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How to Make a GIF

What You’ll Be Creating

Photoshop is very advanced software, but it has certain tools that even beginners can use easily to create stunning effects. For example, you don’t need special skills to create animated GIFs! 

In this tutorial I will show you how to create an animation of a wolf with glowing eyes, and this will teach you all you need to know about creating GIFs in Photoshop.

What You Will Need

You can use any photo you wish, but make sure it’s high quality and with the eyes well visible. You can download the photo I’ve used here:

1. How to Prepare an Image for Animating

Step 1

GIF is not a well-optimized format, and its files can get very large very quickly. That’s why we need to crop our image to what’s the most important. Open the image, take the Crop Tool (C), and select the part of the image you want to animate. Then hit Enter.

image crop photoshop

Step 2

We want to animate the eyes, so we need to separate them from the rest of the image. There are many methods to select something in Photoshop, but I’m going to show you the easiest one.

Go to Select > Color Range. Select Add to Sample and click all the shades of the eye, until you see them all painted white in the preview.

color range selection photoshop

Step 3

We’ve selected all the yellow tones, but some of them can be found in the seemingly gray fur. To exclude them, play with the Fuzziness slider until there’s only black around the eyes. It’s very important to keep this area completely black!

color range fuzziness

Step 4

After you press OK, a selection will be created. As with any automatic selection, though, it’s not perfectly accurate. Go to Select > Refine Edge and use these settings to make the selection smoother. Select Smart Radius and play with the Smooth and Feather options until you’re happy with the result. Then click OK.

select refine edge photoshop

Step 5

Copy the selection to a new layer with the shortcut Control-J.

duplicate selection

Step 6

Last thing: our image is very big, and it’s not what GIF format likes (it’s not well optimized, and it creates huge files!). Go to Image > Image Size and lower the size to something reasonable.

image size photoshop

2. How Frame Animation in Photoshop Works

Step 1

We’re ready to create an animation now! Go to Window > Timeline to open our editor. Then press Create Frame Animation.

frame animation photoshop

Step 2

The Timeline editor is very simple. Click the arrow next to Once to reveal the options for repetition. You can make the animation play once, 3 times, forever, or a chosen amount of times. Set it to Forever to make it play constantly.

frame animation photoshop repetition

Step 3

The other important option is the duration one frame is played for. The lower the time, the faster it will disappear and the smoother the motion, but also the more frames are required for this effect.

frame animation duration photoshop

We want a smooth transition, and we’re going to have a lot of frames, so click Other and type 0.06.

set frame delay photoshop

Step 4

To create a new frame, click the white card icon in the lower bar.

new frame animation

Step 5

Each frame remembers the state of the layers separately. So if you hide a layer in one frame, in the other it will still be visible. Caution: Photoshop likes playing tricks here, so make sure you always start from the first frame.

Hide a layer in one frame and test the animation by pressing Space. This is the main thing this tool does: it hides and reveals layers according to their state saved in the frames.

how frame animation works in photoshop

3. How to Use Tween Transition in Photoshop

Step 1

But hiding and revealing layers is not all it does! Three other things can be saved in each frame:

  • Position
  • Opacity
  • Effects

This means that you can change these things on a single layer in one frame, and in another frame the same layer will be intact (again, make sure you start from the first frame to avoid surprises). And the best thing about it is that Photoshop is able to create an automatic transition between these states of a single layer! Let me show you this trick on the most effective of the states available: effects.

Make all the layers visible on both frames again, and then select the second frame and right click the layer with the eyes. Select Blending Options. Find Color Overlay and check it.

color overlay photoshop
color overlay effect

Step 2

Select the gray rectangle and change the color to something bright.

color overlay bright red
coor overlay red eyes

Step 3

Change the Blend Mode to Screen to make the eyes bright red instead of simply covering them with red.

color overlay screen mode
color overlay in screen mode effect

Step 4

Find Outer Glow and check it.

outer glow photoshop
outer glow effect

Step 5

Give it the same bright color as before.

outer glow red bright
bright red glow photoshop

Step 6

Make the glow stronger by playing with Spread and Size.

outer glow options
glowing eyes photoshop

Step 7

We have a very simple animation now—test it by pressing Space.

simple animation photoshop

Step 8

But it’s not a very convincing effect, is it? It would be much better if the eyes lit up gradually. This is where the real power of this tool lies! Hold Control and click both layers to select them. Click the little arrow in the upper right corner and select Tween.

select frames photoshop

The more frames you add, the smoother the transition, and the bigger the animation. 10 should be a reasonable number.

tween transition photoshop
Notice that you can Tween all the parameters I’ve mentioned earlier

Step 9

Click OK to see a whole set of new frames between the ones you’ve selected. Press Space to see the animation. Much better, isn’t it?

glowing eyes animation frames
glowing wolf eyes

Step 10

There’s one issue with this animation—the eyes fade too abruptly. Let’s fix this by creating another transition. Select the first and last frames again, and Tween them with the same number of frames as before.

advanced animation photoshop

Step 11

One last thing: find the frame with the brightest eyes and change its duration to a higher number. This will make the eyes shine longer.

change frame duration


angry wolf animation

Step 12

Finally, it’s time to save the animation to present it to the world. Go to File > Save For Web and select GIF from the list of formats. The options here will let you optimize the animation for smaller size.

A bonus trick: if you want your animation to be prettier than what GIF format has to offer, you can record the playing animation with some kind of software (or export as a video), save it as a video, and then covert it to a semi-GIF with www.gfycat.com.

save for web gif


Now you know how to create an animated GIF in Photoshop! If you finished this tutorial, don’t forget to share your result in the comments section—I can’t wait to see it!

On Envato Tuts+, we limit the file size of images to no greater than 200kb. However you can see the finished GIF in all its glory in video format below.