How to Edit an Animated GIF File

By Marie Miller

You can’t deny that animated Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) graphics catch the eye. Often, that’s a bad thing. If you spend a great deal of time on the Internet, you’ll see enough dreadful examples of animated GIFs to ward you off ever using them yourself. They are usually big, flashy and annoying. They behave like spoiled children, believing that any attention is better than none at all. That perception isn’t enhanced by the fact that you often find animated GIFS on sites that make up the low-rent section of the Internet, the type that blast “Ask Me How I Made $50,000 in 1 day!” Don’t be deterred. Done well, animated GIFs can enhance electronic marketing materials or make a stilted website more dynamic. Editing animated GIFs requires a bit more skill than editing simple graphics, but it’s not an onerous process.

Things You'll Need

  • Animated GIF file
  • Graphic design software such as Adobe Photoshop

Step 1

Open Photoshop. Understand that animated GIFs are actually a series of static graphic images put together in layers. To edit an animated GIF, you must be able to view and edit each image layer separately.

Step 2

Choose "File" from the Photoshop menu at the top left of your screen. Choose "Import"--not "Open." From "Import," a submenu will open. Choose "Video Frames to Layers." A pop-up window will open.

Step 3

In the pop-up window, navigate to the location on your hard drive where you have stored your GIF file. If you don't see the file, click in the "File Name" box. Type "*" (these three characters exactly, with no spacing) and then press "Enter." You should see all of the files now. If not, click in the "File Name" box again and type in the exact name of your GIF file.

Step 4

Click "Load." Your GIF file will open. Make certain that your "Layers" window is displayed. You will see each of the layers that make up your animated GIF graphic. Edit each layer as necessary. You may also reorder the layers at this time.

Step 5

Save your file. Choose "File" and then "Save for Web & Devices." Under "Presets," choose "GIF 128 Dithered." From this window, you can preview your animation. In the lower right corner, press the "Play" icon. Click "Save." Rename the file and then press "Save" again.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remember, GIF files are large. You may be able to get away with fewer layers than you think. Experiment with removing layers and previewing the animated graphic in your Web browser.
  • Because of its larger file size, an animated GIF will require more time to download than a normal graphic. If page load time is a concern, you may want to opt for a non-animated graphic or save a lower-quality image.