How to make a great GIF

GIF IT UP logo with animated hammer and paint brush

Learn how GIF IT UP participants find inspiration and bring cultural heritage to life

Aleksandra Strzelichowska (s'ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre) (Europeana Foundation)

Every year at Europeana we’re amazed by the quality and diversity of the entries submitted for GIF IT UP. But how do people find fascinating content and come up with creative ideas? What inspires them and what software do they use? Let’s go behind the scenes and join three former participants on their creative journeys.

From collages to animation - Nisha Alberti

Grand Prize Winner GIF IT UP 2020, Nisha Alberti (Edinburgh, Scotland)

‘I use websites like Europeana to find openly licensed images that work well as collages, and GIF IT UP really inspired me to try animating my collages. When making a GIF, I try to make the picture do something surprising or unexpected. I usually use Photoshop to work on the picture. First, I cut out the image that I want to animate. Then I edit the background of the image so I'm free to move the image in the foreground around without any blank spaces appearing behind it.

One tip I received that really improves how my GIFs look is to make sure that each action also creates a little reaction on the side. For example, if something is about to jump, let it crouch down slightly before lifting off. Or if someone stops moving, let their clothing continue moving slightly before settling.’

See Nisha’s art on scissorsandglueandyou.com or find her on Instagram @Nisha.Alberti.

GIF scenarios and sharing the enthusiasm with others - Damien Petermann

GIF IT UP 2020 entry, Damien Petermann (Lyon, France)

‘The hardest thing for me with GIF-making is finding a good idea. I spend a lot of time looking for inspiration on GLAM websites like Europeana, and I prefer public domain images and Open GLAM collections because they allow free reuse of digital content. For example, on Europeana, I always use the "Can I use this?" filter to make sure that the images I find are freely editable and reusable.

I especially like to work with simple images like medieval illuminations, posters and prints with strong lines. Sometimes I create GIFs from a single image, but I also like to combine elements from several images. I mostly use image editing software like Photoshop for the different steps (clipping, background filling, animation), but last year I tried out the online tool Construct and created my most finished GIF (the one about Death) with it. The editing work in the software can be very time consuming (often more than 10 hours!) because there is a constant back and forth between the conception (ideas) and the technical realisation. Sometimes what I had imagined doesn't work or I need to go and find another element to add.

Now, to be more efficient, I really try to write a precise scenario of the scene I want to create, by breaking down the actions and specifying the necessary elements for each frame. I find that this allows me to make progress and to limit the number of unsuccessful attempts! Finally, I test the animation several times to find the time interval that gives the most fluid visual result. I really like to animate still images that already represent an activity of movement (at a standstill), because I feel that these images are just waiting to be put in motion! This is the case of my GIF created from a tourist poster for Brittany which shows a passing train or the one about the angel and his trumpet (for GIF IT UP 2019).’

I created my own GIPHY channel to present my GIF creations, as well as a Twitter account (and soon a website) to talk about 2D animation of public domain images. And I'm trying to motivate my friends to get involved too: last year my little sister also participated in GIF IT UP!

Making art a little bit more alive - Tiphaine Touzeil (artist name Pamela Chougne)

‘My name is Tiphaine Touzeil but my « artist » name is Pamela Chougne. I like to make GIFs with paintings, especially portraits and medieval illustrations. I mostly use Photoshop software to make the GIFs in which I animate paintings or illustrations.

I try to tell a little story through my GIFs; I particularly like it when a painting comes to life. I have the impression and also the ambition, in a certain way, to make art a little more alive and to allow, via the GIF, a larger public to discover works that are sometimes unknown or forgotten.’

GIF IT UP 2020 entry, Pamela Chougne (Perpignan, France)

On my Twitter account, I shared 3 tutorials where I explain how I work, here they are (in French) https://twitter.com/PamelaChougne2/status/1354463700795727882

Visit the Pamela Chougne GIPHY account and follow her on Twitter @PamelaChougne2.

Feeling inspired? Now it’s your turn! Find your favourite items, create your own gallery of GIF-able images and create your own short animation. Even if you have never created a GIF, it’s a great skill to learn. The First Time GIF-maker prize is waiting for you.