How to Create Animated GIFs that Stand Out

Have you considered Animated GIFs as part of your visual content creation?

Animated GIFs and short animated videos are easy to create and grab attention on the newsfeed of your favourite social media platform.

In this post, I share what they are, how you can create them, and how Animated GIFs can be used to not only grab attention but to convert fans into customers.

How to Create Animated GIFs that Stand Out
Image By Shutterstock

For many years, creating animations has been considered difficult and the realm of graphic designers. Not any more.

Now we have easy tools to create them with….so many tools.

But first, why create animated visuals?

It’s simple.  Social media zooms past at the pace of the Grand Prix on every platform.

You will often hear that we have developed short attention spans..

via GIPHY (yes, this is a GIF).

But I think it’s about more than that.  We, as a society, have had to become more discerning about what we engage with.

It’s not about short attention spans. It’s about making fast decisions on whether we will engage with visual content.

What does this mean? It means you need to grab attention and make a great first impression – to convince someone to engage with your content.

Animated visuals and short video give you the opportunity to do just that.  They are easy to create, they catch attention and they allow you to convey emotion, educate or entertain… in a way that is easy to process.

There are many types of animated visuals, but in this post, I am going to focus on the humble GIF.

Meet the humble Animated GIF

GIF stands for “Graphics Interchange Format” and it’s a type of file that is compressed to reduce the transfer time.  Whatever that means…

The end result is a snappy animated visual that plays on a loop and can be used on email, websites, or social media platforms with great effect.

Side note… nobody can agree on how to pronounce the term, so just run with whatever feels comfortable for you.

Digital Trends described GIFs as “animated silent loops” and said that “GIFs have become the emotional currency on the web, allowing people to react in ways that words just don’t allow”.

via GIPHY

GIFs can perform a number of functions for your content marketing:

  1. Convey humour and emotion.  There’s a GIF for just about every sentiment, regardless of whether you are sharing existing files… or if can create your own.  Sometimes words just can’t say what you can say with a GIF!
  2. Teach or show something step by step – GIFs as an educational tool have become popular with tech blogs and brands wanting to easily and quickly show how to do something.
  3. Show features – a GIF can be used to show the features of a product or showcase something quickly and easily.

Other things to know about GIFs

  • GIFs are silent, so they are handy to view as they don’t require sound, and can be viewed anywhere.
  • GIFs work really well on websites and in particular on blog posts.  They can add some emotion, humour or break up the post in an entertaining way.  Here’s an example of a GIF that I used when words could simply not convey how frustrated I was about one particular social media “strategy” – check out No 2 in the post.
  • GIFs can be great in emails too but they suck up the MBs.  Just be sure you compress them down as much as you can before embedding them.  Some internet service providers may truncate your email before delivery if the file is too large.  Use them sparingly.
  • GIFs are great for showing how to do something with a screenshare.  I love how Buffer do this on their blog posts.

With that, let’s check out some tools for creating Animated GIFs:

11 Tools for Creating Animated GIFs (Quickly and Easily)

1  Giphy

Giphy is widely considered to be the go-to-source of GIFs. The main reason for this is that they hold a massive library of hundreds of thousands of GIFs that you can search and share.

Chances are, if you see GIF that is shared on a comment, message, social post, email or blog post, it’s often from Giphy.

Here’s what the search looks like on the Giphy Homepage:

Search for GIFs on Giphy - How to Create Animated GIFs that Stand Out
Search for the perfect GIF on Giphy

 

But it’s “custom” GIFs that I want to talk about. This is where Giphy becomes an awesome tool. If you click on CREATE you’ll be brought to GIFmaker central on Giphy.  The first option is to upload a video link (YouTube, Vimeo or your own video) to create a GIF.

Simply enter the link, choose the start point on the video from which you wish the GIF to be created, as well as the total duration of your GIF. The tool will create your GIF within these parameters.

Create Your own GIF with a video link on Giphy - How to Create Animated GIFs that Stand Out

The second option is to create a SlideShow with Giphy. I LOVE this method, as it is so super simple to use.

Gather up your images and drag them into Giphy. Then reorder them as you wish, choose the speed at which you wish the GIF to rotate the content , and create your GIF.

See it in action here.

Here’s one I created using simple quotes.  It takes seconds, once you have the original images ready to go.

Now I have a short animated GIF video to share.

Create a SlideShow on Giphy - How to Create Animated GIFs that Stand Out

 

You can also do some cool effects like captions, or use the GIF Editor which allows you to add stickers, filters, and other eye-catching effects.

