Animated GIFs are a great way to demonstrate a series of changes. Here we are going through the process of creating an animage GIF using the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). We previously discussed how to create Animated GIFs With Adobe Photoshop CS5. If Adobe Photoshop isn’t available, it is of course possible to do this task with other programs. GIMP is very powerful and available for free – you can download it from the GIMP download page.

Summary for those who don’t need the details:

  • open GIMP
  • load the image files: File -> Open Layers…
  • select the images for the animation -> click Open
    • reorder the image layers if necessary
  • preview the animation: Filters -> Animation -> Playback
  • save the animation: File -> Export As…
    • set GIF file type, output folder and set name – click Export
    • set GIF options – click Export
  • done

The Details

The images we are going to animate are the same set that we used with Photoshop previously. These images demonstrate dragging the fill handle in Excel as shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1: The Microsft Excel Fill Handle

The fill handle is the small green square shown in the bottom right corner of the selected range in Excel. When dragged to the right, Excel looks for patterns in each row and adds new values to the newly selected cells based on those patterns. The animation will demonstrate the fill handle moving to the right, one column at a time.

Start by opening GIMP – I have a shortcut for GIMP 2.10.24 in my Start Menu but yours may be different.

The important point with this process is that we are going to open the set of images we want to animate as layers and then combine those layers into a single animated image file.

Begin by loading the images: File -> Open as Layers… as shown in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2: GIMP Open as Layers… Dialog

Note that GIMP has different themes available, so your interface may be darker than the screenshots shown here. To change the theme, go to: Edit -> Preferences, and in the Interface section find the Theme area. The images shown here use the Light theme in GIMP. Select the set of files you wish to animate and click the Open button as shown in Fig. 3.

Fig. 3: GIMP Selecting Files

The image files are loaded into GIMP and appear in the Layers panel of Fig. 4.

Fig. 4: GIMP Image Layers

The order of the images can be changed by grabbing the image thumbnail or name with the left mouse button and dragging to the desired order in the Layers panel. Note that the frames are played from the bottom up so order accordingly.

To view the animation, go to the Filters menu, Animation and then Playback… Use the VCR controls to play and pause the animation. If it plays too quickly, slow it down to 0.25x speed as shown in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5: GIMP Animation Playback

Once the animation plays frames in the desired order, save the animated GIF by selecting File -> Export As… to open the Export Image dialog shown in Fig. 6.

Fig. 6: GIMP Export Image Dialog

In the “Select File Type” section, select GIF image. Browse to the folder that you would like to save the animation, and type a file name into the name box near the top of the dialog and click on the Export button. The final step is to choose some GIF specific options in the Export Image as GIF dialog shown in Fig. 7.

Fig. 7: Export Image as GIF Dialog

In the Export Image as GIF dialog we can set some important options:

  • make sure “As animation” is selected
  • “Loop forever” is a good choice unless you want it to stop playing
  • select the length of time each frame is displayed – we can set this value here since we want all the frames to display for 0.5 seconds, that is 500 milliseconds
    • select “Use delay entered above for all frames”

After you’ve set the values you want, click on the Export button and your animated GIF will be saved. The result for this example is shown in Fig. 8.

Fig. 8: Animated GIF Created With GIMP