Create animated GIFs with Photoshop

Be it an adorable cat GIF or a Mean Girls GIF, GIFs are everywhere on the Internet. They easily capture viewers’ attention and, when used well, can make a great impact. Ever wondered how GIFs are made?

Creating GIFs with Adobe Photoshop is easy. Photographs, text strings, or logos – you can transform any still image into an interesting GIF with your creativity and a tool like Photoshop.

Here’s a tutorial on how you can transform your still images to evocative GIFs.


To create the GIF with slithering effect, follow these simple steps:

1. In Photoshop, create a new document.

Choose File > New and specify the dimensions and resolution:

  • Width – 498 px
  • Height – 358 px
  • Resolution – 150 ppi

2. Add layers in the Layers panel.

We’ll use four layers for this GIF. Select each layer to add content to that respective layer.

  • Fill Layer 1 with the dark green color using the Paint Bucket tool. This will be the background.
  • In Layer 2, select a different color, say bright green, and type letters SL(space)THER using the Horizontal Type tool. That’s right, leave a space between L and T.
  • In Layer 3, type letter I. Use the Move tool to place this I in between the letters L and T of Layer 2.
  • Right-click on Layer 3 and select Duplicate Layer. A copy of Layer 3 gets created.

3. Now, to add a video timeline, choose Window > Timeline > Create Video Timeline.


Elements of a video timeline


A. Layer

B. Layer properties:

  • Transform
  • Opacity
  • Style
  • Text Warp

C. Button – To add or remove a keyframe. A keyframe is a location on the timeline that defines where a transition should start or stop.

D. Timeline duration in Hours: Minutes: Seconds: Frames

E. A keyframe

F. Time indicator

G. Stop Watch – To enable keyframes or remove existing keyframes

4. In the timeline, drag the purple area of each layer to set the timeline duration of that layer. Use the time indicator to check the duration.

 In this GIF, the timeline duration used for each layer is given here:


The timeline will now look like this:


5. In the timeline, select Layer 2. Here, click 1 to display the layer properties. Drag the time indicator to 0:00:00:00. Select Opacity and click 2 to lock this position. In the Layers panel, set opacity to 0%. Drag the time indicator to 0:00:01:00 and set opacity to 100%. A keyframe gets created automatically at this point.

6. Select Layer 3. Repeat step 5.

7. In the timeline, select Layer 3 copy. Select the Transform property. Place the time indicator at 0:00:01:08. Click 2 to lock this position. Now drag the time indicator to 0:00:02:00. Select the Move tool, press Shift, and move letter I upward, half way through to the border of the image. A keyframe gets created here. Drag the time indicator to the end of duration (0:00:02:15) and move letter I out of the image. Another keyframe gets created at this point.

8. Now in the Layers panel, right-click the Layer 3 copy and select Convert to Smart Object. Place the time indicator at 0:00:01:08. Choose Filter > Distort > ZigZag. Adjust the Amount slider.

9. Place the time indicator at 0:00:00:00. Click 4 to play the animation. Easy, right?

10. Add an interesting background. To do this, create Layer 5. Choose File > Open and select image. Extend the Layer 5 timeline duration from 0:00:00:03 to 0:00:02:15. Adjust its opacity as required.

11. To save the GIF, choose File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy). Select Forever in Looping Options. Save as GIF.

And, that’s it!


Ready to create the other two GIFs? Here are some quick tips:


To create the BREEZE animation, follow the steps given for SLITHER. Instead of ZigZag, select Twirl.


To achieve the FLY animation, create duplicate layers for each of the three parts of letter Y. Rotate the parts. No Distort option is required. Just video animation.

There are endless exciting possibilities to experiment and create animation in Photoshop. Go ahead, give wings to your imagination, and add life to motionless images. Let us know about your experiments!

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