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

You might want to convert PNG, JPG, or some other image format to GIF for buttons, headings, logos, banners, and other website objects. 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.

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.

  1. Open the image in your photo editor.

  2. Select File > Save As.

    Photoshop with File menu displayed
  3. Instead of Save As, some programs might name this function Save, Export, Convert, Download, or something else similar in meaning.

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

  4. Type a name for the new file.

    Photoshop with Save As dialog box displayed
  5. From the Save as Type or Format drop-down menu, select GIF.

    Instead of GIF, some programs might name this function GIF (Animated), Graphical Interchange Format, or CompuServe (*.GIF).

    If you don't see where to change the file type, or GIF isn't an option, skip to the bottom of this article for alternative ways to convert an image to GIF.

  6. At this point, or after you select Save (see #7), 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 doesn't support transparency or animation. Unless you've been instructed otherwise, choose GIF89a.
    • Interlaced or non-interlaced: Interlaced images download in passes, and so appear gradually on the screen as they download. This process 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.
    Photoshop with Indexed Color dialog box displayed
  7. Select Save. Instead of Save, some programs might name this function OK, Convert, or Export.

Software and Online Image to GIF Converters

Another way 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.

If you'd rather use an online service to convert your PNG, JPG, TIF, or another type of file to GIF, you have plenty of options. For example, Zamzar is a free online image converter that can save a variety of image formats to GIF. Here's how it works:

  1. To choose your image, select Add Files.

    Zamzar home page
  2. To choose your format, select Choose Format > gif.

    Zamzar website with Choose Format menu displayed
  3. Select Convert Now. A progress bar appears.

    Zamzar in the process of converting a file to GIF format
  4. Select Download, then choose a location for the file.

    Zamzar with converted file ready to download
  5. You now have a version of your image in GIF format.

FileZigZag is another converter that runs in your web browser to convert images to GIF.