How to Create Animated GIFs When You Don’t Have the Best Set-up

GIF animations have quickly become more popular than still images for social media postings, especially on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. Posts that include GIFs are likely to get higher numbers of likes, reblogs or favorites. Making them was initially mystifying to me, but once I sat down to watch a few videos and read through a few tutorials: it’s not nearly that difficult. What I’m working with: GIMP on my iMac and an iPad app called 5-Second GIF, which is available free from the iOS app store.

Option #1: When Photoshop Isn’t an Option: GIMP

First: Get the Video Clip

Where you get the video clip is entirely up to you, whether you’ve shot it yourself, ripped it, downloaded it, etc. In cases of the latter two, I don’t know and frankly don’t care if you obtained it whilst breaking any (dubiously enforced) digital copyright laws. Let’s just not ask and not tell on that one, shall we?

Anyway, once you have the video you want, trim it in your video editing software to between one and two minutes. This will reduce the size and make the section of video much easier to work with in GIMP.

Next: Get GAP

Like a lot of these cases, you need to find and install an extra plug-in for GIMP. This one for GIFs is called GAP. Where to find it largely depends on who you ask, but the easiest way is to google “GIMP GAP download.” One of the more reliable sites to find it is Be sure you find the version compatible with your system if you’re using a version of Mac OS X, particularly if you’re not using the most current version like I am. Once you’ve correctly installed GAP, you should see a “Video” menu option in the options bar the next time you open GIMP. You should then be able to open, trim, edit and save the GIF you want with the tools included in the GAP package.

Option #2: Using iPad + the 5S GIF app

If you’re looking for a simpler, more user-friendly option, you may want to look into mobile apps that allow you to pull video clips from your library. You can then convert them to GIFs and share them on your blog or social profiles. I tried a few different ones and so far the best one I found is the paid ($1.99) version of 5S GIF, available in the app store. It allows you to make up to 10-second GIFs, though most would agree those are a bit long, and it also comes ad-free. Since my mobile devices won’t sync to my iMac (long story), email’s absolutely essential for transferring files from it to my iPad. I simply trim the video clip so it fits easily as an email attachment. A word of caution for Mac users: it’s a lot less of a headache to work with a .mov file instead of a .mp4 file; the latter takes 84 years per file to load into my video editor 🙂 Finally, once you’ve pulled and saved the clip to your iPad library, you can pull it into 5S GIF, create the GIF you want and then share it to your Tumblr and/or Instagram. As of this writing, it appears not to include direct sharing to Twitter, but hopefully that’ll be added in the future to this app.