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How to Create a GIF Animation Using GIMP: It's Easy!

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Ms. Millar has been an online writer for over eight years. She is well-versed in website development and has created several websites.

Creating a GIF animation is fun and easy with GIMP.

Creating a GIF animation is fun and easy with GIMP.

I'm an Avid Fan of GIMP

GIMP is an image manipulation program, a lot like Photoshop. There is one major difference—GIMP is free! Totally and absolutely free. This is the link to the GIMP download page.

I turn to GIMP for everything I want to create. I can make .jpg, .png and .gif files (GIFs are animated files) with it. I've created animations, sent them to my phone, then sent them to friends in a text message. I've made holiday greetings, Valentine greetings, and phone emoticons! All with this free program.

I may be making GIMP sound awesome—and it is, so I am! I didn't feel that way about GIMP at first. There are so many options in the program that it can be extremely confusing.

My very first frustration with GIMP, I clearly remember, was drawing a straight line! Yep, it's true. I could not figure out how to just draw a simple straight line! I had to ask one of my kids how. It turns out it was pretty simple. To this day I still hear my kids teasing me, "Guess what? Mom can't draw a straight line." That's behind me now, thankfully. Now I can create all kinds of wild stuff with GIMP! There are all kinds of tutorials out there to help you with the simple, to complex GIMP options.

HubPages brings my joy of GIMP together with my joy of writing; My two favorite activities in one place! Everything I post in my articles is created through GIMP. I play with the GIF file creation option a lot. I create it on my computer with GIMP, then I upload my GIF to my Youtube account, then I copy the code and paste it in a HubPages video capsule. Sometimes I'll upload a short GIF directly onto HubPages with a photo capsule, like I did for this article. It's very rewarding to post your own creation when it actually looks good.

Does creating GIFs sound like something you would be interested in? Follow along and I'll show you how to get it done.

Sample GIF animation made with GIMP

Sample GIF animation made with GIMP

An Animation

The animation above is a GIF made with GIMP. That's what a GIF is; it takes still shots and compiles together into a video.

There's a lot to be written about how to create a GIF like the one above, but don't let the length of this article deter you. Many of the steps are minor, and repeated. Minor as in open a file, make it whatever by whatever size and click enter. Stuff like that.

Let's get started. If you haven't downloaded the GIMP program I'll wait here while you go get it now. And don't worry, it really is free, full features and everything . . . FREE! There's a link to the GIMP download in the first paragraph if you need it. I'll meet you back here once you have it installed.

Create a GIF With GIMP: Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Locate where you put GIMP and start the program.
  • Open a new project. File -> New -> Pop-Up Box
  • In the Pop-Up Box indicate what size you want your project to be. The default is 640 x 400. You can use the drop-down menu to choose, or enter your own dimensions. For this article I used 200 x 200 px.

In the blank project that opens there should be a palette of tools on the left, and another Layers palette on the right, with your canvas in the middle. If these palettes are not showing click: Windows -> Toolbox or Ctrl + b. This will bring up the tools palette and: Windows -> Dockable Dialogs -> Layers will bring up the Layers menu.

  • On the canvas area create the first frame of your GIF. This can be done with drag-and-drop, paste, or your own creation with the tools palette.
  • When you finish the first frame go to the Layers palette. At the bottom of the palette is a Duplicate layer icon, Click it. Now you should have 2 layers in your Layer palette. One named Background and the other is Background (copy 1).
Scroll to Continue

Now, we are going to change the name of the layers to something that makes sense to you. It can be anything; for example: frame1, layer1, first, etc. To do this:

  • Double click on the word Background. The word should light up in blue. Click Delete. The word should be gone now and you can type in your own title.
  • Then click Enter.
  • Do the same thing to the other layer. Every time you make a new layer change the name.

As you create new layers, the old layer scrolls down, and the new layer is placed above it. So, looking at your layers box, the layer on top is the new one.

Now you're going to create the second frame of your GIF. To do this:

  • Click the eyeball on the bottom (first frame). Then, click the top frame (the one just created) so it is highlighted in blue.

What this does is allows you to erase what is on the screen without affecting your first frame. Highlighting the top one in blue tells GIMP this is the one I am working on.

  • Go ahead and create your second frame.
  • When you are done, rename it, click on duplicate layer, when the new layer appears at the top, turn off the eyeball on the one below it, and highlight it in blue, and create your third frame. And so on, until you have created all the frames you want for your GIF.

Play It and Save It

Now that you have all your frames complete you are going to want to preview the GIF before saving it:

  • Click Filters -> Animation -> Playback. Your GIF will appear in a pop-up window. Push Play.

Is it ridiculously fast? You can change that! GIMP counts frames in the milliseconds. So, if you want your frames to go slower we have to add a little message in the Layers box. The message will use milliseconds for the speed. If you want the frame to last 1 second, put 1000ms. If you want it to last 2 seconds, put 2000ms. And so on. Like this:

  • Close the pop-up window.
  • Go to your layers menu and double click on the name you created in the top frame. Then click one more time so your cursor is in the word for editing.
  • Arrow left, or right, to reach the end of name you created. Right after the name add the milliseconds plus ms in parenthesis. Like this: (1000ms) or (3000ms) or (5000ms) whatever you want for the speed.
  • Hit enter. The time is now set for that frame.

Do this to every frame. Every frame does not have to be the same speed. Some can be faster, some can be slower, it's up to your liking.

  • Now, play it again: Filters -> Animation -> Playback

Is it playing at a speed you like now? If not, go back and raise, or lower, the number on the frame you want to change. Do this until it is how you want it.

Save It!

When you have the frames playing at the speed you want, and all the frames are edited to your liking, it is time to save it!

Saving any file, that is not a GIMP file, must be exported:

  • Click file -> click export as.

The window that pops-up is important. This is where you name your GIF and select where you want GIMP to store it for you.

In the name field, type the name AND .gif after. The default extension is usually .jpg, or .png. These are both still photo extensions. You need to delete that from the filename field and enter the name you choose and .gif (with the dot) to tell GIMP this is an animation.

  • Now click on export. (Export is at the bottom right).

Another screen will pop-up. GIMP needs to verify if this is indeed a GIF file. Put a check mark in the box As Animation. Click Export. Nothing else in that pop-up needs to be changed because you have already set the speed in your GIF.

Now it's time to play it for real! Locate where you saved the GIF on your computer. Double click on it and it will play in the default player.

You can send it to friends in an email, in a message, or to a phone.

You did it! Congratulations!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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