gif sharpening tutorial

This is a method for sharpening gifs without having to click each frame and layer to sharpen them individually.

Update July 28th, 2012: I fixed all the download links and switched them over to Mediafire. Let me know if any of them go down or if you have any problems with them.

For basic HQ gif making on a Mac go here for my tutorial, for on a PC try this one.

Important sharpening tips:

  • Okay so first things first: if you want nice looking gifs you need to try and use 720p video (usually this is the video in mkv form). I know sometimes it’s impossible to find, especially for interviews and things on Youtube, but if you can, use 720p. It makes a huge difference.
  • That said, I find that not all video marked 720p is the same. I use two different options to sharpen gifs: either Filter —> Sharpen —> Sharpen, or Filter —> Sharpen —> Sharpen More. If you’re stuck using 480p video, only use Sharpen, Sharpen More will make it look really grainy. For 720p video it’s kind of a judgment call which to use, but I prefer Sharpen More.
  • If you are making a photoset, make sure you have the gifs sized down to the right widths. For two gifs across, the width is 245 px. If you have your gifs sized to 250 px across, they will be squished down a bit and this makes them look fuzzy. So make sure you have the right widths set before you upload.
  • Also: you should always sharpen BEFORE sizing your gif down. Every time you size down you lose information, it won’t matter if you went to the trouble to use HQ video if you size down before sharpening.

Now to get to the actual method of sharpening gifs. I didn’t come up with this method, I’ve seen it mentioned a few times on Tumblr. But I did expand it a little bit and combine it into an action so I decided it warrants its own tutorial. There are basically two halves to this method so I’m going to break it up that way. I use the whole thing and it’s the first thing I do before any other editing. If you just use the first half I recommend it being the last thing you do (and then resize after).

This may seem a little complicated but the best part is that I’ve made actions for this method so you don’t have to do the same thing over and over again, you can just select all the layers, run the action, it will do all these steps for you, and all your frames will be sharpened.

One last thing: if you are doing this manually (and I recommend at least doing that once so you understand what it’s doing), it’s really important that you do all of these steps in the right order, if you do anything out of order it will mess the whole thing up.

Part One:

  • Select all the base layers. By this I mean just the layers you got originally, not any adjustment layers if you have added them already (so that you can still alter those after this) and definitely not any text layers, it will make them look weird.
  • Convert the animation to Timeline Animation by clicking the little symbol in the bottom right of the animation box here.
  • Convert to Smart Object by right clicking all the layers you’ve selected and selecting that option like this.
  • Sharpen by going to Filter —> Sharpen —> Sharpen, or Filter —> Sharpen —> Sharpen More.

If I am not doing part 2 then I do this last before resizing.

Action for Part One: Now doing all these same steps over and over again is kind of annoying, which is why I made an action of this. The most important thing to remember if you use this action: select all the base layers BEFORE you run it, or it won’t work. Download. This includes options for either Sharpen or Sharpen More.

Part One is great, but I don’t like editing things in Timeline, so Part Two is to convert back to frame animation. If you use Part Two it needs to be either the first or last thing you do.

Part Two:

  • Go to the menu in the animation window (here) and select Flatten Frames Into Layers. This step basically takes all of the adjustments you used (in this case, sharpening) and combines them into each layer. If you have added adjustment layers already, it will combine them in as well and you won’t be able to edit them, which is why this should be either the first or last thing you do. (Unrelated sidenote: you can also use this feature when you’re in frame animation, it’s really useful for when you’re combining multiple gifs into one and don’t want their adjustments to affect each other.)
  • Switch back to frame animation by clicking this box.
  • Delete the leftover smart object on the bottom of your layers, you don’t need it anymore (here).
  • Go back to the animation window menu and select Make Frames From Layers.
  • Change the looping option back to forever (it will have been changed to once).
  • Make sure to change the delay speed (I usually use .15 or .2) because it will have been changed to 0. This part is not included in the action.

Now your frames are sharpened and you can edit them in frame animation!

Action for Part Two: I did make a separate action for this part in case you want to run the first action, do some editing, and then run the second. I know some people like working in Timeline and there are some things that are easier doing that way so here you go. Download.

Action for the entire process: This is what I use. Like I’ve mentioned, I do it before anything else. Then I size and crop the gif by setting the crop settings to the exact size that I want, like this. The most important thing to remember: you have to select all the base layers first, THEN run the action. Otherwise it won’t work.  If you didn’t select them you will get an error message that says the command Make Frames From Layers didn’t work. Download. Again, this includes options for either Sharpen or Sharpen More.

How to use the actions:

  • Just download them, double click, and they should show up in Photoshop. You may need to quit and reopen before they appear.
  • Go to Window —> Actions, select which action you want to use, then press play. Remember: to use this method you need to select all the base layers before you run the action. That is really important, otherwise you’re just sharpening one frame.
  • If you need to go back for any reason (like if you accidentally forgot to select all the layers), go to History. It should be in the same box as your Actions. If it’s not, go to Window —> History to get to it. Then you can just click the last thing you did before you ran the action like this.

I hope this was helpful! I know it’s kind of long, but I like to be as in depth as possible. If any of it needs explaining, if any of the links are dead, or if you have any other questions, please feel free to drop by my ask box.

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