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

Most image editing programs support converting images to the GIF format. However, if the program you use doesn't support the conversion, there are also lots of online image to GIF converters and dedicated image converters that support GIF.

You might want to convert PNG, JPG, or some other image format to GIF for buttons, headings, logos, banners, and other website objects. Keep in mind, however, that for photographic images, like that of people and objects, JPG is the preferred format.

Converting to GIF With a Software Program

Nearly every graphics editor shares a similar structure when it comes to the main menu bar. It's usually located at the top of the program and includes one used specifically for importing images, from where you can often convert the image to GIF.

  1. Open the image in your photo editor.

  2. Click File.

  3. Click Save As.

    Some programs might name this Save, Export, Convert, or something else that means to "save," like Download.

    If the program has a Save for Web option, use that instead so that the image can be compressed to save disk space and, ultimately, bandwidth if it'll be used online.

  4. Type a name for the new file.

  5. Select GIF from the Save as Type drop-down menu.

    Some programs might use different words here, like GIF (Animated), Graphical Interchange Format, or CompuServe (*.GIF).

    If you don't see where you change the file type, or GIF isn't an option, skip down to the bottom of this page for some 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 more than likely will include some or all of the following choices:

    • GIF87a or GIF89a: GIF87a does not support transparency or animation. Unless you've been instructed otherwise, you should choose GIF89a.
    • Interlaced or non-interlaced: Interlaced images download in passes, and so appear gradually on the screen as they download. This can give 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 your image, the smaller the file size will be.
    • Transparency: You can choose a single color in the image that will be rendered as invisible, allowing 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 can also increase file size and download time.
    • Lossy: Adjusting the lossy compression value directly affects both the image quality and file size. The lower the value, the clearer and larger the image.
  7. Click Save.

  8. Depending on the program, this button might instead 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.

Online Image to GIF Converters

If your image editor doesn't support conversion to GIF, or you'd rather use an online service to convert your PNG, JPG, TIF, etc., to GIF, you have plenty of options.

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

  1. Click Choose Files to select your image.

  2. Pick gif for Step 2.

  3. Enter your email address in the text box.

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

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