How to Make a GIF

25 years ago, the first Graphic Interchange Format (GIF) was invented by Steve Wilhite of Compuserve Information Service. GIFs are a smaller file size alternative to videos, so primitive servers and browsers were able to process the images stored in GIFs quickly, cutting down on load time. Initially, GIFs were used as internet flare and icons in anything from a blog to a business’s website.


Until the mid 2000’s, GIFs were confined to MySpace profile pages and other out of date websites. Many of these GIFs can be described as stroboscopic collages which users created by mixing and matching downloadable animations.

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Contemporary GIFs

Today’s Millennial GIFs are pop culture centric and have become a stand-alone language. GIFs have been adapted in news reporting and personal exchanges as a succinct way of displaying information or an emotion.


Wiggle Stereoscopy

In Wiggle Stereoscopy a left and a right stereogram are quickly alternated, allowing the brain to construct a three dimensional image. Elements of the image in the background hardly move at all whereas figures in the foreground will have a noticeable shift. GIFs with more than two frames will create a smoother animation (and less motion sickness).

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GIFs in Marketing

Companies like Victoria’s Secret have adapted high end, custom GIFs to enhance web marketing initiatives. These fine tuned works of art were first developed by Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg’s Cinemagraph Co. who have produced GIFs for The New York Times and Christian Louboutin. Cinemagraphs animate only one or a few elements at a time, creating ethereal portraits and landscapes.

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How to Make a Simple GIF

To start, I will explain the process of making a simple GIF.

The first step is to choose a video file to get the frames of the animation. You can shoot the video with a camera or simply download a YouTube file with a site like .

Next, trim the file down to 3-5 seconds with QuickTime or iMovie.

Once the clip is short enough, import the file to Photoshop (File>Import>Video Frames to Layers).

You’re almost done! To finish the process, click File>Save for Web. Make sure you have GIF selected and then click Save. To preview your GIF, drag the file to your browser window. It takes time and practice to become a top-notch GIF maker so keep practicing to refine your craft! Once you feel comfortable looping the images, try adding text, Deal With It Glasses, or Robert Downey Jr. heads to your masterpiece.

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