How to Convert an Image to GIF Format

Most image editors and converter programs can save an image to GIF

Save for Web dialogue box in Photoshop Elements
© S. Chastain

The GIF format is perfect for buttons, headings, logos, banners, and other website objects. Most image editing programs convert PNG, JPG, and other image formats to the GIF format. If the program you use doesn't support the conversion, there are online image to GIF converters and dedicated image converters that support GIF.

For photographic images, like those of people and objects, JPG is the preferred format.

Convert to GIF With a Software Program

The main menu bars of most graphics editors share a similar structure. The main menu is usually located at the top of the program and includes a command to import images. When you find this command, you can convert the image to GIF.

  1. Open the image in your photo editor.

  2. Select File.

  3. Choose Save As. Some programs name this Save, Export, Convert, or Download.

    If available, choose Save for Web to compress the image to save disk space and bandwidth if it'll be used online.

  4. Type a name for the new file.

  5. Select the Save as Type drop-down arrow and choose GIF. Some programs may use different words here, like GIF (Animated), Graphical Interchange Format, or CompuServe (*.GIF).

    If you don't see an option to change the file type, or if GIF isn't an option, go to the bottom of this page to find alternative ways to convert an image to GIF.

  6. Look for an Options button to customize settings specific to the GIF format. These options vary depending on the software, and might even be absent, but include some or all of the following choices:

    • GIF87a or GIF89a: GIF87a does not support transparency or animation. Unless instructed otherwise, choose GIF89a.
    • Interlaced or non-interlaced: Interlaced images download in passes, and appear gradually on the screen as they download. This gives the illusion of faster load time, but it might increase the file size.
    • Color depth: GIF images can have up to 256 unique colors. The fewer colors in the image, the smaller the file size.
    • Transparency: Choose a single color in the image that will be rendered as invisible. This allows the background to show through when the image is viewed on a web page.
    • Dithering: Dithering gives a smoother appearance to areas of color gradations, but also increases file size and download time.
    • Lossy: Adjusting the lossy compression value affects the image quality and the file size. The lower the value, the clearer and larger the image.
  7. Select Save. Depending on the program, this button might be called OK, Convert, or Export.

Some other ways to convert an image to GIF is with a software program designed for image conversions. One example that works on Windows, macOS, and Linux is XnConvert.

Use an Online Image to GIF Converter

If your image editor doesn't support conversion to GIF, or you'd rather use an online service to convert your PNG, JPG, or TIF image to GIF, there are several options.

Zamzar is a free online image converter that can save a variety of image formats to GIF.

  1. Open a web browser and go to Zamzar.com.

  2. Click Add Files to select your image.

  3. Click Convert to and choose gif.

  4. Enter your email address in the text box.

  5. Click Convert to receive an email with a download link to the GIF file.

FileZigZag is another converter that runs in a web browser to convert images to GIF. Similar to Zamzar, your GIF file is sent over email.