Here I will show how it’s possible to create basic animated GIFs with Adobe Photoshop CS6 or CC. Below is the piece of animation I will be showing you how to produce: a fish swimming in bubbly water. You can download the Photoshop file to use with this guide here.
If you open up the PSD file you will be presented with three images in separate layers: Bubbles, Fish and Background. Having each image in a layer will make the animation process easier, as the fish and bubbles will each have their own independent movements.
Next we’ll need the most important panel for creating animations in Photoshop. Go Window > Timeline
You will see that both the Bubbles and Fish layers automatically have separate timelines on on the Timeline panel. First, we will focus on animation the Bubbles layer. Press the little triangle to the left of the Bubble layer name: this will reveal the animation options: Position, Opacity and Style.
We need to make the bubbles float upwards. What you will need to do now is make sure the timeline is set to the start (the blue tip with a red line running down it is the timeline control) and select the stopwatch icon next to Position. This will create what is known as a keyframe, which will tell Photoshop what are the key points of the animation. This also allows for “tweening”, which I will soon demonstrate.
Move the timeline control to the very end and press the diamond icon next to the stopwatch to add another keyframe.
To animate the bubbles so that they float upwards, you will need to select the Bubble layer and with the Move Tool (V) you will need to drag the entire image up to the top from the bottom. Photoshop will automatically “tween” this animation so that there is a smooth transition of the bubbles moving up, instead of the image suddenly jumping from one position to the other.
The image below demonstrates how the bubble image layer, which is long, needs to move. When you zoom out enough, you will be able see the artboard and entire length of the bubble image, which will help the process.
Now its time to animate the fish. Lock the Bubbles layer in the Layers panel, just to make sure it doesn’t interfere.
In the Timeline panel, close the Bubbles timeline and expand the Fish one. Make sure the timeline control is set to the start and use the Move Tool to move the fish just outside the artboard on the left.
Create a keyframe then move the timeline control to the center (around 02:30 seconds) of the timeline and create another keyframe. Then using the Move Tool, move the fish to the center of the page but a little bit towards the top, just to give the fish a “curved” looking swimming path.
Finally, move the timeline control to the end of the timeline and create another keyframe. Using the Move Tool, move the fish down a bit and off the artwork at the right-hand side.
You can now preview the animation by moving the timeline control to the start and hitting the play button on the top, left-hand part of the panel.
To convert the animation into a GIF, go File > Save for Web… Make sure the file format underneath Preset is set to GIF and press Save…
And there you go! You’ve made a GIF using Photoshop. You can test it out on a web browser.
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