If you want to create custom GIFs with your existing content, then Giphy is a great place to start.

2  Gifs

Gifs is another desktop tool that allows you to convert any link into a GIF.

GIFs animated GIF Tool - How to Create Animated GIFs that Stand Out
Create GIFs from any video link

It’s more suited to curated content than creating your own GIFs (with less options than Giphy) but it does allow you to create GIFs from your own video files.

To create a GIF, post a video URL from YouTube, Instagram or your own video. This forms the basis of your GIF.

You can use an editor to add effects, including captions, padding, crop, stickers etc.

The end result is a URL for the GIF that you can share or download it to share later.

3  Recordit

RecordIT for creating GIFs from Screencasts - How to Create Animated GIFs that Stand OutThis is where GIFs start to move from entertaining and fun to educational and helpful.

Recordit is just one of the tools that enable you to capture your screen and then turn that screen capture into a GIF.

Here’s Recordit showing you how to capture a Screencast with Recordit (very meta, I know). recordit

It’s super simple to use and great for showing how to do something on your desktop.

4   And Then I Was Like

And Then I Was Like - create GIFs from your webcam - How to Create Animated GIFs that Stand Out
Create presonalised GIFs from your webcam

Strange name, right? But this is one of the most super simple GIF creation tools. “And Then I Was Like” is simply a GIF maker that works straight from your webcam.

I’m a huge advocate for creating original content, so this is a great tool for quickly and easily creating a GIF by filming yourself face to camera.

It could be a simple expression, a sign of some sort, proudly showing a product… whatever you like.  If you can capture it in a GIF, then use this tool.

5  GifX (App)

I’ve just discovered this app for creating animated GIFs and I am still playing with it.

GifX helps you combine your videos and images with GIFs for some really cool effects.

Check out some of the features on this video:

There’s definitely scope to create some fun animated GIFs with this app, and yes it could be easy to over-do it but it could definitely be used to catch attention on Instagram or Facebook.

Here’s an example of the what you can potentially achieve with multiple GIFs:

The app allows you to save your projects as animated GIFs or as short videos.


 

6  Boomerang on Instagram

Boomerang is a fun tool created by the Instagram team.  It creates mini videos that loop back and forth.  Instagram states that “it’s not a photo, it’s not a GIF, it’s a Boomerang”.

But it’s similar to a GIF so I am including it here.

Here’s an example from Instagram’s Boomerang Account:

who would you take here?✌️?? by @romainsantoni

A post shared by Boomerang from Instagram (@boomerangfrominstagram) on

7  GIF Toaster

GIF Toaster is an iPhone app that allows you to turn images and video into gifs on your phone.

8  Giphy Cam

This is the mobile version of Giphy, allowing you to record yourself/day/life as a series of GIFs.

Available on iOS and Android.

Giphy for Mobile - How to Create Animated GIFs that Stand Out

9  Phhhoto

Phhhoto is an app that takes a burst of around 10 photos and then combines them into a forward-backward loop a bit like the Boomerang app.

Phhhoto Gif Maker - How to Create Animated GIFs that Stand Out

The final moving picture is animated and you can also add filters, overlay and text.

It’s available on iOS and Google Play.

10  Burstio

Burstio is a cool app that takes all your “burst” photos on your phone and turns them into an animated GIF.

If you are like me and usually take burst photos by accident, then maybe this is not such a cool thing, lol. but if you take them intentionally, it could be a great way to create a fun GIF.

But, if you take burst photos intentionally, it could be a great way to create a fun GIF.

It’s currently availabe on iOS only.

11   DSCO (by VSCO)

This is another app similar to Boomerang.  The King of Visual Editing apps VSCO has created it’s own GIF creation app.

DSCO leverages VSCO’s funky imaging technology and allows you to create short looping GIF images that can be shared to social media platforms or with the huge creative VSCO community.

You can also choose from branded presets to create your GIFs, a lot like the image presets that VSCO already offers.

Mistakes to Avoid with Animated GIFs

It’s important to consider a couple of things when creating or using GIFs.

  1. Be sure you consider the best format for your content. Sometimes there is a fine line between short video and GIFs. If your GIF ends up being quite detailed with lots of steps, then the content might be better served as a short video.
  2. Use them sparingly.  If you have too many GIFs in your blog post you’ll end up making us feel like we are at a club late at night with too many strobe lights going off.  One or two animated GIFs is enough.  Make them count and don’t overdo it.
  3. Be Wary of Copyright.  Avoid taking footage from movies or images that are copyrighted and making GIFs with that content.  You may wish to share existing links and embed files for GIFs from a site like Giphy or the tools above.  Regardless,  I recommend you steer clear of breaching copyright.  If you want to use something for commercial uses, then definitely create your own GIF or get permission to use the content in a GIF format.

