How to make an animated gif from your step by step painting photos

How to make an animated gif from your step by step painting photos

How to make an animated gif from your painting step by step shots

If your paintings or canvases are really tiny it can be tricky to get a camera close enough for a time lapse video of your art in the making.

Three things tend to bugger up the process (for me at least):

  • my head gets in the way
  • my phone runs out of battery
  • transferring the enormous video file is a pain in the butt

Enter the GIF – (giff or jiff) however you say it – a tiny animated medium perfect for showcasing the creation of your tiny art.

I’m going to show you in a few simple steps how to turn your progress snaps of your art into a very cool animated gif like this one below.

What you’ll need to make a gif the way I did it:

  1. A phone that can take good photos
  2. Photoshop (and a basic understanding of how to use it)
  3.  A background image (I prefer doing it this way so literally only the painting transitions – it helps to avoid viewers of your gif from being overcome with dizzyness and nausea!)

 If you don’t have photoshop, you may want to check out some free gif making sites on the web. There are many. Here’s one I tried a while back before decided I preferred doing it myself.

Gyphy – However then your gif is loaded onto an account you need to create with them. Make sure you set it to private if you don’t want others to use it.

Some things to keep in mind while taking progress pics of your art:

  • Try to photograph your progress snaps in the same light.
  • Keep the camera lens as parallel to your work as you can to avoid perspective warp that you then have to fix in photoshop later.

Let’s quickly touch on why making a gif of your progress shots is a neat idea:

  • You have some engaging and interesting content to share on your social media
  • You can teach others how to create a specific technique by showing the step shots
  • You might inspire others to paint if they can see how yours came to life
  • It’s a nice value add for a customer who ordered a commissioned painting
  • It’s a good way of showing other potential clients your work quality


Step by step process for creating a gif from your art process.

I’m going to skip the part where you’ve taken intermittent photos of your painting on a table or easel. I feel like that’s pretty obvious. If not – you’ll need to take about 10-15 snaps of your work as you’re painting. There. Covered.

art print packaging

1. First, drop all your individual photos of your progress shots into photoshop.

2. Next, create a single new document in photoshop (I recommend 1000 x 1000 px wide to make it Instagram friendly).

3. Then drop your desired background image into your new document. Let’s call it the GIF document. I find it quite neat to use a background image that has one of your art works of the same size on it in a more stylised setting, like in a frame or in your hand or on an easel so the changing painting comes to life in a lovely setting. Also the framework of your existing art work on that background will be the template area where you place each layer of your progress pics. So make sure they’re the same size artworks for scale and ration purposes.

4. Then go back to your first progress pic and, using the select tool to isolate only the canvas or paper of your art work, select, then copy your artwork and paste it onto a new layer on your GIF document.

5. IMPORTANT STEP: Name the layers in your GIF document as you create them. Something easy like 1, 2, 3 etc – just for clarity and organisation’s sake and incase they get muddled you’ll know what the order was!

6. Do this with all your layers until you have one document with a background and each painting progress pic as a separate layer. Don’t worry if they don’t align just yet.

7. Make sure each layer is converted to a smart object. You can do this by right clicking on the layer and converting it to a smart object. Tada. It’s rocket science, I know. 🙂

8. Then make sure the layers are arranged in order of 1-10 (or however many you have – note the more you have the faster you will have to scroll through them, Instagram only allows for 15 sec videos! so 15 slides can transition at 1 sec per slide etc. You can do the math)

9. Next up, you want to hide all layers except layer 1 and your background image.

10. Align the corners of your progress pic in layer 1 to the corners of the artwork on your background image. You can do this by selecting perspective warp or perspective skew.

11. The unhide layer 2 and do the same. It’s helpful if there are edged on your painting that you can also check to line up.

12. Before you move on to the next layer toggle the one you’re working on on and off to see if you’re happy with the alignment and the transition from one to the next. If it’s still too jumpy, keep tinkering until they match up.

13. Do this until you’ve finished aligning all your progress pic layers.

14. Create a closing slide – something simple with your brand/ name and or website on it. It makes the whole thing look professional. You can even add a private note to you client if it’s something you’re making as a value add.

15. Now, save out each layer with the background in view as separate jpeg files. You can do this by hiding them all, unhiding the background and layer one and then saving it out as “PaintingLayer1” or something like that.

16. Now you should have 10 (or more) slides of progress steps, each with the same background image, at the same size.

17. Drop “PaintingLayer1” back into photoshop as a new document and then drop all other into the same one.

18. Now comes the fun part. Open Timeline under Window at your top menu bar and select ‘Create frame animation’ from the dropdown. You should see a new window open at the bottom of your main window.

19. It will have a single button like prompt in it. Click on that dropdown menu and select ‘create new layer for each frame’.

20.Then, select all your layers in the right hand layer panel and with them selected go back into your timeline window and in the top right corner of that timeline window, click on the burger menu and select ‘make frames from layers’.

21. Set the interval (bottom left) to either 1 sec or 0.5 seconds. I suggest letting your final logo layer play for 2 sec so that it’s actually legible.

22. Press play to see your gif in action and see if you’re happy with it.

23. Then to save it out, go to Save – File – Export – Save for Web – Save as GIF (dropdown by Jpeg) – select highest number of colours and presto.

You’ve made a transitioning gif from your art.

Because Instagram doesn’t accept GIF files (or at least didn’t at the time of writing this article), you need to convert your gif to an mp4 file which you can do using a free online gif to mp4 converter. Just make sure it’s under 15 seconds to be compatible with Instagram.

I hope that was helpful for you!

If you do create any timelapse gif animations using this tiny tutorial – please tag it #mininaturestudio so I can admire and share your work too!

Have a good one!



Beautiful header image from Content Pixie on Unsplash