Download free image editor GIMP and bring your photos to life as animated GIFs

Use GIMP's built-in iWarp plugin to animate ordinary snaps

Download GIMP free

Free photo editor GIMP is incredibly versatile thanks to the plugins created by its community of developers. Dozens of these extensions are incorporated into the program itself, so there's no need to download anything separately.

The iWarp plugin lets you distort still photos, much like Photoshop's Liquify tool. Unlike Liquify, however, iWarp also includes an animation option that shifts the photo between its warped and unwarped states, to amusing effect. It's particularly good for portrait photos and you can save the resulting animations in GIF format, ready to share online.

iWarp for GIMP deform options

iWarp for GIMP gives you plenty of options for warping and twisting your photos

Open your image in GIMP and use the Scale tool to shrink it to a size suitable for sharing on social media. Now click 'Filters > Distort > iWarp' and you'll be presented with a preview of your photo, along with six options:

  • Move, which shifts a part of the image in the direction you click and drag
  • Remove, which reverses any distortions you've applied
  • Grow, which expands the area you click
  • Shrink, which pinches the area you've clicked inwards
  • Swirl CW and CCW, which twist the image clockwise and counterclockwise respectively, creating an effect like swirling a brush through paint

These effects are applied by clicking and dragging on the preview window. There's no zoom option, but Deform Radius lets you choose the size of the area to be distorted and Deform Amount changes the strength of the effect.

iWarp for GIMP animation

Select the Ping Pong setting to play your animation forwards, then backwards in an endless loop

Once your photo looks silly enough, click the 'Animate' tab. You'll probably want to select Ping Pong, which plays your animation forwards then backwards in an infinite loop. Increasing the number of frames will result in smoother animation, but will also increase the file size, and choosing the Ping Pong option will double the number of frames you've specified.

iWarp for GIMP finished animation

Once you've finished, click 'OK' and GIMP will create a new layer for each frame in the animation. To see how it looks, click Filter > Animation > Playback, then hit the Play button. Use the FPS setting at the bottom of the player to change the speed of the animation.

Now close the Playback window and click 'Filter > Animation > Optimize for GIF'. This will reduce the file size by identifying parts of each frame that don't change and cutting them away.

The optimized animation will appear as a new file. Click 'File > Export' and select 'GIF'. Choose a destination for the file, give it a name and click 'Export', then check 'As animation'. Click 'Export' again and your animation will be saved, ready to share.

If you'd like to edit the animation further (by adding text or changing the timing of individual frames, for example) you can either re-open it in GIMP or use a web-based tool like ezGIF.

Download here: GIMP

The best free photo editor 2016

Whatever your level of expertise, there's a free photo editor that will give you all the tools you need to make your pictures look amazing. These are our three favorite free tools for optimizing your images.

For more details, see our complete guide to the best free photo editors

1. GIMP

The most fully-featured free photo editor around, GIMP is powerful enough for just about any task.

2. Paint.NET

Not quite as feature-packed as GIMP, but Paint.NET's streamlined interface makes everyday photo editing a breeze.

3. PhotoScape

Photoscape appears simple , but delve a little deeper and you'll find RAW conversion, photo splitting and merging, and animated GIF creation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cat is TechRadar's downloads editor. She's been a tech journalist for six years on magazines including PC Plus, Official Windows, PC Format and Windows: Help & Advice (with a brief stint in PR for the nuclear industry in between). If you have a question about software, drop her a line!