Craft your own animated GIFs with these tools
Animated GIFs are winning over the Web with silent, looping visuals that uniquely capture a slice of time. Here’s a roundup of apps and resources that will help you make your own.
A desktop app gives you the most flexibility and control for creating an animated GIF. You can determine the contents of each frame of your animation, as well as the frame delay and color matching algorithms. Each frame in a GIF animation is assigned a frame delay, which determines how long that frame is held before advancing to the next frame. The delay need not be the same for each frame, so the first frame in your animation could be held for two full seconds, while next five might be held for just 1/20 of a second each. This is drastically different than traditional animation and video, which adhere to a consistent frame rate.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 ($100, OS X/Windows)—Adobe’s consumer-focused image editor offers a basic approach to making GIF animations. Just place each frame on a different layer; then, when you export the file, those layers are compiled into an animation. A single export setting allows you to control the delay for all frames.
Adobe Photoshop CS6 ($699, OS X/Windows)—Adobe’s flagship image editor offers much greater flexibility when creating animations than its consumer-based cousin. It lets you compose each frame from a collection of layers, and remembers the placement of layer contents on a frame-by-frame basis. Additionally, you can specify the frame delay for each frame, which adds nuance to your animation and helps keep the file size in check.
Patrick Rogers GIF Brewery ($5, OS X)—This is an excellent app for converting video clips to GIFs. Once you select a segment of a video to convert, you can choose the output size and frame delay, as well as the color algorithm and dithering method. It also lets you overlay text onto the video image, allowing you to brand your GIFs.
Gimp.org GIMP (Free, OS X/Windows/Linux)—GIMP is an open-source image editor whose approach to animated GIFs resembles that of Photoshop Elements 11. Each layer is treated as an individual frame, and when exported, those frames are strung together as an animation. However, GIMP has two advantages over Elements: First, you can specify the frame delay for each frame (like Photoshop CS6); and second, the background layer serves as a consistent background across all frames. (In Elements, the background layer functions as just another frame of animation.)
Most video these days is captured with a mobile phone, which makes iOS and Android apps ideal tools for creating video GIFs. You can then upload the GIFs to (or link via) a variety of social media sites.
TapMojo GifBoom (Free, iOS/Android)—This is a cross-platform app that functions a lot like Instagram. You construct your GIFs from a series of photos or short video clips, where you choose up to 30 specific frames you want to use. The app also includes editing features, letting you add captions and apply image filters. Once you’re done, you can post your animation to Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. You get a profile and an image feed where other users can like and comment on your GIFs.
Something Savage GIF Shop ($1, iOS)—The iOS-only GIF Shop approaches GIF making a little differently than some other mobile apps. Instead of pulling frames from a video clip, you point your camera at the subject and tap the screen to capture each frame. This kind of app is particularly well-suited to simple stop-motion animations because you can take the time to reposition your subject in between frames. Once you’re done, you can post your GIF to Tumblr and Twitter.
listen5 GIF Camera ($1, Android)—An Android-only app that takes a somewhat similar approach to GIFs as GIF Shop, this GIF maker requires you to capture single frames, though at a set interval, rather than pulling frames from a finished video clip. Or you can choose still images from your Gallery. Like other apps, you can share these GIFs via social media sites like Facebook, Google +, and Picasa.
Peak Systems GifMill (Free, iOS)—This app lets you create animated GIFs with photos or videos from your camera roll to take video or photos on the spot. Import up to 100 frames and adjust the frame speed, rearrange, and delete frames. An in-app purchase lets you add text to frames as well as adjust the size, color, and placement of the text. Then, save your finished GIF to your device, or share it via email, text message, Tumblr or Twitter.
Each of the apps listed here has a learning curve, and some are much steeper than others. If you’re just looking to string together a few photos or convert a small snippet of video, one of the online resources that lets you work directly in the Mac or Windows browser might serve you better.This is very convenient for quick, on-the-go compositions.
Gifninja.com—Gifninja lets you upload either a video clip or a series of still images to construct your animation. If you’ve uploaded still images, you can drag them into the correct order and adjust the playback speed. Note that all GIFs you create on Gifninja are made public, so keep it clean.
Picasion.com—Picasion lets you upload a maximum of 10 images, or alternatively, import up to 50 images directly from Flickr or Picasa. Once you’ve chosen your images, simply select the size (up to 400 pixels) and the speed (from slower to faster) and click Create animation. You’re then shown the GIF and given code that you can use on your website or blog.
LooGix.com—LooGix works almost identically to Picasion, though it lacks the ability to import from Flickr or Picasa. Instead, it offers a few fun ways to animate a still image. Click one of the effects previews at the bottom of the page (featuring Mr. Bean), and you’re whisked off to a new page where you can apply that effect to a single image.
Need a little inspiration? Check out these excellent, curated GIF collections on Tumblr: Head Like an Orange showcases incredible animations of nature and animals. Alternatively, If We Don’t, Remember Me reworks brief moments from feature films into perfectly looping animations. They’re often serene and introspective, and somehow, seem more like moving photographs than snippets of a movie.