How To Make a GIF in Five Easy Steps

Let's get this out of the way: You're going to need Photoshop. I'm using CS6 for our purposes below, but any recent version should be fine

1. Pick a video you want to make a GIF out of

You can use any video file.

 You can download any YouTube video using a number of services like KeepVid.

Important: Trim the source video file (the thing you want turned into an animated GIF) into a very short segment. Two or three seconds, max. If you don't do this, your file will be large and unwieldy.
How To Make a GIF in Five Easy Steps

2. Put the video in Photoshop

This part is very easy. File > Import > Video Frames to Layers. Your video file will be slurped into Photoshop and converted into a series of still images strung together. Think of it like a flip book.
How To Make a GIF in Five Easy StepsIt'll look like this.
How To Make a GIF in Five Easy Steps

3. Adjust quality settings

You're going to have to compromise here. The better your GIF looks—the less noise and compression junk in your image, the bigger the file. Hit File > Save for Web and mess around with some settings.
  • You'll want to keep the "Colors" setting as high as possible. Knocking it down means the GIF is created using fewer colors mixed together, which makes it look less and less like the original video. This saves a lot of space, though. Try to stick with 256, going down a level only as a last resort.
  • Dither: The higher the better. Lower means crappy looking, but smaller file.
  • Web snap: Ignore this.
  • Lossy: Like dither, only reversed. Higher means a worse, smaller file. Slide it around until you hit a sweet spot.
You should aim for a GIF file that's no bigger than a few megabytes or so, to be a good internet citizen. Bigger files slow down browsing, and that's a pain. You can always resize the image with the "Image Size" parameters to cut down on bulk, too.

4. Save!

Save the file. Click the save button. This whole thing should have taken you no more than a few minutes.

5. Share with and impress your friends

Use a free file hosting site like Imgur to upload and distribute your new craze acros the web. Maybe it'll become a hit viral sensation!

if you want to make a gif from a collection of photos follow these instructions

  1. Gather the images you want to animate into one folder.
  2. Click File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack. When the “Load Layers” window pops up, click Browse to select & open your image files, and then click OK. This should import the files you selected as individual layers in your document. Rearrange the layers into the correct order, if necessary.
  3. Open the Animation palette (Window > Animation) if you have CS5. **Note! In Photoshop CS6, this is now known as the Timeline palette. So, go to (Window > Timeline) instead.**
  4. In the Animation/Timeline palette menu (found at the top right corner of the palette), click Make Frames From Layers. You can also click Reverse Frames if needed. This will take each layer in your document and set it as an individual frame in the animation.
  5. Now we will change the duration of each frame. Make sure you are in frame view, not timeline view. If you do not see thumbnail icons of all your layers in the Animation/Timeline palette, click the icon in the lower right corner (the hover text will say “Convert to Frame Animation”). Now, back in the Animation/Timeline palette menu, click Select All Frames.
  6. Click the drop down button just underneath each frame image (circled in red in the image below). This will bring up a menu where you can set a duration. Since all frames are selected, all frames will be set to the same time. Each frame can be changed individually, if desired.
  7. The drop down button circled in black in the image above will change how many times the animation will loop; either a fixed number of times, or forever.
  8. Once the frame order and timing as been set up, it is time to save the image! Click File > Save for Web & Devices, make sure the file format is set to GIF, change any other options if needed, and save the image!
You will now have an animated GIF taken from a folder full of the individual frames. In fact, as long as each frame exists as a separate layer in Photoshop, the Animation/Timeline palette can be used to create the GIF. But, with CS5 & CS6 it is easy to make separate layers from a folder of the individual frames as described.