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How to Make a GIF Using After Effects and Photoshop

how to make a gif

Lately, a lot of clients are asking for GIF files of their projects to post on social media. You can easily move your export inside Adobe Media Encoder, select GIF, and hit that render button. While it is easy, it doesn’t work all the time. There will be lots of situations where you will be asked to deliver a smaller-size file with better quality. This is exactly what this article will be about. Let us cut to the chase and jump right inside the action to see how to make a GIF with After Effects and Photoshop.

Quick Guide on how to make a GIF with After Effects and Photoshop:

  1. Render the After Effects project with whatever video format you want.
  2. Import the video file in Photoshop.
  3. Navigate to FIle > Save for Web. 
  4. Select a GIF preset, a destination, and hit Save.

Pro Tip: If the GIF size is still too large, go back in After Effects and change the video Frame Rate (FPS) to something between 12-15 frames per second. By reducing the frame rate, you will reduce the final size of the GIF.

What is a GIF?

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format and it is a bitmap image format. It was developed by a team at CompuServe on 15 June 1987. Since its birth, it has become widely used all over the World Wide WEB (WEB) due to its small sizes, broad support, and flexibility between applications and operating systems.

GIFs are well-suited for simple images such as logos or graphics with solid areas of color and less suitable for live-action videos because of the color palette limitation. The limit of the palette is set at 256 per image.

Now that we know exactly what it is and a bit of history about it, let’s find out how to make one using After Effects and Photoshop.

GIF Creation With After Effects and Photoshop

Step 1: Exporting the After Effects Project

Render GIF After Effects

Your first step is to finish creating your After Effects project and to export it with whatever video format you want. In my example, I am using Apple Prores 422 (HQ). Make sure the first frame of the video is identical to the last. This will help a lot with the looping.

For a smaller size GIF, you need to lower the Frame Rate (FPS) of the exported video to something between 12-15 frames per second. The purpose of a GIF is to enable you to upload lots of stuff online without any strain on the servers and not to give a good quality view of something. Therefore, a little bit of stutter effect will not bother anyone in a small preview of a logo animation or animated graphic with simple shapes and will give you the possibility to export smaller size files.

Step 2: Importing the Video File in Photoshop

Import in Photoshop

Open Photoshop and import your exported video clip by navigating to File > Open and selecting the video clip. You can now adjust your video clip as you see fit. Lots of Photoshop’s functions are still available to you. Therefore, you can colorize and scale your video just like you would do with an image.

Step 3: Save for Web

Make a GIF in photoshop

When you are ready to save your GIF, simply go to File > Export > Save for Web(Legacy). For newer versions of Photoshop, the path will be File > Save for Web. Once you are inside the save for web window, you are presented with a lot of options to choose from. Every option will influence the final size of the GIF and the quality, so let’s go through the most important ones: 

Color Reduction Algorithm 

For GIF you have to make sure that Color Reduction Algorithm is always set on Selective.

Colors

Depending on what type of GIF you want to make, the number of Colors per picture is really important for the size and quality of the image. For example, in my video, I need only 4 or 8 colors because I have only black and white colors and I don’t need that many shades of grey.

Dither

If you set Dither on, Photoshop will add noise to your GIF and will considerably lower the size of your GIF file. This is really useful when you want to make a gif out of a live-shot video and not meant for graphic exports like the one in my example.

Transparency

Transparency is meant for videos that have an alpha channel. By activating it, Photoshop will include it in your GIF Export. The Transparency drop-down menu will tell your GIF how to interpret the transparent layers.

Interlaced 

The Interlaced button is really important because it allows the Gif to be loaded online in multiple passes. For example, if you go on your phone and access the website, you will load a lower-resolution version of the GIF to improve the load times. While important and useful, this will also increase the size of the file.

Image Size

GIF should not be that large, so something like 1920×1080 might be too much. To lower the file size, try to lower the Image Size

GIF export setings in Photoshop

GIF files are bad quality and too large? Check this

If you are looking for a better quality video solution for your website and you still want a lower-size video file, you should also try the MP4 format. Using the H264 codec, you can make better quality videos than GIFs and they run perfectly fine on the web. Most of the time the files are much smaller too.

The settings I use for my uploaded videos is MP4 H264 1280 x 720, CBR (Constant Bit-rate) 1mb/s 30FPS. With this, I can encode decent-looking videos and still keep the files on the small side. One of the best encoders out there is Adobe Media Encoder — make sure you get it.

You will need to upload it as a HMTL video onto your website, then make sure it is muted. I usually remove the audio when rendering the file as it will reduce the file size. You can also replay it on a loop so it acts just like a GIF.

Benefits to this method:

  • Smaller file size
  • Much better quality than a GIF
  • Can get higher frame rates with small file size
  • Works on all web browsers

Cons:

  • Videos will not repeat when posting to social media, you can only add a loop function on websites
  • Some forums and social media only accept Gifs in comments

Settings to use:

  • MP4 H264
  • 1280 x 720
  • CBR (Constant Bit-rate) 1mbps
  • Framerate (use your projects framerate)

You can adjust these settings slightly to suit your needs. If the videos are going to appear really small on your site, then you can reduce the resolution and bitrate. For smaller videos, use something similar to 960 x 540 at about 0.7mbps.

bitrate premiere pro

This is it! Now you know how to make a GIF with After Effects and Photoshop. Make sure you don’t forget to set the frame rate to something between 12-15 FPS and to make the first frame identical to the last. Happy editing!

About Author

After spending 6 years in the post-production studio, Mihai decided to share his insights on video editing and computers.

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