How to make a gif

Believe it or not, there was a time when we only had the ability to add gifs to websites and messages boards. Now we can add them to our tweets and text messages thanks to a great, ominous virtual cloud-god that has been collecting them since the existence of the first blog on the internet. (At least that's how I image it.) There's even a boomerang feature on Instagram, which is essentially a different form of a gif. Anyone can learn how to make a gif these days.

Gifs are a fun way to add an extra bit of expression to your text-based messages—a lot more fun than emojis. So many of them are tiny clips from popular TV shows and movies in pop culture, even motion versions of long-popular memes like the famous Michael Jackson eating 'I just came here to read the comments' popcorn. But maybe you want to make your own gifs to immortalize a family member or friend (for better or worse). Or maybe you want to show off some awesome gameplay in gif form. Luckily, making them is way easier today than it was back in the early 2000s. So, here's how to make a gif.

What is a gif?

A gif, short for graphic interchange format, was one of the first two image formats commonly used on websites. It's a lossless format for image files that supports both animated and static images—compression doesn't degrade the quality of the image like a jpeg or jpg.

The first gif was created in 1987 by CompuServe to provide a color image format that would replace their black-and-white only run-length encoding (RLE) format. The company also provided downloadable conversion utilities for many computers back in the day as well; an Apple user could view a gif created on a Commodore 64 and vice versa.

Originally, gifs stored image data using 8-bit color, or a 256 color pallet, but now can support 24-bit color. The gif also wasn't originally designed to be animated, which is the style we know and love today.

How to make a gif?

Today, there are tons of websites with their own tools for easily creating gifs with either a series of images or a video. One popular website, Giphy, allows you upload either to make your own gifs, and also supports YouTube, Vimeo, and Giphy links. Uploading or cutting down videos you link to fro YouTube is super easy. Here's something I made from a clip The Matrix:

(You might have noticed that I used a different gif making website to post it in this article. I'll get to that in a minute.)

The steps to do the same are simple. Copy and paste any YouTube video link into the 'add any URL' bar at the bottom of the page, then the Giphy website will automatically take you to a page that will allow you to set the duration of the and start time of your gif. From there, just click on the 'decorate' button. You can add captions, stickers, filters, and even draw on the gifs you're making. I added the 'glitch' filter to my gif, as it seemed the most appropriate. 

Once you're done decorating, hit upload and you'll be taken to a finished version of your gif on another page where you can share it to your social media accounts or copy the link so you can embed it on your website, blog, or use it as your signature on a message board (if you're old-school like me). There are even widgets or plug-ins that you can integrate with your site to easily display your gifs, like the Gfycat one above.

You can use the same method to make gifs of your gameplay, as long as you have video already recorded to your computer or uploaded to your own YouTube or Vimeo account. To record gameplay footage, you can either use a built-in tool if the game has it (like Overwatch's ability to save highlights and your POTGs) or a program like FRAPS or GeForce Experience. XSplit and OBS can also record local gameplay, too. There's also some dedicated background apps like Gif Your Game, that automatically record gameplay highlights and turn them into short video clips. Once you have the recorded footage, you can upload it to Giphy.

Giphy also has a robust database of user-generated gameplay gifs, so just type in the game you're looking for into the search bar and a bunch of gifs will populate in the search results.

What other websites can I use to make a gif?

Gfycat is another website with an integrated gif maker that works in a similar way to Giphy—although Gfycat doesn't all you to create gifs from multiple still images nor add as many decorations. You can add captions, though, and Gfycat allow you to keep in the sound from your video for multi-dynamic gifs.

There are other good sites like Makeagif, Imgflip, and Ezgif, but keep in mind that some will add watermarks to everything unless you create an account and sign in to make gifs. Others require a paid subscription to get rid of the watermark. Some only allow you to store gifs online (without the option to delete them) while others don't store them. Make sure to look over the features carefully beforehand.

But Giphy and Gfycat are the best and easiest options for creating gifs out of your best in-game moments—or combine the best moments of pop-culture. One thing to note about Gfycat though is that, while you can link to the GIF, if you try to save it to your PC it's actually a video file. Meanwhile, Giphy allows you to save them as true gifs.

Joanna Nelius
When Joanna's not writing about gaming desktops, cloud gaming, or other hardware-related things, she's doing terrible stuff in The Sims 4, roleplaying as a Malkavian, or playing horror games that would give normal people nightmares. She also likes narrative adventures.