How to Make a GIF: 4 Free Ways

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In today’s digital world where everyone is trying to create unique social media content or generate the next meme that goes viral, the humble GIF has seen a resurgence in popularity.

Now everyone wants to know how to make a GIF, and by GIF, I specifically mean animated GIFs!

This relatively archaic file format was once just a thing of fun, but those days are gone. So, if you want to spice up your content or make a fun animation, here are four different ways to craft animated GIFs. Enjoy!

How to make a GIF: An Introduction to Format

I guess that we need an intro and explanation first as some people probably don’t even know what a GIF is. So, let’s have a little history lesson!

GIF is an Image File Format

GIF - Graphics Interchange Format. This image format was developed way back in 1987 by CompuServe.

It was meant to be a relatively basic image file with minimum detail and colors. Originally, it was utilized for static images on websites. But people soon realized that it could be used to create short animation loops by combining multiple individual GIF image frames together.

This is what it is mainly used for today. And better image file formats like JPEG and PNG are used for web content and other purposes instead of the basic GIF.

You Can Create Animated GIFs in Two Ways

The format is quite versatile as you can create GIFs in two different ways:

  • Converting video into a GIF file.
  • Creating a GIF using a series of single images using a GIF maker.

Traditionally, animated GIFs were greeted using a sequence of separate frames in a timed loop. Much like stop animation where each frame would progress the story.

However, with the advent of video editing software, there are a number of GIF makers that can easily convert an existing clip to GIF format.

Four Services to Create a GIF

Now that you have a better understanding of the GIF file format, let’s get to the good bit! For most of these examples, I am going to use a meme of legendary proportions to turn into an animated graphic - the LOLrus.

This is an iconic meme where we see a walrus playing happily with his bucket, only to be distraught as the zookeeper takes his bucket away! I remember this image from my childhood and I want to try and bring it back into popularity!

Here is the original:

Original meme.

1. Icecream Screen Recorder

If you want to record a GIF instead of creating one using GIF maker from multiple image files, you can use the fantastic Icecream Screen Recorder. This is a versatile piece of software that allows you to record your screen including PC gaming.

Now, you may be thinking that you need additional software afterward to turn your screen recording into a GIF. However, you would be wrong! Icecream Screen Recorder allows you to save your output file in a WEBM, MOV, AVI, or GIF format!

Therefore, as soon as you have completed your screen recording, you can save it directly as a GIF file.

This gives you excellent versatility to create demonstrations, game clips, and animations with complete creative control from the recording perspective.

Step 1 - Install the GIF Generator

All you need to do is download free screen recorder for PC and install the program by following the on-screen instructions.

Step 2 - Capture your Footage

Open the screen recording software and select "Capture Video" from the left menu. Specify the area you want to capture and adjust the settings. You can change the resolution - pick the preset dimensions or enter custom ones.

Toggle the drawing panel to add text or draw during the screen capture. Press the "Start Recording" button.

Step 3 - Edit and Save

When you are done, click the "Edit" option. This will open the video editor where you can choose the GIF file name and format. Simply type in a filename of your choice. Click on the drop-down box next to it to select GIF as the saving format.

In the History tab of the main menu, you can click the three dots next to a video clip and hover over the "Convert to GIF" option. This will allow you to convert your screen capture into a number of predefined animated GIF resolutions, such as 192x144 and 400x240.

2. Video Candy

If you already have a recorded video then the easiest thing you can do is to use the video to GIF converter! I literally can’t state how easy this is! It just takes a few clicks and you get a superb animated GIF for virtually no effort.

Anyone can use this online video to GIF maker regardless of tech skills and the video to online GIF maker is just one of the most useful tools they have. It’s essentially a suite of video editing tools and apps including compression and resizing options, audio conversion, and even screen recording.

You can use the GIF maker for free without creating an account. But I advise signing up so you get access to all the cool services and software.

Aside from being able to convert virtually any video file into a GIF format, there is a handy range of other conversion options:

  • MKV to MP4;
  • Video to MP4;
  • MP4 to MP3;
  • WebM to MP4.

This gives you great flexibility and means you can always get videos in the appropriate format.

Step 1 - Open Video Converter

First, open the Video Candy website and you should see various tiles showcasing their available tools. Click on the "Video Converter" option.

Open Video Converter 1.

This should open the video converter screen and show a big add file button. This is not the option we want however and we are looking for the specific GIF converter.

Step 2 - Click on the "Video to GIF" Option

There should be a list of conversion options beneath the add file button - we need Video to GIF. Simply click on the link and this loads the video to the GIF app in your browser.

Step 3 - Upload your video

The title should have changed to "Video to GIF". Now you can click the "Add file" button and select the video you want to convert to a GIF. Once you have selected it, the upload process automatically starts and you will see a percentage timer showing the progress.

Upload your video 2.

Step 4 - Download

The conversion actually takes place and once it has finished, you are shown a preview of the final animated GIF. All you have to do now is click the download file option! It’s literally as easy as that and takes a few minutes max to make a GIF.

Download 3.

The only drawback is that there is no editing. You cannot change any of the GIF file parameters. It’s essentially a 1:1 conversion so the GIF will appear exactly as the original video did, but obviously with a slightly reduced quality and color range.

The file size can be quite large too and as you can see in my example, the GIF I created was 5.1MB and this was from just a 1.5MB sample video file.

