Hello friends! Recently I’ve been receiving TONS of questions about my GIF stickers, so I figured I would make a detailed guide to show you:
1) How to make GIF stickers
2) How to come up with ideas for your stickers
3) How to get them on GIPHY + social media
When I first started making GIF stickers back in May/June of last year, I had no idea where to start. Because this information wasn’t publicly available anywhere at the time, nothing would show up no matter how many different ways I would Google it. So, I started trying out different methods. After about a month of trial-and-error (and lots of hair pulling), I figured out the correct way to make GIF stickers, get them on GIPHY, and have them seen globally!
First—what exactly is a GIF?
A GIF (graphic interchange format) a is a specific file type that allows animations to loop continuously without having a large file size. In order for this to be possible, each image file within a GIF is compressed to a smaller size. Each compressed image frame is then encoded into a single image file that will automatically play the animation sequence when web browsers read it. Think of it like a flip book—the book (GIF) is made up of multiple pages (image frames) that are static individually, but then appear to animate in sequence when the book is flipped through!
Okay, so how is a GIF different from a GIF sticker?
This is the definition that GIPHY provides:
A sticker is an (animated) GIF with transparent pixels. To be considered a sticker, at least 20% of the first frame must be transparent, and the source file must be a GIF. Transparent videos won't work here. We sort stickers separately from GIFs, and they have their own API as well. This API powers the sticker experience for tons of different apps, with various uses from messaging to photo editing.
Is it “GIF” or “JIF”?
I’m sure some of you have been wondering about this! Steve Wilhite, the inventor of the GIF, says that it’s actually pronounced “JIF” (yes, like the peanut butter). However, lots of people argue that it should be pronounced like “GIF” with a hard G. I find myself saying both at times (ha!) so I guess it’s like poh-tay-toh, poh-tah-toh.
IDEAS FOR YOUR GIF STICKERS
Want to make some stickers, but not sure where to start? There are almost infinite possibilities when it comes to sticker ideas! First, think about why you want to start a GIPHY account. Is it to promote your brand? Because you want to learn a new medium? Or maybe you just want to make fun stickers and share them with the world? None of these answers are wrong!
If you aren’t sure about what type of sticker to make, I would recommend doing a bit of research. When you use GIF stickers on social media, what words/phrases do you personally search for? If you search a certain phrase that only has a few designs, then creating a sticker to fill that gap in the system is a good place to start. Or you can just start making whatever designs pop into your head—the options are limitless!
Your stickers can be complex, but they can also be very simple! A twirling flower, altering colors, or making sparkles twinkle are all great examples of how a simple GIF sticker can be very effective. Even changing shapes/lines in a subtle way will give the illusion of movement.
SOME THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Time of year. Is a certain holiday or event coming up? If you add seasonal GIFs a week or two ahead, they will have time to upload into the system. Plus, more people will be searching for GIFs on that day, which will get you more views!
Has it been done before? Always always always search within GIPHY to see if your sticker idea has been done before! If it’s not an original idea, like a flower or a heart, you can make it unique by putting your own spin on it that doesn’t exist in the system yet. Just don’t copy what has already been done!
Themes. Trying to stay consistent or on-brand? Coming up with a solid color scheme will help your GIFs tie into each other (if that’s what you want). Looking for a theme? Simple things like food, holidays, or phrases are all great ideas. You could even make themed sets of GIFs!
Now that I’ve covered the basics, let’s start making some stickers!
HOW TO MAKE GIF STICKERS
There are multiple ways to make GIF stickers, so it all comes down to what programs you’re comfortable with!
I personally use a combination of Adobe Photoshop + Illustrator, as well as the ProCreate app with my iPad Pro + Apple Pencil. GIPHY also has its own GIF-maker in their app/website, but just remember to have a transparent background on your slides so that it can be considered a sticker! Below is an example of a transparent file vs. a non-transparent file:
GIPHY also made a guide for sticker creation best practices, which is VERY helpful when first starting out. Make sure you pay extra attention to your file type (.GIF), color mode (RGB only), and matte setting (none). There is no limit on file size because GIPHY automatically resizes GIFs upon upload, but I would recommend having a minimum file size of 500px to avoid having super grainy animations. I typically work larger (between 1000px and 2000px) so that I can use my GIFs anywhere and not have to worry about pixelation. Also be sure to have your frames fill up as much of the canvas as possible—you don’t want to have a large canvas with a tiny GIF on it!
For the actual step-by-step process within Photoshop, I’ll list some helpful resources below:
This simple tutorial by Adobe Creative Cloud
This video guide from The Verge
This GIF-making guide from Hootsuite
HOW TO GET YOUR GIF STICKERS ON INSTAGRAM
1. CREATE A CHANNEL ON GIPHY
To do this, just head on over to the GIPHY website and create an account.
2. UPLOAD YOUR GIF STICKERS
Before you can even think about applying for an artist channel, GIPHY requires that you publicly upload a minimum of 5 GIF stickers to your account, although 10 is recommended. If you are going to apply for a company/brand channel, you are allowed to upload the stickers on private mode.
Note: Make sure that the stickers you’re uploading are 100% yours.
3. APPLY FOR AN ARTIST/BUSINESS CHANNEL
You’ve uploaded your GIF stickers to your account—now what? It’s time to send GIPHY a request for verification! Yep, you’re applying for that little blue checkmark that tells everyone that you’re #verified. Being verified is a crucial step in the process of making your GIFs viewable in GIPHY’s search engine and API system. There are two types of verification offered: artist verification OR brand/business verification. To read the differences between the two applications, click here.
