Create Animated GIFs With Photoshop (And Without ImageReady)

Regular Feature: How-To's Day

With CS2, Photoshop now carries its own Animation palette outside of ImageReady, thus giving you all the tools you need to create animated GIFs. Here’s how!

animated GIF

It’s true—with Photoshop CS2, you can now create sophisticated animated GIFs exactly as in ImageReady. The key is the recent addition of the Animation palette, which allows you to build the frames that make up the animation, and the Save For Web menu item, which has been a part of Photoshop for a couple iterations now but I don’t think gets much action unless you are saving slices at different optimizations or GIFs with customized color tables.

In this How-To article I am going to animate a clock face and save it as an animated GIF; you can see the final product rolling away above. We’re going to assume that you know how ImageReady works and how layers are used to create animations. In the case of my clock face, I have to create a layer for each hand movement (see Figure 1 to see all my layers visible at once).

howto1Figure 1: My clock face with all layers visible. One hand per layer, so this clock gets pretty crowded….

Step 1: Create the layers needed for your animation (in my case, one layer for each minute hand and hour hand movement, plus the clock face).

Step 2: Open the Animation palette (Window –> Animation). The Animation palette will appear exactly as in ImageReady, as well as the icons in the Layers palette associated with animations such as Match Position, Match Visibility and Match effects.

Step 3: Create the frames in the Animation palette needed for animation and set layer visibility for each frame. For this example I require twelve frames, and for each one I make visible the hour hand and minute hand each one calls for. Figure 2 shows frames 8–12 of my animation.

howto2Figure 2: Frames 8–12 of my animation. You can see how the clock hands are moving.

Step 4: Set timing as required. I don’t want my clock to run at the speed of light, so I’ll select all frames by selecting frame 1 and shift-clicking frame 12, then click any one of the frames’ delay times to get a drop-down menu where I can change the delay timing. I set the delay of my frames to 0.2 seconds.

Step 5: At this point it may be a good idea to play the animation by clicking the Play button in the Animation palette. Photoshop will scroll through the frames and run the animation.

Step 6: Once the layers are doing what you want and the frames are running the speed you want, select File –> Save For Web…. The Macintosh keyboard shortcut is Shift-Cmd-Ctrl-S, and on the PC it’s Shift-Alt-Ctrl-S. Figure 3 shows the Save For Web dialog box, a complex interface for optimizing and saving web images. You’ll see at the top that it’s “powered by ImageReady”, which is something of an understatement—this technology was lifted right out of the application, the same way the Animation palette was. On the right side you’ll see the same playback controls that were in the Animation palette—this is a new addition required by the introduction of this palette, and give you one more opportunity to play your frames.

howto3Figure 3: The Save For Web dialog box.

Save For Web has too many features and options to be covered fully in this How-To, but for our purposes the only thing to make certain is that “GIF” is selected in the drop-down menu on the right side. This drop-down menu controls file format output and is surrounded by several other optimization settings including colors, dithering, lossy amount and transparency. If you create a lot of animated GIFs for the web you’ll want to learn how these work, as they can make a too-large web graphic small enough to run well online.

Step 7: With GIF selected in the Save For Web dialog box, click Save. You’ll be presented with the Save dialog box, and your image will now have .gif after its file name. Click Save once more to save your image.

animated GIFFigure 4: The final product: an animated GIF!

That’s it! You now have your animated GIF (Figure 4) ready to insert into your website, and ImageReady wasn’t required. If you have questions about this How-To tutorial, please comment in the field below and I’ll try to post some answers or even a follow-up article. And if you have a whole new question about Photoshop (“How do you do this?” “Is it possible to do this?” “I have a client who wants this, but I don’t know how to do it…”) drop me a line and I’ll cover it either as a How-To tutorial or in my Ask D:Photoshop section!

How-To’s Day is a regular Designorati feature in which we give you fresh tutorials across all of Designorati. How-To’s Day happens every other Tuesday.

