Animated GIFs, which were hugely popular in the late '90s, went out of fashion for many years. Now they're suddenly new again, and the Internet is full of them. Today's GIFs tend to be animated photographs rather than the smiley faces of yesteryear, but the basics remain unchanged.
People use animated GIFs are for a range of small business marketing applications—everything from blog images, product marketing, advertising, and education. We'll show you how to create an animated GIF, plus the trick to pinning GIFs on Pinterest.
Create an Animated GIF
An animated GIF is a set of two or more still images stored in a single file and configured so that each image shows for a set duration before being replaced by the next. You can think of them as a mini stop-animation video sequence. If the designer configures the images to loop, they will repeat indefinitely.
You need a sequence of still images to create an animated GIF, plus the software to put them together.
The images you use should all have the same dimensions; they should also change somewhat from one to the next—the sequential changes will create the animation effect. When you save the images, make sure to number them in order according to where they appear in the animation. That makes it easier to assemble them later on.
A Free, Online GIF Maker
GIFmaker.me offers one simple way to make an animated GIF online. You upload a series of images, configure the settings for your GIF file, and click to create your GIF animation. Click the download link at the bottom-right of the screen to download your completed file.
Looking for a good online animated GIF maker? GIFmaker.me is easy to use and, even better, it's free.
Other options let you resize your GIF and view it. I've found GIFmaker.me to be a reliable GIF maker—the GIFs aren't watermarked, they can be quite large files, and the application is easy to use and to understand—I can't say that of all the apps out there.
Create GIFs in Photoshop
If you own Photoshop, then you don’t need to find other software to create your animations. Once you have created and saved your individual images, choose File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack and browse to find the images. Select all the images, and click OK. Make sure your image files appear in the correct, sequential order. Click OK to load the images as separate layers in a Photoshop file. If desired, you can now add extra features such as text and other elements to your images.
You can create GIFs using Photoshop, which offers useful timing and customization features.
When you're ready to create your animation, choose Window > Timeline and then—in the middle of the timeline screen—click the dropdown arrow beside the button and choose Create Frame Animation. Select all the layers in the image and then, from the timeline dropdown menu, choose Make frames from Layers.
From the dropdown menu below each frame, select the time for each image to appear in the animation—or you can select all the frames and set the duration for them all at once. From the dropdown list that shows Once, choose the number of times the animation should repeat, such as 3 Times or Forever. Click the first frame in the timeline, and click the Play button to test your animation.
When you're happy with the GIF, choose File > Export > Save for Web. Next, from the File type dropdown list, select GIF and select a preset—such as 64 No Dither—to render the GIF as a 64-color image. Click Save and then Save again.
To test the image, you can upload it to the Web, or you can view it inside your Web browser by choosing File > Open, and select it to view it.
Pinterest and GIFs
Pinterest is a great place to share your GIFs. The problem is that animated GIFs pinned directly from websites won't play in Pinterest. Instead you must upload your animated GIF from your computer hard drive directly to Pinterest for it to play. To do this, make sure that you save your animated GIF to your hard drive. Login to your Pinterest account, click the Plus icon in the bottom-right corner of the screen and choose Upload a Pin.
Animated GIFs will play on Pinterest only if you upload them from your computer's hard drive. You can't pin GIFs directly from the Internet.
Next click Choose Image, and locate and select the animated GIF on your hard drive. When prompted, select the board where you want to pin the GIF and click Pin It. When you click on the image, the animation will play inside the Pinterest window.
Animated GIFs can help you get your message out to your viewers. Now that you know the basics to create and pin them, you can add them to your small business marketing arsenal.
Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her website, HelenBradley.com
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