Animated GIFs are a bit of fun and some can be very clever indeed. Along with the meme of the moment, animated GIFs can find their way onto forums, email signatures, Facebook, websites and anywhere that works with .gif files. If you want to save animated GIFs to your computer and use them online, here’s how.
What’s in a GIF?
A .gif file is a Graphics Interchange Format file and is thirty years old this year. It is an 8-bit format that supports up to 256 colors using RGB. It supports animations, which is why it is so popular. The files are tiny and self-contained which is why they can be used almost anywhere.
An animated GIF contains several images that are used as frames to create the animation. This animation loops continuously to provide the effect.
Save animated GIFs to your computer
If you find a GIF online that you want to keep for yourself or use for your own nefarious means, downloading is exactly the same as with a normal image.
In most browsers you can simply right click an animated GIF and select Save image as… Select the location and keep the format as .gif. This will download a copy of that GIF to your computer for you to use anywhere.
If the GIF is one of many on a page, you can right click it and select Open in new tab or View image. This will isolate that particular GIF so you can check before downloading. Then right click and Save image as…
As .gif files are self-contained, they can be saved, uploaded, embedded in emails that use HTML, used in blog posts, on web pages or wherever you like.
How to create animated GIFs
An animated GIF is a series of static images played back just like a cartoon. To create an animated GIF you need to create that series of images in 8-bit, 256 colors and combine them into an animation.
You can use an online tool such as Giphy to create animated GIFs, Photoshop or other image editor. Adobe has a good guide to creating animated GIFs on its website. It obviously only concerns itself with Photoshop but the principles are the same whatever graphics program you use.
Use animated GIFs
The .gif format is treated as a standard image in HTML and CSS so will work on most blogs and websites.
One thing I would say is that you need to know your audience for an animated GIF to work. I see hundreds of GIFs every day online and many of them contain cultural references that I just don’t recognize. If you use a local actor or character on a local website, you stand a very good chance of having it fully appreciated. Post that same GIF on a website from a different country and you have a much lower chance of it being understood.
For example, use an animated GIF of a Minion or Star Wars character and you stand a very good chance of it being universally understood. Use a character from Saved by the Bell or Doogie Howser and someone in a different country may never have heard of them.
Use animated GIFs in WordPress
As the most popular blogging platform in the world, WordPress powers millions of websites so is a good place to begin uploading our GIFs. It is also a good place to begin as some WordPress installations will show the first image but not the animation.
- Select Add Media in the post or page you want the GIF to feature.
- Select Full Size in the left of the media window unless your GIF is huge.
- Select Insert into post.
- Check the animation plays in the post window. Then select Preview above Publish to check that the animation will play.
Use animated GIFs on Facebook
Facebook is full of images and GIFs play a significant part in that number. Some are funny, some are clever and some are just dumb. Either way, here’s how to use animated GIFs on your Facebook page.
Facebook still doesn’t play nicely with GIFs. While it allows you to feature them, it does not allow you to upload them like a normal image. Instead you have to host it elsewhere and link to it on the page.
- Create your GIF or download it as above.
- Upload it to cloud storage or link to it from your blog or website.
- Add the link to your page, profile or wherever.
The link should call the animated GIF and preview it in your entry as if you had uploaded it. The end result is the same even if the method isn’t.