How to create your own animated GIFs the easy way

Step 5: Your next two frames will be based on this first set of layers. Under Layers, hold down Shift and then click each layer; with all three layers selected, choose Layers -> Duplicate Layers. You’re presented with a Duplicate Set window; to continue, click OK. Now repeat this process once more. You should have three copies of your text, sun shape, and background color.

Step 6: Choose the Move tool, and click the flower. You should see a tiny circle at the bottom of the bounding box; click it. A set of transformation options will appear along the bottom of the document window. Under Angle, dial in 20 to rotate the shape 20 degrees. Click the green checkmark on the bounding box to accept the change.

Step 7: Under Layers, click the eye icon for the three topmost layers to turn them off. Repeat the rotation process for the middle flower, this time rotating it only 10 degrees. Once you’ve completed the rotation, turn the top three layers back on.

Each of your layer sets must be merged to create a single frame.

Step 8: You must now merge each flower with its solid background to create three distinct frames. (Save your file at this point, so you can revert to it if something goes wrong.) Shift-click the top three layers to select them and then choose Layer -> Merge Layer. Now repeat the process for the middle and bottom sets.

Step 9: It’s time to turn out your GIF! Choose File -> Save for Web. On the far right of the Save window, you’ll see a set of options. Choose GIF 32 No Dither from the Preset pop-up menu, and then click the Animate checkbox. Near the bottom right, you’ll see the animation options. Looping should be set to Forever, and for the moment, we’ll leave the Frame Delay at 0.2. Click Save, and then save your new GIF to your desktop.

Simple, graphic animations require very few colors and don't benefit from dithering, so select the GIF 32 No Dither preset when exporting.

Step 10: Pop on over to your Desktop, and drag and drop your GIF into an open browser window to see it in action!

Once you’re familiar with the process, you can build GIFs with more frames for smoother animation. Again, just remember that as you increase the number of frames, you can decrease the frame delay in the Save for Web page and thereby boost your frame rate.

Bug eyes

Here's a different technique you can use in Photoshop Elements to create another kind of GIF.

Step 1: Open a photo of a favorite pet using Photoshop Elements. Once the photo is open, click Expert (at the top), and then click the Layers button (lower right) to see the document layers.

Step 2: Under the Layers panel, click Background and then choose Layer -> New -> Layer from Background. Name it Frame 1 and click OK. Now select it and choose Layer -> Duplicate Layer. A pop-up window will ask you to name the layer; call it Frame 2.

Using Liquify is fun way to animate photos, giving animals and people bulging eyes, widening mouths, and wiggling eyebrows.

Step 3: Click the new layer to select it (if necessary) and then choose Filters -> Distort -> Liquify. You’ll see a set of tools in the upper left. Choose the Bloat tool (the sixth icon down) and then, at the far right, set the brush size to whatever size is nearest to the size of the eyes in your photo. Now click the cursor very carefully over the pupils of your friend’s eyes to increase the size of the eye just slightly. The tool sometimes bloats too quickly; if this happens, choose Edit -> Undo and then try again with quicker mouse-clicks. When you’re done, press OK.

Step 4: Once you’ve returned to the main interface, click Frame 2 to select it and choose Layer -> Duplicate Layer. Name it Frame 3, and then Filters -> Distort -> Liquify and use the Bloat tool to expand the size of the eyes even more. Click OK when you’re done.

Step 5: In order to have the eyes appear to expand and contract when the animation loops, we need to place a frame between Frame 3 and Frame 1. So, click the layer called Frame 2 and choose Layer -> Duplicate Layer. This time, name the layer Frame 4 and click OK. Now click and drag Frame 4 above Frame 3 in the Layers panel.

Use the Distort and Liquify tools to adjust the eyes of your surprised dog.

Step 6: It’s time to export your GIF. First, you’ll need to resize the file to avoid memory errors or slow performance. Choose Image -> Resize -> Image Size. Click the checkbox for Resample Image (if necessary), and then choose a maximum pixel dimension of 600 pixels in either direction. Click OK to resize the file, and then choose File -> Save for Web. At the far right of the Save for Web window, you’ll see a number of export options. Keep it simple by choosing GIF 128 Dithered from the Preset pop-up menu, and then click the Animate checkbox. Near the bottom right, you’ll see the Animation options. Looping should be set to Forever, and let’s speed up the Frame Delay to 0.1. Click Save, and then save your new GIF to your desktop.

Step 7: Pop on over to your desktop, and drag and drop your GIF into an open browser window to see it in action!

Export using the GIF 128 Dither Preset; if the resulting file is too large, trying reducing the pixel dimensions or cutting down the color count.

Once you’ve become familiar with the process, you can build a GIF like this with additional frames for smoother animation, and then decrease the frame delay in the Save for Web page to increase your frame rate.

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