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Combining Animated GIFs with InDesign Animations

One of the best things about fixed-layout EPUB as a digital publishing format is the broad support it has for interactivity. Features like buttons, multi-state objects, and native InDesign animations all work in a fixed-layout EPUB. Animated GIFs also work in fixed-layout EPUBs, and are great for creating effects that you cannot make with InDesign’s animation tools (e.g. people walking or objects rotating). So this made me wonder if I could create unique animated effects by combining animated GIFs with InDesign animations. So I tested it out and discovered that it works in both fixed-layout EPUB and Adobe’s Publish Online service!

Even better: fixed-layout EPUBs containing these animated effects can pass a validation check.

The animated GIF is treated just like any other object. This means you can do things like group an animated GIF with other objects in your layout and animate the group. Or make an animated GIF move in any direction by attaching it to a custom motion path. This really opens up all kinds of creative possibilities!

Here are two examples:

Walking Characters

To make two characters walk across the page in my EPUB, I first created animated GIFs in Photoshop to make the characters’ legs move. This Adobe tutorial shows how to make animated GIFs in Photoshop.

creating animated GIFs in Photoshop

creating animated GIFs in Photoshop

Then I placed the GIFs in my InDesign layout and grouped them.

animated GIFs placed in InDesign

I applied a Move Right animation and set it to play On Page Load with a Duration of 8 seconds.

InDesign Animation panel

Also, by placing the GIFs on the pasteboard the characters appear to walk onto the page at the start of the animation.

walking animation in InDesign

Flying Birds

To make a flock of birds fly around the page of my EPUB, again I started by making my animated GIF in Photoshop. This time the effect made the bird’s wings flap and its eyes open and shut.

flying bird animated GIF in Photoshop

I placed the GIFs in my layout in various locations. And I also placed a sound file to make the birds chirp.

flying bird animation in InDesign

Then to make them fly around, I created a curving path with the Pen tool, selected it and the placed GIF, and clicked on the Convert to Motion Path button at the bottom of the Animation panel.

convert to motion path button in InDesign

I repeated the process with the other bird GIFs to make a flock.

Click here to see both animation effects in a Publish Online document.


  • Effects with animated GIFs can also be trigged by a button (instead of On Page Load).
  • I tested my files in iBooks and in Adobe Digital Editions (4.5.3) on a Nexus Android, and the animations work perfectly in both apps.
  • To validate my EPUBs I used Pagina ePub Checker 3.0 and my files passed the validation check.

Pagina EPUB Checker

Now everybody can create beautiful and complex animations inside EPUBs (and Publish Online documents) using animated GIFs and InDesign!

Illustrations of birds and pupils by Alessandra Balzani 
Michela Di Stefano

Michela Di Stefano

Michela Di Stefano is a digital trainer and Adobe Certified Instructor, the founder of Studio 361° , and has been involved in the graphics industry for over 25 years. She focuses on Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat, PubCoder, Twixl Publisher, Mag+, and iBooksAuthor and founded the Digital Publishing Explorers.
Michela Di Stefano

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12 Comments on “Combining Animated GIFs with InDesign Animations

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Michela! Animated GIFs in ePubs is something I have wondered about but not taken the time to explore. The combination of two forms of animation is the sort of sideways leap I hadn’t even thought about.

  2. HI all, I’m very happy to hear from you this article is useful. In your opinion, It could be great you share your experimentations through Publish online here below? i’m looking for some examples to show to my students and clients in Italy, here the digital publishing scenario is still very unripe…. :-(

  3. Thanks Mike, Michela!

    BTW It just happens I was watching Mike’s InDesign Interactive Document Fundamentals on

    Do you think that fixed-layout EPUBs will displace what a lot of people have been trying to do with interactive PDF and even DPS?

    • Hi Maurice, ePub (fixed layout) and DPS are very different solutions. You must remind that ePub are published as eBooks and DPS (now Adobe experience manager) are interactive document intended to be placed inside an application…. I apologize for my english I hope you understand what I mean. An ebook or an app have different workflows and different market distribution.

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