I love animated GIFs. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the greatest gift God ever bestowed upon the Internet.
While most Mac users probably think making them requires Photoshop and some superior skills, creating GIFs can be dead-easy for your Mom to do, as long as you know which tools to use.
In fact, iOS 8 has made communicating solely through GIFs easier than ever thanks to third-party keyboards. With just a couple apps and some browser extensions, you can become a GIFmaster in no time and blow your friends away with your arsenal of GIFs.
Here’s how to create your own GIFs in minutes on your Mac.
Before you get started, you’ll need to download the following extensions and apps that make the process go as quickly as possible. For most of the creation process we’ll be using GIF Brewery, but if you’d rather go the free route, Gifrocket is a solid option. It’s still in beta and doesn’t have as many features, but it’s light and wicked fast.
- ClipConverter Extension – Safari and Chrome download here.
- GIFBrewery – iTunes $4.99
- Gifrocket – Beta free
So you’ve found the perfect video that contains 3.5 seconds of prime GIF-ing material. The first challenge is to actually get the video out of the browser and onto your Mac. YouTube’s restrictions have killed a lot of extensions and apps from downloading video content, but some options like ClipConverter are still going strong.
Once you’ve installed the ClipConverter extension on your browser, you can download YouTube videos directly from their page by clicking the ClickConverter MP4 button. If the extension button isn’t showing up for some reason, you can copy the YouTube video URL and paste it directly onto ClipConverter’s website to pry it off YouTube and download to your Mac.
We recommend downloading the highest-quality MP4 file available if you’ve got the storage space. You can always crop and trim the file later. After you’ve finished downloading your MP4 it’s time to open it up with GIFBrewery.
Bonus tip: If you want to grab a video file that’s not on YouTube, or available for direct download, use QuickTime to capture it with a screen recording.
The GIF Factory
GIFBrewery takes the MP4 file you downloaded and converts it into a Web-friendly GIF. Once you open the video file in GIFBrewery, you’ll need to select the starting point and ending point of your GIF. You can click on the timeline at the bottom of the window to jump to any point in the video you want. To fine-tune where to start and stop the GIF, use the + and – buttons for a frame-by-frame breakdown of the video file. Try to narrow it down to just the segment you want, in order to reduce file size.
Before creating your GIF, you’ll need to tweak some properties to make the file small and share-friendly. GIF Preferences gives you the option to specify the total number of frames (default is 24). You can set it to calculate frames automatically if you don’t want the video playback to change, but it will result in a larger file size. To keep your GIF small, use “Reduce the number of colors” and set between 48 and 128 colors on the adjustive palette.
A few algorithms to improve GIF quality can also be added through the properties menu, and you can change the Looping Mode from normal to reverse or palindrome. Depending on how long your video segment is, you should be able to get your GIFs down to 1 or 2MB in size by trying different combos of properties.
When you think you’ve got a winner, click the Create GIF button and the app will show you a preview of your creation that you can discard or save.
For those with Gifrocket instead of GIFBrewery, the options and tools are much more limited. However, you can still make some small changes to your GIF in the settings menu. Before dropping your video file into the Gifrocket window, find out the time intervals for the segment you want to GIF, then open settings and change the start and end times.
Gifrocket also allows you to change your GIF’s width, but there’s no cropping option. There’s a quality slider that can be set to low, medium or high, but no preview of your creation, so you’ll have to look in your Downloads folder for the GIF once it’s hot.
Sharing your creation
Imgur is the Internet’s go-to place to upload GIFs if you want to share with the entire world. The site provides embed code if you want to throw your creation on your blog.
If you want to keep your GIF in your own personal arsenal, you can create a GIFs folder on your iPhone, or there are a few iOS 8 GIF keyboards like PopKey and Riffsy’s GIF Keyboard, that allow you to create your own collection of GIFs to fire off in your next iMessage conversation.