How I made a winning GIF for #GIFITUP2021

Making a GIF from concept to completion

1. Come up with a concept

For GIF IT UP 2021 I wanted one of my submissions to reflect on the past year, using cultural heritage material to make a new image that relates to our current world.

2021 felt like the year that the facemask was being lifted, with many countries removing the requirement to wear a mask (which may change again soon!) Now I needed an image that could play with that idea. I imagined someone taking off their mask after having it on for a very long time, and suddenly saw a big unexpected beard unfurl from behind the mask – there was my concept!

2. Find the right picture

I logged in to my account on the Europeana website and searched for ‘beard’. I set the filters for:

  • type of media: image
  • can I use this: yes

I also had to edit the list of institutions in the search results to unselect those that showed images that didn’t serve my purpose, like archival pictures of plants.

Now I had a good list of pictures to trawl through, and soon enough I stumbled on the perfect image from the Wellcome Collection. I saved it to my collection, ‘Pictures that make great funny GIFs‘ to work on later.

A gynaecologist strokes his long red beard. Colour process print by C. Josef, c. 1930. by Carl Josef – Wellcome Collection, United Kingdom – CC BY.

3. Make a GIF

To get the GIF I wanted I needed 3 basic poses to tell my story:

  1. Man wearing a facemask.
  2. Man removing facemask.
  3. Beard unfurling from behind facemask.
Using A gynaecologist strokes his long red beard. Colour process print by C. Josef, c. 1930. by Carl Josef – Wellcome Collection, United Kingdom – CC BY.

To achieve this I used Photoshop to:

  1. Cut the hand out of the original picture (with the polygonal lasso tool) onto its own layer so it could move to remove the mask.
  2. Remodel the background where the hand left a blank. I did this by selecting the visible side of the collar with the polygonal lasso tool, copying and pasting it, and mirroring it to fill in the space under the hand.
  3. Draw a blue facemask and a billowing beard with the brush tool.

Then I opened the Timeline window in Photoshop to start setting up frames for the animation.

4. Bring life to the animation

With the basic building blocks in place, I now needed to add reactions caused by the main movements, which bring some life into the GIF.

For example, he pulls on the mask, so his ears need to react to the tug.

Then it was a matter of playing around with the timing of each frame until it looked cohesive.

Nisha Alberti (Edinburgh, Scotland) Source material: A gynaecologist strokes his long red beard. C. Josef, c. 1930 |
Wellcome Collection via Europeana

What’s your concept for a GIF?

There you have it, a GIF from concept to completion! I hope you are inspired to think of a concept for a GIF you’d like to make… you have plenty of time to work on it before October 2022 comes around! In the meantime I recommend setting up an account on the Europeana website so you have somewhere to save the images you find until you get time to work on them.

For example I have collections on:

Thanks GIF IT UP 2021!

Make sure to take a look at some of the other GIFs created in response to GIF IT UP 2021. I love the winning entry for the sports category, makes me dizzy just looking at it!

Three stages of a GIF: man with blue facemask; man removing mask; big beard exploding from beneath mask.
Mareks Ziemelis (Liepāja, Latvia) Source material: Turnerinnen am Reck | Museum of Arts and Crafts, Hamburg via Europeana.

Published by scissorsandglueandyou

I am an Edinburgh-based digital collager with a masters degree in human geography. I like thinking about things (stuff, belongings, objects), walking (aimlessly, purposefully, tours, alone, together), and finding lost coins.

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