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How to Turn a Youtube Video into an Animated GIF

Updated on March 28, 2013

Before you start creating your very own animated GIFs, consider your options. Do you want full control over how your GIF looks or would you rather skip multiple steps and get straight to having your GIF created.

There are two methods to creating GIFs, one is downloading a video file, or using an existing file and then putting it into a program and creating it that way, the other way is to use online GIF creating websites which will download the video and create the GIF for you. If you're look for speed, the latter would be the best route.


Please note that downloading videos off of YouTube, such as movies and episodes is considered illegal. The use of downloading videos for GIF creation could also be taken as breaking someone's copyright. However, many YouTubers, such as the Vlogbrothers, encourage the community aspect of creating silly GIFs from their videos.

How to Download a Video from YouTube

If you're going to edit and create your GIF by hand, you're first going to need to download the video off of YouTube to get the clip for your creation.

With that in mind, by far the easiest way to download a video off of YouTube is to install the Download Helper for Firefox.

Video Download Helper Add-on

It's a browser add-on that makes downloading videos, in differen resolutions and formats, quick and easy. You can download it here:

Creating an Animated GIF in Photoshop
Creating an Animated GIF in Photoshop | Source

How to Use Photoshop to Turn Video into GIF

This method of creating a GIF from a video is the most versatile. With Photoshop, you are able to edit the way your GIF will look, the speed and how many frames are played, as well as using filters to edit how your GIF will look like. I'm going to be using CS6 for this short walk through, which should be able to be adapted into other versions (and even programs) pretty easily.

  1. After you download your video file from YouTube, open up Photoshop.
  2. Go to File > Import > Video Frames to Layers.
  3. A dialog box will pop up, asking whether you want to use the whole video or a specific range of frames in the video file. If you have a short clip that you downloaded from YouTube, feel free to use the entire video, however make sure you don't make the file too large otherwise it'll take forever to load on webpages. To trim the video to the selected size, use the trimming sliders (it's the same as any video editing software, just pull the little arrows to the start and end of your selected frames.) If you're using an older version of Photoshop, you may have to use Quicktime or another program to trim the video file beforehand.
  4. Once you select what you want your GIF to be, click okay. Your video files will now be loaded onto layers. To display the animation, turn on the timeline window in Photoshop. Window > Timeline. You should now be able to scrub through your animation.
  5. To save your GIF, go to File > Save for Web and Devices and select GIF.
  6. You're GIF is now complete! Note: You will not be able to see the animation in preview, you'll have to open your .gif in a web browser in order to see the animation

You can also use free editing software, like GIMP and VirtualDubMod to create animated GIFs as well. As long as you have the ability to import a video file and export as a .gif, you should be able to tinker around and create an animated GIF in the program of your choice.

What's your favorite online GIF maker?

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Online YouTube to GIF Websites

Nowadays it's a lot easier to convert video from online streaming sites into animated GIFs. There are even websites that are dedicated specifically to downloading videos from YouTube and converting it into a GIF. This takes out all of the guesswork and process of having to download the video yourself, converting it in a program. You have slightly limited options, but to make a quick little GIF from your favorite YouTuber, this is a fast and easy method.

ImgFlip - I would recommend this website as it makes the process of downloading and converting easy and fast. ImgFlip features an online editor, to download and create your GIF. You are able to adjust where you want the GIF to be created from (there is a maximum of 50 frames. however). You can also change the speed or join the community and submit it to the website.

Gifninja - A simple GIF website if you already have the section of video that you want turned into a GIF. The only option is the ability to change the speed of your GIF.

Lunapic - This website gives you a little more control over the frames that will be converted into a GIF. There seems to be other options to edit photos with, but I couldn't get them to work with the .mp4 I uploaded to test the site with.

Do you think GIF could become the new art form?

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Inspirational GIFs - A new artform?

With the introduction of social media sites, blogs and websites like Reddit and Funnyjunk, the animated GIF has made a huge comeback and can now be seen as a new artform. Artists are now able to use animated GIFs to reach a different audience than they would have in the past and have become a different medium to explore.

Colossal, the art blog, has a collection of some really cool animated gifs you should check out, ranging from animated graffiti to photographs.

rrrrrrrroll_GIF - Artistically shot gifs. Really artsy and unique.

Other Uses for GIFs

GIFS are not just for art or for meme-based images. They also are a handy tool when animated steps for tutorials and showing how something works in a portfolio in place of a video. GIF load faster and take up less space, so they're good for more than trending!

A good example of this is the animation program Messiah. Check out their website and how they use animated GIFs to show off their product and enhance their tutorials.


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