Animated GIFs in eMail (the basics) by Anna Yeaman @stylecampaign


I was on an email forum recently when a guy asked,

“Does anybody know if you can use animated Gifs in emails and if so how do you do it? I know that you cannot send flash, or it’s not recommended”.

If you’re just getting started with animated Gifs in email, here are the basics:

1. Can I use animated Gifs in email?

Yes. Animated Gifs play in all email clients, except for Outlook 2007 and Apple Mail 3.0.

Animated Gif support in email
Desktop clients
Apple Mail No
Entourage 2008 Yes
Lotus Notes Yes
Outlook Express Yes
Outlook 2000 Yes
Outlook 2003 Yes
Outlook 2007 No
Thunderbird Yes
Windows Mail Yes
Web clients
AOLWeb Yes
Gmail Yes
Windows Live Hotmail Yes
Yahoo Mail Yes
Yahoo Classic Yes
Comcast Yes
AT&T Webmail Yes
Verizon Webmail Yes
Earthlink Webmail Yes

Although animated Gifs play on the iPhone and Blackberry, playback can be slow.

2. Animated Gifs in Outlook 2007 { view Tiffany email }

Tiffany blank first frame email

Outlook 2007 only displays the first frame in a sequence. If an Outlook 07 user received the above Tiffany email, all they would see is a blank blue image (Frame 1).

Make sure your first frame is not blank and works as a stand alone image. That means no fade ins, or leaving the CTA/reveal until later frames (I’m looking at you Juicy Couture!).


3. What about Flash in email? { view Flash email }

Example of Flash in email

Only Mac Mail supports Flash, so I’d give it a miss.

The only Flash email I’ve received, was from Neiman Marcus back in Jan07. They quickly switched back to animated Gifs.

4. Creating an animated Gif in Photoshop: { view tutorial }

ImageReady animated email tutorial

If your using an early version of Photoshop (7.0) you can use ImageReady, here’s an animated Gif tutorial.

If your using Photoshop CS3 or 4, ImageReady has been discontinued. Most of its core features are still included. Select Window/Animation to bring up the controls (same as ImageReady so refer to above tutorial).

5. Controlling speed and playback

You can adjust the speed of an animated Gif in Photoshop, by assigning a time to each frame. So your first frame may display for 2sec, your second 0.5 sec and so on.

You can also set the number of times it plays e.g. once, 5 times or looping continuously.

6. Need more reassurance? {view early animated email}

early animated gif

Many top UK and US retailers, have been using animated Gifs in email for years. I’ve collected over 300, dating back to this Neiman Marcus example from Nov 06.

Here is a sample of retailers using animated Gifs in email:

Amazon, American Apparel, Anthroplolgie, Barnes & Noble, Bluefly, Clinique, Dillards, Dior, Evans, Express, Gap, Hermes, Johnnie Boden, Lands’ End, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Next, Photojojo, Saks, Selfridges, Tiffany, UrbanOutfitter and a bunch more…

7. Takeaway: Animated Gifs are widely used and play in the majority of email clients. Just take care with that first frame.

Meet the author:

Anna Yeaman

Anna Yeaman

Anna Yeaman is the Co-Founder and Creative Director at STYLECampaign, an email creative agency in LA.

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