Creating animations from scratch in Photoshop might seem daunting, but in fact, they’re very simple. Fire up Photoshop and grab some of your files. It’s time to annoy the pants off of your friends with lots of animated GIFs!
We’ve talked about some simple ways to turn video and Youtube rips into animated GIFs, but today we’re going to show you how to make a simple animation without using any video files. Keep reading—this one’s a lot of fun.
Creating Animations with Photoshop’s Animation Tools
For a simple animation, we’ll create a part of the image on a separate layer we can move around. We’ll only be animating the movement of the eyes, but you can create any kind of animation this way, including actual hand drawn animation cells or moving photographs.
Regardless of what you want to animate, start with at least two layers. In our example, we’re using the HTG logo and we’re moving his eyes to a second layer we can use to animate the movement.
To get started, pull up the Animation panel. Find it by going to Window > Animation.
The panel pops up at the bottom of the window and is pretty simple to use. Each new “frame” of the animation is sort of like a snapshot of the file. Click the in the animation panel whenever you want to create a new snapshot out of the current state of the file. But not yet!
This panel also lets you set a “delay” for each individual frame, meaning how long (in whole or fractions of a second) it is displayed on screen before advancing on to the next frame. 25 frames per second (0.04) is a standard rate for animation, but maybe a little fast for animated GIFs. For our example, we compromised with a delay of 0.05, which you can also use. If you want to use a different number of frames per second, simply divide 1 by the number of frames to get the proper delay time. (For example, 1 second divided by 25 frames equals 0.04 delay time.)
The idea is to move the eyes layer in small increments and take snapshots along the way. We’ll be using the move tool (shortcut key “V”) and nudging our layer by using the arrow keys. In our example, we’ve taken a snapshot after nudging every two pixels or so.
By clicking the in the panel, you can see new frames created in the animation. They take the time delay of the frame before them, so you may want to pick the right delay in the first place, so you don’t have to change loads of frames once you’re done capturing the images.
(Author’s Note: If you’re anything like me, you’ll be tweaking the delay a zillion times, anyway. Things don’t always work out the exact way you want them!)
Lay out your frames as you go along, using your layers panel to move your object (in our example, the eyes) however you care to, and take lots and lots of snapshots. Remember, 25 or so will equal one second, so take your snapshots accordingly.
You can also edit the delay of multiple frames at once by using the shift key and selecting many or all of your frames and changing the delay. Notice that you can set your delay to “Other…” near the bottom to use our custom delay of 0.05.
Navigate to File > Save for Web & Devices to open the tool of the same name.
This tool will allow you to create a browser friendly animated GIF, as well as testing it inside the tool (as shown above, where the arrow cursor is). Make certain to set your filetype to GIF and use any of the settings Perceptual, Selective, or Adaptive. These can change your image in different ways, but for many of you will give near identical results. To reduce file size, you can change your Image Size (towards the bottom) and your number of Colors (on the top right side). You can also reduce your file size by not including a transparency, although we didn’t in our example (whoops!).
And, our animated GIF is ready to put on the web to delight, shock, and create awe.
And that about wraps it up for animation. Thoughts or questions on our method? Have a better method, or some simpler techniques? Want to see something more advanced? Tell us about them in the comments, or send us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we may include them in an upcoming graphics article.