3. Adobe Photoshop

If you have Adobe Photoshop then not only do you have a powerful raster graphics tool but you have an animated GIF maker too!

The process is incredibly simple once you get used to the interface and tools. But compared to the other instruments it has a much steeper learning curve to make a GIF. For example, you need to understand how layers work and how to manage them.

Additionally, an Adobe Cloud subscription including Photoshop costs a minimum of $9.99 per month whereas the abovementioned options are free!

Regardless, making a GIF in Photoshop gives you great control. You can add as many images as you want and have creative freedom over everything from frame delays and the final image export.

Step 1 - Load all your images to the GIF maker

First, we have to load our images. But we have to do this differently as all the images need to be in the same image but as separate layers. The easiest way to do this is to click "File" > "Scripts" > "Load Files Into Stack".

This opens a dialogue box and you simply select the pictures you want to include in your GIF file. Photoshop will then open them as a single image with multiple layers.

Photoshop 1.

Make sure you click on each image in the order you want them to display in the GIF. Otherwise, you may have to reorder the layers once the images have opened.

Step 2 - Open the Timeline panel

Next, make sure your "Timeline panel" is open by clicking "Window" > "Timeline". There should be a button in the middle of the toolbar. Click the drop-down arrow next to it and make sure "Create frame animation" is selected. Once that option is highlighted, click it to create a GIF.

This should place a single frame with your image in the timeline toolbar.

Step 3 - Convert Image to GIF

Now, click on the menu icon on the toolbar on the right-hand side. From this list, click "Make Frames From Layers". This will essentially turn every layer in the image into an individual frame in your GIF, easy!

Now we need to set the timings and loop count to make a GIF or a certain length. It should have created frames in the timeline for every image and in each box. There you'll see the number - this is the frame delay.

Click on it and you can choose a time interval such as 10 seconds.

Lastly, where it says "Forever" is how many loops the animated GIF will play. So, unless you only want a specific number of repeats, leave this as it is.

Photoshop 2.

Step 4. Export

Your animated GIF is now completed and you can save it! Use the "File" > "Export" > "Save for Web (Legacy)" option as this saves it as a GIF file and keeps all the animation settings. It also makes sure the color table is correct for the 256-bit GIF standard.

4. Ezgif

If you don’t want to install software to make a GIF and just have a few images you want to quickly turn into a GIF, an online service such as ezgif.com is a great choice. This is a browser-based tool and it’s really easy to convert pictures to GIF.

The adverts are pretty annoying and they are crammed into virtually every space on the site, but the GIF maker works which is the most important thing. I'm also fond of how you can set parameters: the delay between images, and the quantity of loops the GIF plays.

They give you the functionality you need to make an animated GIF.

Step 1 - Upload your files

The first step is easy - just open the site, click on the "Choose files" button, and upload the pictures you desire to convert to GIF. I like that it supports a range of file types including GIF, JPEG, PNG, HEIC, and WebP.

The file restrictions are pretty decent too as each image can be 6MB and your GIF can be composed of images totaling 100MB in size. If you have a series of small images, you can add as many as 2000 into a single animated GIF too!

Upload Files 1.

Step 2 - Change the GIF parameters

Once you hit the "Upload" button, you are taken to a new screen. It shows each single image and the parameters you can change to make your GIF.

You can change the delay of each frame, or how long it is displayed by changing the value. Alternatively, if you want them all to show at the same time, simply change it in the GIF options box.

Please note that the time is shown as 1/100 of a second! Therefore, if you want one frame to display for 10 seconds, you have to put a value of 1000 in. I always leave the loop count blank as this means the GIF animation loops indefinitely.

Step 3 - Make final adjustments

When you are happy with the settings, click the "Make a GIF" button, and a preview of the completed GIF is shown at the bottom. You can make further adjustments including cropping, resizing, rotating, and optimizing the file before exporting it.

Make Adjustments 2.

Step 4 - Export

Lastly, just hit the save icon at the end of the editing toolbar. The animated GIF will be downloaded into your web browser downloads file - simple!

FAQ

Can I edit a GIF after it's been created?
Yes, you can add text, apply filters, adjust timing, or make other modifications to customize your GIF further.
What are some common uses for GIFs?
GIFs are widely used for various purposes, including expressing emotions or reactions in online conversations, illustrating step-by-step tutorials or processes, showcasing product features or demonstrations, creating eye-catching advertisements or promotional content, and adding humor or entertainment to social media posts.
Are there any alternatives to GIFs?
Yes, there are video formats such as MP4 or WebM that offer better quality and more efficient compression. Additionally, some platforms support alternative formats like APNG or WebP, which have smaller file sizes and better animation quality.

Conclusion on how to make a GIF

As you can see, it’s incredibly easy to create a GIF either by converting clips with tools such as Icecream Screen Recorder and Video Candy or creating image-based GIFs using Adobe Photoshop or ezgif.

So, what are you waiting for? Now that you have the know-how, you can start producing your own GIFs. Add a little animation to your life and make your GIF now!

Take your digital media and social media content to the next level with funny and inspiring animations.

Paul Skidmore

Tech Writer and Photography Aficionado

Paul is a self-professed photography and tech nerd and has years of experience working with various editing software. He has a passion for travel and has taken his camera to destinations including Antarctica, Singapore, Indonesia, and Greenland.
8 min read
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