Easily Customize Animated GIFs with Photoshop

Ohio-based designer and animator Matthew Broerman provides us with simplified steps to customizing animated GIFs using Adobe Photoshop. The methods listed below will allow you to add your own style and modify GIFs to fit it smoothly into any project.


To start with the GIF customization, open the GIF file in Photoshop CS5, CS6, or Creative Cloud. Next, if the Animation window isn’t open, select Window>Timeline, or Window>Animation to open the Animation window. Open the Layers window by selecting Window>Layers.


Work with these original GIFs:


pencil gif original

gif lightbulb original

Start the GIF customization with the following methods:


  1. Adjustment layers – Right in the Layers window, select the topmost layer and click the ‘Create new adjustment layer’ icon to add a new adjustment layer. Any changes to the adjustment layer will affect every frame and all layers below it. Test the different types of adjustments to get the effect you like. When you’re done, save for web and devices and check the Transparency, Matte, and Animation Options to get something like this:
    pencil gif adjustment layers result
  2. Blending options – Start working with blending by opening the Animation or Timeline window deleting all frames. Access the Layers window and select the first layer. Click the ‘fx’ icon to get to the ‘Blending Options’ There will be blending options like color overlay, drop shadow, stroke, to name a few. You can combine different types of effects. Apply the same effects to all the layers by pressing right-click on the first layer then selecting ‘Copy Layer Style’. Select the rest of the layers then right-clock again and choose ‘Paste Layer Style’. Back to the Animation/Timeline window, go to the More menu then select ‘Make Frames from Layers’ to make each layer into an individual frame. With this step, you can also change the frame speed ranging to 0.03 for 30fps playback. When you’re done and ready to export make sure you also check the Transparency, Matte, and Animations Options. What you should get is something like this:
    gif lightbulb blending options result
  3. Frame by frame – As the most time-consuming method of the three, this is also the most flexible. Working frame by frame lets you paint, draw, or apply any effect you wish to add per layer. Again, select all the frames in the Animation/Timeline window then delete all. In the Layers window, apply any effect you desire to each of the layer. Back to the Animation/Timeline window, access the More menu and click ‘Make Frames from Layers’ for each layer to become an individual frame. Select all the frames and click the down arrow below any frame, then set the frame speed to 0.03 for 30fps playback. For the sample seen below, the effect applied to each layer was a Color Halftone with the result as:
    gif pencil frame by frame result


Our team at MicroCreatives includes designers who work on different types of software, including Adobe Photoshop, to customize and create animated GIFs, among various design projects, for our clients from all over the world, including U.S. and Australian clients. Our creative team also includes animators that work on GIFs, animated banner ads, and videos using Flash and HTML5.