Over to You

Have fun with GIFs. Have you created them before?

How have you used them or seen them used successfully? 

How to Create Animated GIFs that Stand Out
Image by Shutterstock
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Donna Moritz

Visual Social Media Strategist at Socially Sorted
Donna is the founder of Socially Sorted, winner of Best Business Blog in Australia 2014 and a Top 10 Social Media Blog for Social Media Examiner, 2015-2017. She helps brands leverage the power of visual storytelling and content strategy in their business. Her content has been featured in publications such as Forbes and Entrepreneur Online and she is a contributor to Social Media Examiner. Donna speaks about digital and visual content for the marketing and tourism industries internationally.
  • Yes! Love creating GIFs for how-to posts. I use Screencast-o-Matic.

    • Awesome – I know a few people who use that tool for screencasts too… Does it allow you to easily convert to GIF too or do you use a second tool with it.

      • Yes, you can change the video type from MP4 to GIF with just a click. It’s a pretty neat tool.

        • Great, I might add it in here… How long can you do screencasts for (non-GIF version). I have a couple of other tools that I may add in like gif deck, and fortunately the tool numbers are not set in stone so I can! haha

          • Scrap that – I can see you can do longer screencasts on pro – that’s great.

          • Hi Donna,

            I’ve done complete 30 minute screencasts as MP4s and it never seems to have a limit. You can edit it, add overlays, text, etc. Lots of features! Love having so many different tools to play with! I’ll have to try gif deck.

          • Cool, yes I ended up grabbing a Pro version and you are right, it’s pretty much unlimited as long as you have the hard drive space for it, and limited if you save to their storage but still, it’s pretty good. Thank you for sharing this as I use screenflow on Mac but now have a Surface Pro laptop and was trying to work out a way to work across both and this is it!

            I used it yesterday to record my iphone on my Surface for a training I am doing for Social Media Examiner’s society and it worked really well. Now I can do screencasts or videos when I travel, so when I see you I owe you a drink!

            PS Yes Gif Deck is just a simple tool where you can take a slidedeck and turn it into a GIF – handy for promoting a new SlideShare.

          • Awesome! It’s crazy cheap too. Glad you like it and it’s working for you. It would be amazing to meet you in person!

            Ok, I’ll check out Gif Deck for sure. Thanks and happy weekend to you, Donna! 🙂

  • Wow..all of them look so cool, I think I should spend some time in creating some GIFs now. Thanks for the list Donna

    • Great to hear Praveen – I’m sure you will have a lot of fun playing with GIFs!

  • Nikki Kanzlemar

    Great blog with fab tips Donna! A few sites I haven’t heard of too! ?? I look forward to checking them out and getting Giffy with it! ?

    • haha awesome – ain’t gonna lie, the term “Getting Giffy with it” was a contender for the title of this post. Have fun creating some GIFs!

  • Tami Anderson

    I am both nervous and excited to make my first animated GIF … Now what to use as test subject matter?

    • Yes! Lots of options for sure… maybe start with an existing video and see what you can do with it! Or take some existing images and turn into a GIF animation. Have fun!

  • Tami Anderson

    I have created some content that I want others to be able to share to FB. I have looked for a plugin that would allow visitors to just click and post with not luck. Does anyone know a plugin that actually works and will post the content images I made directly to FB?

    • Hi Tami – thanks for stopping by – I am not exactly sure what content you are referring to. Is it a GIF or something else? Usually they work with links to share (if on a site like Giphy) or a code to embed. Or you would need to post it on Facebook and let the Facebook share function do it’s thing. Hope that helps, but I am guessing you may be referring to something else.

      • Tami Anderson

        Donna,

        Sorry for my slow response, but thank you so much for the reply. I did find a sharing plugin I added to WordPress. It is working as I wanted.

        I am enjoying your blog and really can’t believe you actually responded to my questions. Thanks again.

        • So glad you got it sorted out… and I’ll always respond to blog comments (well, as many as I can) – it’s my most important platform and I’m as grateful today as I was when I started if someone stops by to chat!

  • jaywi

    Hi Donna,
    Amazing article and I do agree that GIF’s and video is the “new thing” that will go big in 2017.
    Have a great day
    Jay

    • Totally Jay. I didn’t realise just how much potential they had until I started to research them and there are soooooo many uses. And when they are not over-used can be super powerful. Have a great day too and let me know if you have success using GIFs!

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