68 thoughts on “Create Animated GIFs With Photoshop (And Without ImageReady)”

  1. Wow…. great tutorial Jeremy, I appreciate it.
    I followed each step and it worked perfectly. I used to use Fireworks for making animtated gif’s, but now I’m going to use Photoshop from now on… thanks bro.

  2. I have created different images that are for the animation I am working on. Mine are based off of a person struggling to swing her arms at the male character teasing her by pointing his finger at her forehead. I need help with how to put all off these separate images together because I go to open the first image; then I click windows so the animation box shows up. I’m trying to get the next picture to be the next frame 2 of the animation but I don’t know how to do it.could you tell me exactly how to solve this?

  3. Thanks a lot for the info! I managed to create an animated gif using photoshop cs3, and it seems to work find when i opened it on firefox and IE. However when i uploaded as advertisement to different sites, they dont animate. I tried re-saving and re-sending the file, but they still don’t animate on all sites. What could be the problem and how to solve it?

  4. Hi, How do you get a gif to run at the speed it does in photoshop? its alot slow when i view it in a browser.

  5. I made animated rain in CS5 and i am trying to get the rain falling onto a powerpoint and still be animated, is it possible that i can do that?

  6. Thank you for the tutorial. It was very clear and easy to understand. :)
    However, I have one problem. When I try drawing on one of my frames on ImageReady directly, the newly drawn objects appears in all the frames… For example, all my frames have been set up and ready, but then realized I wanted a little sparkle. So I use the Pencil on IR and start drawing. But once I draw it on Frame 1, it appears in all other frames.
    Is there any way to fix this…?

  7. i am using photoshop cs2 but when i create any animated gif image then how can i see that animation in picture viewer because i am unable to see it.

  8. Hi Jeremy,
    Not sure if you’re still checking the comments on this page but I was wondering if there is any way to decrease the size of the gif file once it has been created. Your tutorial is great and was very helpful, but now that I’ve created my file I realized the file is far too big for our purpose. I appreciate any advice.

  9. Hi Daisy,

    Yes, I do check comments from time to time! :) Hard to believe this article is six years old and still gets comments….

    Once an animated GIF has been created, it’s really hard to edit it without losing its animated frames. I don’t know of a way to do it. What I do is go back to my original file, usually a PSD file, and edit it by removing some frames (which is the fastest way to cut a GIF’s file size down) or by optimizing it when you save it to GIF format, usually by decreasing the number of colors it contains.


  10. Hello Jeremy!
    Your tutorial proved to be a fountain of wisdom. I created a simple animated emoticon to make sure I followed it. I drew the image in photoshop, made the animated frames, exported it with Save for Web & Devices, and imported it on to movie maker. A total succes.
    So, now that I was ready for the move, I made a more complex animation. I had to “place” some of my drawings in to photoshop (meaning that it wasn’t 100% photoshop drawn), I made the animated frames, it plays wonderfully in photoshop, but when I go to the “Save for Web & Devices” the window will show the frame that I am currently in but itwont play! Next to the play button it says 1 of 73 frames, and when I click play the number moves but the image on the screen doesn’t. So.. Ignoring this fact I just go on and tell it to export anyways thinking of it as a glitch, but when I export it and open the file all I see is that same frame, no animation. Maybe I just skipped an awsomely important step of the process, but the truth is that I don’t quite get why it worked before with a simple animation and now it wont work with a more clompex and longer one. I would very much appreciate your response, and Im currently hoping that you are still readying these comments. Thank you!! PS: awsome tutorial :D

  11. Was having trouble creating an animated gif using Image Ready, when I realized, thanks to you, that I could do it all in CS2. So, my problem was that my green color was turning greyscale. The red stayed red, so I was a bit confused. I finally figured it out, all on my own, that I needed to play around with the Color Table settings in the “Save for Web…” function under the File menu bar. First I loaded Windows color table and got me pretty much where I wanted to be. There was a slight color variation, but green is green and much better than gray! Thanks for posting. Bobby McGhee.

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