How To Make an Animated GIF (aka. automated slideshow) in GIMP…

Stacy (from Visual Venturing) asked me how I make my automated slideshows.  The answer was more than a brief reply and I thought I’d write a quick tutorial in case others were interested as well.

The automated slideshows are actually just animated .gif files.  I make them using GIMP*.

You can make an animated .gif file by stacking several images (like .jpg) up in layers in the order you wish, with the first frame on the bottom of the stack and the last frame on the top of the stack.

You can also make an animated .gif file from each of the layers on one image – the caveat being that when GIMP saves your image it treats each layer as if it was normal blend mode on 100% opacity.  What that means is that you will most likely need to create a few New-From-Visible layers to have the frame look like the layer as you see it (if it has a blend mode or opacity different from the default).  This is usually the method I use when showing how I altered an image in my tutorials.

For an example I made this quick little example .gif …


My image is already resized to the size I want my slideshow to be, for this blog I usually go with long side 500px.

Let’s look at what this gif image looks like in GIMP with all its layers (click to enlarge)…


Even though I have frames 2-5 at 50% opacity, the final gif image treated them as 100% opacity.  That works just fine for this image, but it probably won’t be what you want for other images.

For the images where you want each frame to represent what you see when you have blend modes and opacity levels you’ll need to go to Layer->New From Visible to create a frame that is as you would see it at 100% opacity and normal blend mode.

Because of this, I always work from a copy of my gimp file (.xcf) so that I can make these big changes without destroying my work.  Keep in mind that the only layers you want to have when you make your .gif file are the ones that will make each frame (delete the rest).

Once you have all your layers (frames), go to File->Export As (seen in previous image).

From here you will choose your name and extension for this file.  Change the extension to .gif, then click on the Export button (click to enlarge)…

You will get a prompt of gif options.  Make sure you check the As animation box.  I usually like to set my delay between frames to 1000 milliseconds.  Then click the Export button…


After a few seconds, you will find your .gif file where you saved it.  If you feel that your delay between frames is too fast or too slow, simply repeat the Export-As steps and change the delay between frames value.

When I put these two .gif files next to each other, I needed to add a beat to each of them at different places…

To add a beat, simply duplicate the layer where additional time is needed.

I hope that you got something out of this tutorial and that you will try it (or parts of it) out. Please let me know if you do and tell me how it went.

Until next time…

* GIMP is Open Source software that is available for all platforms (Linux, Mac, and Windows), it is a photo editor that does many (if not all) of the things you can do in Photoshop. You can download it for free here. The GIMP online manual can be found here.

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