
If all goes well though you should be able to find the animation in your documents, right click it and choose Open with>Internet Explorer (it work play if you use Windows Explorer), and see your animation working the way it should. 

See, that wasn't so hard, was it? The first time is complicated, but once you get the hang of it, all you're friends will flock to you asking you to create them beautiful works of MOVING art!! Keep practising,  keep learning, keep rocking the free world--err... 

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21 Discussions

thanks so much...I am a retired cameraman going back and taking courses at a local college that has become an animation powerhouse since i graduated years ago. I could not find something this simple in any book or youtube video i could understand.this gives me a starting point .thanks so much. I am committed now that i laid the cash out for a 22 Cintiq.

works, but how to you get the gif to continue repeating itself? After it plays one time through it stops the animation.

1 reply

2 years ago

my gif is not looping in webpage. what should i do????? but it work only in a single loop....

Hi. Its very nice n easy gif. :)

but i have a question, i am trying to make a gif with 4 layes only. the weight of gif must be 40 kb n more than it. mine in more than 100kb. how can i make it of 40kb. i tried with resolution, dither and colors. but nothing is changing.


So this is my first time doing this as well and im just curious, when I save the final outcome I try and send it through an email the GIF itself wont show up. it's showing me a blank page and I'm just curious if theres another way to export it so I can send it. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

2 replies

Perhaps the file is too large for email? Maybe uploading it to an image sharing site like Imgur and then copying the link into an email would be better. Keep me posted on what you find :)

Im gonna try that, thank you :D for some reason it wasnt showing up when I was saving it as a GIF, but I sent it to someone and it worked, so I think it all worked out (:

Thank you again for your help, im used to getting ignored when I ask these things online xD

You are amazing this tutorial was so easy to follow! Thank you!!!

1 reply

check out this link

All this on how to make an animated GIF, but I don't actually see an animated GIF?

They do work here:

parking animation.gif
7 replies

I'm sorry, this is my first Instructable, so i don't know how to do many things with it yet. I tried multiple times to attach the GIF on the end of the Instructable, but it wouldn't move. There was no problem with the file it worked fine, so it wasn't that. If you had looked through the entire Instructable, you would have seen that I embedded a Youtube video at the end, showing the moving GIF.
Thanks for your input though. :)

You just upload it like a normal image, and attach it to a step the same as any other image.

Yes, i know, but it wasn't moving. There was definitely a problem somewhere, ad i couldn't figure it out. If the video is a problem, i can try again, but i don't see why it would make a difference, the point is that its there for you to see.

The video isn't a problem in itself, it's just you promise a GIF, not a video.

Animated GIFs don't usually start moving until you look at the final version - give it a go.