In this guide, learn to impress your friends and coworkers with custom Slack animations, and bring a little harmony to the workplace with a personal touch.

Cover image via Bplanet.

If you’re a Slack user, perhaps you’ve gone looking for the perfect emoji to really nail a joke, a conversation, or a direct message. But you just couldn’t find it. So, where do you go for emojis that don’t exist? In this guide, I’ll show you how to make a simple animated .gif, save it correctly, and upload it to Slack — ready to use.


Step 1: Make an Animated GIF File

Harold, our emoji-to-be, is trusty, friendly, kind, and ready to help. Harold is going to be our model — in a nodding, or approving, motion. When you use this emoji to acknowledge someone’s post, imagine the warm feeling of support Harold will bring to the conversation.

Learn How to Create Your Own Animated Slack Emojis — Animated GIF
Original image via StockLite.

Set your Crop tool to “Square” in the Ratio drop-down menu. Crop in on the head and a bit of the shoulders to fill up the maximum area. Hit Enter to commit the crop.

Next, we’ll select his head with the lasso tool. This is going to be a 120-pixel image when we’re done, so accuracy is not that critical. In other words, don’t waste time trying to select his white hair out from the cream-colored background. A rough, freehand selection is fine.

Now, hit Command+J. This copies the selection to a new layer above. Turn that new layer off, and on the base/background layer, remove the background wall behind his head. We’re doing this so when he nods downward, another head won’t appear behind it.

Learn How to Create Your Own Animated Slack Emojis — New Layer

We’ll use the freehand lasso tool again. With the Background layer selected in the Layers palette, lasso his head, then hit delete. This brings up the Content Aware window.

Learn How to Create Your Own Animated Slack Emojis — Content Aware Window

The settings should be correct by default, but if you’ve used it before and changed something, just make sure the Contents drop-down says “Content-Aware” and the Blending is set to “Normal,” Opacity at 100%. Hit OK.

Learn How to Create Your Own Animated Slack Emojis — Default Settings
OH, NO! SOMEONE MICROWAVED HAROLD! 

(Just turn the layer above back on to obscure this hideous tragedy.)

This will fill in the selection with Photoshop’s estimation of how the surrounding image would continue in its absence. (This is a great tool for serious photo retouching, but, as you can see, it can also be hilarious.)

With the layer of his floated head back on, double that layer by holding down the Option key and dragging the layer up. Now, we have two head layers and a background layer. On the top head layer, hit Command+T to bring up the Transform controls.

Hover over the corner handle of the Transform box. The cursor will change from an arrow to a curved arrow. Click and drag to the left to rotate the box (thus, the head) to an appropriate angle for nodding. Hit Enter to commit. Then, using the Move tool, position the head a bit to where it would fall while nodding.

Now, go to the menu at the top of the Photoshop window, click Window > Timeline. Make the background and the first, un-nodded, head layer visible. Turn off visibility for the top, or nodded, head layer.

In the Timeline window, click “Duplicate selected frames.” Turn on visibility for the top, nodded, head layer. Turn off visibility for the regular, un-nodded, head layer. This will create the frame that nods.

Click “Duplicate selected frames” once more, and turn off the nodded head layer, while turning on the regular head layer. This frame returns the animation to the first frame, but we’ll add a bit of time to create the look we want when animated: static, quick-nod, static.

At the bottom of each animation frame, you’ll see it says “1 sec.” followed by a down-arrow. Click that arrow on the second frame and choose “.5” from the list, thereby setting this frame duration to a half-second. Leave the other two frames at 1 second.

Learn How to Create Your Own Animated Slack Emojis — Duration


Step 2: Save Your Gif Using Slack’s Settings

You’re basically a graphic design professional now. Congratulations!

We have to save Harold using Slack’s settings. Go to File > Export, then “Save For Web (Legacy).” Set the file type to GIF, with Colors set to 128. (This quality will be fine for a tiny emoji.) Underneath the Color Table, set the Image Size to 120 px in both the W and H boxes. (Slack says the max image size is 128, so you can take it up that high, but it will shrink to emoji-size anyway.)

Under Animation > Looping Options, select “Forever.” Here, you can hit the little play button underneath Looping Options to check your work before saving. Since it’s only three frames, this should be fairly quick work.

Learn How to Create Your Own Animated Slack Emojis — Looping Options

And here is Harold at full size, approving.

Learn How to Create Your Own Animated Slack Emojis — End Result


Step 3: Upload to Slack

Save the GIF, open the Slack app, then next to your name, click the little arrow. From that list, click “Customize Slack” in the current workplace section.

Learn How to Create Your Own Animated Slack Emojis — Upload to Slack

This will open a page in your web browser. In the 1) box, enter the name of your emoji with semi-colons at the front and back. This will prevent the animation from popping up, if, for some reason, you ever type “approving harold” in a different context.

Learn How to Create Your Own Animated Slack Emojis — Customize Workspace

In the 2) box, check “Upload your emoji image” and select “Choose File.” Choose your image from wherever you saved it and hit “Save New Emoji.”

Learn How to Create Your Own Animated Slack Emojis — New Emoji

You should see the notification above. Now, you can cruise on over to your emoji palette, enter “harold” in the search bar, and grace the friend of your choice with the approving support of our friend, Harold.


Looking for more design tutorials? Check these out.