Create a Simple Animated GIF from your Lettering


Recently I entered a contest, deciding to procrastinate no longer in learning to create animated GIFs in Photoshop to announce my latest product. The process was much easier than I had imagined. Drawing inspiration from the header here, I created a fun and easy way to animate my hand lettering- or any design- using Photoshop to create an animated GIF. I’ve also created some actions (which you can download free) that streamlined and sped up the process.

  1. First, I created 3 different versions of the same lettering piece. First, I sketched out the original with my trusty Graphic 1 pen, then traced it twice with tracing paper. I didn’t mind if the results weren’t perfect, because I was going for a rustic, homey look. I also added some fun bursts to two of the variations just for kicks.
  2. Next, I scanned them in. Well, actually, I iPhoned them in. (Do you message yourself artwork a lot?) If you want better quality, a scan of at least 400 DPI is recommended, but I’ve found that my iPhone does a pretty decent job. Just snap a photo in a bright area and make sure the lettering is high contrast (i.e. dark ink or marker on white or cream paper.)1
  3. Once I had brought each lettering piece into Photoshop and cropped or erased any unnecessary parts of each image, I used my handy LetterPrep – Step 1 PS action to isolate the lettering. At that point, I used a second PS action LetterPrep – Step 2 to get the lettering ready for Illustrator.
  4. Next, I selected all (CTRL / CMD + A), copied the flattened file (CTRL / CMD + C), then pasted it into a new Illustrator document (CTRL / CMD + V).
  5. In Illustrator, I then live-traced the lettering, using these settings (I use a variation of these settings to trace all of my lettering) and then used the LetterPrep action to do a rough preparatory clean-up of the letter paths.

    Live Trace Settings
    Click on the image to view the settings larger.
  6. I’ll leave it up to you to clean up the paths more, make the curves perfect, or just keep going. It depends on what look you’re aiming for! 🙂
  7. At this point, I adjusted the size and angle of each of the three lettering variations so that the three were roughly in the same area, resting on the same angle: S1GIF
  8. In Illustrator, I created 12 different layers, each showcasing a different border I created using BorderCrafter, and each displaying a variation of my lettering design. I alternated the 3 lettering variations in the 12 tiles, following the color scheme in each tile. (Thanks ColourLovers!)S2GIF
  9. After I was done creating the 12 different “tiles”, I saved each of them for web as a PNG file. Since the .AI file was super complex, this process will simplify and speed things up a lot. To save for web, just go to File > Save for Web and apply these settings:

    Save for Web
    Click on the image to view the settings larger.
  10. Next, create a new Photoshop document. Use the same size as your tiles (in this case the size is 1029 x 772)

    Click on the image to view the settings larger.
    Click on the image to view the settings larger.
  11. After that, File > Place all tiles into your document in the order you want them to appear as slides in your GIF.
  12. Next, in your Photoshop timeline (Window > Timeline) click “Create Frame Animation“. Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 3.17.24 PM
  13. Create a new slide for each layer in your layers panel by clicking the paper icon (“Duplicate Slide” – boxed in red) on the bottom of the Timeline panel. Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 3.19.51 PM
  14. To customize the next slide, hide the first layer, so that the second tile is shown. Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 3.22.03 PM
  15. Click the duplicate slide button again to create a third slide, and hide the second tile: Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 3.26.10 PM
  16. Repeat this process for all tiles. Each tile should have a different layer shown, with the layers above hidden.

    Click on the image to view the settings larger.
    Click on the image to view the settings larger.
  17. Don’t forget to save often! (CTRL / CMD + S)
  18. When you’re done, and each slide shows a different tile, adjust the time on each slide. This defines the slide’s duration. I’ve set each of my slides for 0.5 seconds. Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 3.30.07 PM
  19. When you’re done setting the time limit for each slide, set the loop options. I’ve chosen “Forever.” At that point, you can click the “Play” button (a tiny > arrow) to test out your animation.Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 3.31.03 PM
  20. Finally, select the first slide, then save your file for web as a GIF. Go to File > Save for Web… and save it as a GIF. Make sure “Forever” is selected under Looping Options to make your GIF loop perpetually.

    Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 3.32.26 PM
    Click to view the settings larger.
  21. Enjoy your GIF! There’s a fun and easy way to animate your handlettering!


Download my LetterPrep Action Pack if you haven’t already. It’s also super useful for general lettering projects, placing your lettering over a photo, or doing basic vectorizing or design prep. And pssssst… If you liked the handmade borders showcased in this tutorial, check this out.


Please contact me if you have any questions, and have fun!

Thoughts? Share them!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s