Once you have decided which channel type you’re applying for, upload your stickers and apply!
4. PUT ON YOUR PATIENCE CAP
Now it’s just a waiting game! There is currently no set time window for being approved by GIPHY. It can take anywhere from a week to a month to hear back from them because of the amount of applications they receive each day. If you don’t hear back right away, don’t stress! Instead I would recommend focusing on making more stickers for your account, or on another project altogether.
Note 1: Please understand that being verified by GIPHY is NOT a guarantee. If you follow all of their required steps you have a higher chance of being approved, but it is possible to be declined.. Also—it is easier for an artist to be verified compared to a small brand/business. However, artists are not allowed to upload GIFs relating to anyone else’s brand but their own. If a brand wants stickers made, they themselves need to create their own brand channel to submit for verification.
Note 2: Once you are approved it will take a while for your stickers to become visible within GIPHY’s system, meaning that they won’t be searchable juuust yet. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days for them to be loaded into the system. If you want to speed up the process, you can add a rating to your stickers upon upload (G, PG, PG-13, R) to to give them a little boost.
5. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE HASHTAGS
In order for your stickers to be seen, they must be searchable! GIPHY uses tags for their search system, and learning how to utilize it will be the key to having successful GIFs. When you first upload a sticker, you have the option to add tags to it. This isn’t mandatory, so you can always go back and add them in later if you want.
Below is an example of how I tagged one of my stickers:
As you can see I didn’t just tag “moon” and “stars” to the sticker— I tagged everything related to the entire theme of my sticker. If you aren’t sure what to tag, think about what you personally search for when using GIPHY. If you search for something a certain way, chances are that someone else does too!
Also notice what I didn’t tag: dog, cat, celebrity, ice cream, etc. Out of respect, please don’t randomly spam-tag your stickers. Not only is it annoying to flood a certain tag with unrelated stickers, but it just isn’t right.
When you tag your stickers properly they have a higher chance of getting more views, and they might even be featured on GIPHY’s rotating list of trending stickers! If one of your stickers is trending, it’s placed on the front page when you go to search for a sticker on Instagram and Snapchat. That front page is viewed by millions of people! It gives your stickers some great exposure, and also helps you rack up more GIF views.
Another great way to make your stickers searchable is to have a consistent tag that your followers can use to find you.
I tag my brand name “the uncommon place” on all of my stickers, as well as “uncommon place” and “katie thierjung”. This ensures that no matter which way my followers search for me within GIPHY, they will always be able to find me!
6. GIPHY RULES
Believe it or not, there are rules on GIPHY! They are all pretty self-explanatory, but I recommend reading through their community guidelines first just in case you aren’t sure about something. Here are the Golden Rules listed on their website:
Keep GIFS Friendly: The purpose of GIFS is to add a bit of fun to our online lives, so keep your GIFS friendly. Do not create or upload any GIF meant to hurt another individual.
Respect Privacy: It’s important to respect and honor the privacy and consent of the individuals depicted in your GIFS. Make sure you’re authorized to use any video or images from the appropriate people before you use them to make a GIF.
Credit the Community: People work hard to make their GIFs, and we want to make sure they get their proper dues. Help us support the community by using GIPHY’s share tools to make sure that the original creator is getting credit for the work.
Sharing: Sharing is great. Please use GIPHY's embed options, available on each GIF's individual page, for proper sharing on your blog or social media accounts. Before you use GIFs you find on GIPHY or anywhere else on the web, you'll want to make sure you're comfortable that your use complies with any laws applicable where you're located.
If you’re a brand looking to hire a GIF artist to make some stickers for you, make sure you follow these best practices:
Consider your ask. Take a look at the scope of work and consider the opportunity from the artist’s point of view.
Offer fair rates. Show artists you value their time by starting off with a fair rate that accurately matches the scope of work.
Value originality. Give artists the opportunity to create something new for you rather than a copycat of something that already exists.
Edits = $. If the scope of work becomes much larger than what was agreed upon, consider additional compensation for additional work.
Tag the artist. Whether you’re planning to use the work on your GIPHY channel or elsewhere, tagging the artist means exposure to new audiences.
Pay on time. Simple as that.
***Please do not solicit artists. Bribing artist for services other than creative services (such as access to the GIPHY search index) is prohibited. Companies reported for solicitation will be investigated and banned.
7. RAISE EACH OTHER UP
GIPHY is a community, and communities can’t thrive without support! There are hundreds of talented artists on GIPHY, and the majority of them support each other and raise each other up. When this happens, everyone wins. If you really respect or admire another fellow artist, share that with your community!
Here are a few of my favorite artists on GIPHY:
And there you have it—you’re now ready to start making GIF stickers for social media! I’m so happy that I finally put this guide together for you all, and I hope that it helps to bring you joy + success. Let me know if there’s anything I missed! I will try to update this post regularly, as I want it to be a useful guide for the creative community.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment below this post, email me, or send me a DM on Instagram.
Did this guide help you in any way? If so, tag me in your posts + stories so that I can see your creations!
Have a sticker request? I’m always open to ideas! Fill out the form to the right and I’ll add your suggestion to my list. Interested in having me make GIF stickers for your business/brand? Select the “let’s work together” option.