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How to Optimize an Animated Gif: 10 Ways

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This post is part of a series called Animation in Adobe Photoshop.
How to Create an Animated Pixel Art Sprite in Adobe Photoshop
Create Your Own Animated Pre-loader in Photoshop

In this tutorial, we will have a close look at all the available options to convert a video to a GIF animation, and how to optimize its file size.

What is a GIF File?

Before we start, let's take a closer look at what is a GIF file. GIF is the standard format for compressing images with large areas of solid colors and crisp details like those in line art, logos, or type. Being an 8 bit-depth image format it would have disappeared from the web after the introduction of the JPEG and PNG file formats, but GIF is still a favored web file format thanks to its frame animation feature. 

By the way, if you work with animated GIFs often, you may want to check out an automated solution: the Gift Export Photoshop Action available on GraphicRiver.

Gift Export Photoshop Action

How to Optimize an Animated Gif: 10 Ways


If you want to learn these techniques via video, check out our lesson on the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

1. How to Trim the Animation

First of all, you will need to open the video file with Photoshop. Most of the time you won't need the whole sequence for the GIF animation, so you can trim the video by going to Window > Timeline. Turn on the Loop option and try to find a good place to trim your video.

Trimming the video in adobe photoshop

2. How to Reduce the Image Size

You can either reduce the image size, go to Image > Image Size or hit Atl-Control-I keys combination. Your video layer will have to be turned into a Smart Object if you resize the image, but you don't have to worry about this, it won't affect our workflow at all.

Resizing the image size

3. Hot to Save for WEB the GIF File

Another option to reduce the size of the GIF file is "Save for Web" function, you can find it by going to File > Export > Save for Web or use Alt-Shift-Control-S keys combination. My favorite thing about this workflow is that we don't have to do any conversion on the Timeline panel to be able to save a frame animation, as the Save for Web dialog box will do the work for us once you select the GIF file format as your output. Notice that the Animation options will appear on the bottom right corner of the dialog box. In case you decide to further reduce the size of your image you can still do it here.

saving the gife file for Web

4. How to Reduce the Number of Frames

You can also reduce the size of the GIF animation if you reopen the exported GIF back into Photoshop and delete every second or third frame from the Timeline Panel. Then you should select all remaining frames and increase the duration of them to compensate for the loss of frames. If you don't do this compensation your animation will be played faster than the original. Once you are ready you can save the new version, which should be much smaller than the original.

Reducing the number of frames in GIF

5. How to Change the Number of Colors of Animated 

The most relevant option to optimize the size of a GIF file is the number of colors used in the Color Table. The maximum amount of colors is 256, which comes from the 8 bit-depth limitation. Generally speaking, it is good to stick with 64 colors or less, but depending on the original video you might need to increase the number of colors to get a better result.

How to change the number of the colors of the GIF

6. How to Choose the Color Reduction Algorithm

  • Perceptual to create a custom color table by giving priority to colors for which the human eye has greater sensitivity.
  • Selective to create a color table similar to the Perceptual color table, but favoring broad areas of color and the preservation of Web colors. This color table usually produces images with the greatest color integrity. (Selective is the default choice.)
  • Adaptive to create a custom color table by sampling colors from the spectrum appearing most commonly in the image. For example, an image with only shades of green and blue produces a color table made primarily of greens and blues. Most images concentrate colors in particular areas of the spectrum.
  • Restrictive uses the standard, 216‑color, web‑safe color table common to the 8‑bit (256‑color) panels of Windows and Mac OS. This option ensures that no browser dither is applied to colors when the image is displayed using 8‑bit color. If your image has fewer than 216 colors, unused colors are removed from the table.
choosing the color reduction algorithm

7. How to Use Dithering to Reduce the GIF File Size

Since GIF files contain a limited number of colors, we may want to imitate the missing colors with available ones using the dithering. From the Dither menu, we choose one of the algorithms for such imitation. The Diffusion method lets us adjust the amount of dither. With the Pattern and Noise algorithms, there is nothing to adjust. The more dithering in an image, the larger the file size. Dithering adds different-colored pixels in close proximity to each other to simulate secondary colors or smooth gradations in color. Some images must contain dithering to look good, but it's best to use the least amount of dithering possible to keep the smallest file size.

choosing the dither function

8.  How to Use Web Snap, Lossy, Transparency and Interlaced Functions 

  • Web Snap is used to help prevent dithering in a browser. It is done by snapping some of the colors to Web-safe colors. The more Web-safe colors present in a GIF, the less browser dithering will result. A value of 0% won't change any colors while a value of 100% will change all the colors in the image to Web-safe.
  • Lossy compression discards visual information, which can reduce the file size.
  • If the image contains Transparency, select Transparency to preserve transparent pixels; deselect Transparency to fill fully and partially transparent pixels with the matte color.
  • Interlaced GIF files are loaded in a browser in a few passes (like the progressive JPEG's).
using web snap lossy transparency and interlaced functions

9.  How to Compare the Original and Optimized Version of the GIF File

Once you added a lot of custom changes you can check the difference in file size and quality by using the 2-Up view.

comparing the original and optimized gifs

10. How to Use Preview, Save Preset and Optimize to File Size

If you are happy with your settings take a look at your final GIF with the Preview option in a browser and don't forget to save your settings as presets. You can also specify a file size limit with this additional option from Optimize Menu and once this is applied Photoshop will try to fit the size with the best possible image quality.

saving the preset using preview and optimizing to file size

Which Way of Optimizing the GIF File do You Prefer to Use?

Now you know ten simple ways to optimize your GIF files. I hope this article was helpful to you and if you are looking for GIF related Photoshop products, then check these awesome actions and templates:

Gif Export Photoshop Action

Gif Export Photoshop Action lets you take multiple images, automatically upload them in Photoshop and export them as a GIF.

Gif Export Photoshop Action

Animated VHS Instagram Stories Template v.2

If you want to create glitched and VHS-looking animated Instagram stories or animated GIF files from your static pictures, check this Photoshop template, which is extremely easy to use and suitable for any photo.

Animated VHS Instagram Stories Template v2

Animated Zombie Grime Art Photoshop Action

This awesome Photoshop action will help you to add the trendy animated zombie/grime effect to your photos. In the main archive, you will find one action file, one pattern file and a link to a video tutorial.

Animated Zombie Grime Art Photoshop Action

Gif Animated Sparkles Photoshop Action

If you are looking for something more bright and magic-looking, Gif Animated Sparkles Photoshop Action is the best choice for you. It gives your photos that fabulous and glowing look in a few simples clicks.

Gif Animated Sparkles Photoshop Action

Animated 80's Synthwave Poster - Photoshop Action

This action is one of my favorites as well. It gives you the possibility to create amazing animated posters in Adobe Photoshop, in a synthwave/retrowave styles. An awesome and handy tool to recreate the atmosphere of the 80s.

Animated 80s Synthwave Poster - Photoshop Action

Want to learn more about GIF creating and editing in Photoshop? Read these awesome tutorials:

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