How to Make an Animated GIF for Tumblr

By Janine Warner, David LaFontaine

One way to add a little spice is to use an animated GIF on your Tumblr blog. Currently, the Tumblr policy is that the size limit for an animated GIF is 1MB and that pictures must be smaller than 500 x 750 px, or they will be automatically scaled down.

When you choose a video clip to convert to an animated GIF, select a clip that contains motion and what landmark photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson pioneered as “The Decisive Moment.” Think of the moment when the sprinter crosses the finish line, the waiter drops the tray loaded with full champagne glasses, or the baby turns his heads and smiles.

A loop of your roommate staring out the window moodily may seem like it conveys existential angst, but you can do the same thing with a still photo, so why bother with an animation?

If you have Photoshop, it’s a great choice for creating animated GIFs. If you don’t have Photoshop, or if you want to have a program that streamlines and simplifies the process of creating an animated GIF, a lot of choices are on the market.

Some are free, but the most popular and useful solutions usually cost $10 or so. If you’re really looking to crank out animated GIFs quickly and frequently, it might be worthwhile to test some of these standalone products.

There is a lot of trial and error involved when using a high-powered program like Photoshop to create an animated GIF. Photoshop allows you to exert control over every pixel in every image in your animation. The tradeoff with that is that you have to manually make a lot of choices yourself. The following programs can automate those choices or make adjustments more intuitive:

  • GIF Brewery (Mac)

    Available from the Mac App Store, this program enables you to quickly achieve sophisticated effects, such as changing the cropping to zoom in, setting a custom number of loops, and applying color correction.

  • GifBoom (iOS and Android)

    This app for both Android and iOS devices allows you to create simple animated GIFs while away from your computer. You can even add voice and music backgrounds and send your creation as a private message. GifBoom also has a popular online gallery where users can share and vote on each other’s creations.

    By no means is this list all-inclusive. A casual Google search turns up at least 24 programs promising to make creating animated GIFs easier, and you can probably find dozens more. Given the exploding popularity of the animated GIF, developers and coders are likely launching new software programs every week.

  • Imgflip (online app, platform agnostic)

    This nifty online app allows you to take your own videos, as well as videos from YouTube, Vimeo, or other online video hosting sites, and convert them to an animated GIF. Imgflip is free to try, but if you want to use larger video files (bigger than 35MB), you have to upgrade to the Pro version for $9.95 per month.

  • GifCam (Windows)

    Unlike many of the other programs, GifCam works by allowing you to draw a box around the video that you want to turn into an animated GIF on your screen, and then recording a snippet of that video and converting — transcoding, in tech speak — it. You can also do simple drawings using some of the tools in GifCam.

    It’s free to use, but the developers ask that you donate a few dollars if you like using it.