How to Make a GIF in Photoshop

Animated GIFs are useful for adding more narrative and dimension to images. You can make animated GIFs in Photoshop from video files, photos, and illustrated images.

Photoshop even has an Onion-skinning feature that is helpful for frame-by-frame animation. Onion-skinning is especially helpful if you’re planning to draw your frames. This method makes creating an animated gif in Photoshop much easier than other programs. 

Check out our tips on how to make an animated gif in Photoshop.

Made with Astropad and Photoshop

Make a GIF in Photoshop from scratch: Tracks, Frame Rate, and Playback

If you want to practice making an animated GIF in photoshop, the best way to start is to bring out the Timeline panel. 

  1. In the top menu bar, go to Window, then select Timeline.
  2. In the Create Timeline option, select Create Video Timeline.
  3. In the Window menu, select Timeline
In Window menu, select Timeline

On the Video Timeline, Layers are organized as Tracks, and can always be rearranged. The purple bars represent the time duration of each frame within the Track.

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

The duration of each frame can be lengthened, shortened, or moved to a different part of the Track. Adjust the endpoints by dragging the entire clip horizontally on the Timeline.

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

Press the play icon to play back your sequence. You can move the playhead to a specific spot on the Timeline to start playback from that point.

Moving the playhead. The red line indicates where the video will start playing from.

If playback feels too slow or fast when making an animated GIF in Photoshop, adjust your Timeline Frame Rate. This is accessible in the Timeline 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.

When making an animated GIF in Photoshop, Photoshop is set to 30 fps by default. 30 fps may be good to work, but when creating an animated gif in photoshop you may need to adjust. Depending on the project you may want more or less.

Setting Timeline Frame Rate

Smooth your transitions by Enabling Onion Skins

To make an animated GIF in Photoshop with smooth transitions you’ll want to enable onion skins. Onion-skinning lets you see multiple keyframes at once.

Onion-skinning is done by underlaying the previous frame at lower opacity behind the selected frame in the sequence. This way, you can preview the change between each frame when you make an animated GIF in Photoshop.

You’ll also get a better idea if any in-between images are needed to smooth out that change.

If you already have pre-made images

To make an animated gif in photoshop with images you already have is a slightly different process. 

  1. Go to File
  2. Select Scripts
  3. Select Load Files into Stack

This method of making an animated GIF in Photoshop loads all of the individual images onto one canvas as individual layers. Each layer represents a frame.

To turn the file into an animation, open Timeline. However, 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. It also helps organize and visualize your sequence frame-by-frame.

Each frame is shown, along with its respective duration below each image.

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

These timings are the delay of each frame, representing how long they are seen on screen. To change the timing, click directly on the timestamp. You may choose to customize the delay by seconds, or choose one of the preset seconds.

Having the timing right for each frame is important for creating the next great animated GIF in Photoshop.

Set specific seconds for delaying each frame

Use Tween to create an animated GIF in Photoshop

To create an animated GIF in Photoshop without the Onion Skin option, you can use Tween. This option is not available when Timeline is set to Frame Animation, but you can use Tween instead.

Just as with Onion-skinning, you can see an underlay of the previous image in your sequence. However, with Tween, you are able to adjust the opacity. Opacity can be adjusted to show how the frames enter and exit the sequence.

This capability gives a better idea of the frame transition by the second, not just between the images.

If you are using a video file to create an animated GIF

If you are using a video file in Photoshop, there are different ways to make an animated GIF in Photoshop.

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

To split each frame manually, use open the file in Video Timeline.

Saving your masterpiece

Once your frames are ready, it’s time to save the file 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 characteristics 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.

To preview your finalized GIF in the web browser, click Preview in the bottom left corner. When everything looks ready, click Save. Note: It’s important to also save your work frequently throughout the process, so you don’t have to start from scratch again in case the program crashes!