It's very easy to find free animated clip art. In fact, you may not even have to go online. Are you interested in finding the right animation for your project, in a form that will look good on your web page? That may be a bit harder - but here are some techniques to use.
The Urge to Illustrate and Animate
Making small GIF animations was one of the early passions of many geeks when the web first started. Some would even skip the Graphic Image Format and create images out of ASCII characters - such as the entire Star Wars saga using a Telnet Terminal. However, the simplicity and ubiquitous nature of the GIF image made them much more popular, especially since the GIF files had one particular ace-in-the-hole that JPEGs didn't: the Alpha Channel.
Transparency for All
The alpha channel in a GIF image is basically the background - and it was able to be rendered as "transparent" by the web browsers. This gave web designers more creative freedom - not only could their images move, they could be put on a page without any kind of visible bounding box. It enabled images like animated fireworks graphics to just float on a background of black. Having alpha transparency meant that the images merged more seamlessly into the whole page.
Free Animated Clip Art Websites
Creating Your Own Clip Art
You can use programs such as Adobe Fireworks CS6 (which has functions such as "tweening" to help create the illusion of motion) or just go online - websites such as Picasion make it extremely simple. You simply create each "frame" of the animation - that is, a sequence of images each slightly different to show movement - and upload them to the website. You can then select the size of the animation (up to 450 pixels) and vary the speed, and then the website does the work for you, delivering an original piece of animated clipart that you can use wherever you like.
Searching for Good Clip Art
If do-it-yourself doesn't appeal to you, though, don't worry - there is almost certainly a GIF someone created somewhere, just waiting for you to find it online. Unfortunately, you have to wade through an awful lot of ad-space to find the best ones. It's gotten so bad that there are actually review guides set up to warn you away from sites with abnormally high pop-up ads or low-quality graphics.
- A fairly good example of non-offensive free animated clip art site is Animation Central. While it does give a lot of page space to ads, it is also very clear to list categories - from @ signs to the zodiac - along the side. Each category will show between ten to twenty images, usually against either black or white backgrounds, of the animations. They are short - often only a fraction of a second - but the quality is generally good and you can download them by simply right-clicking (control-click on Mac) and clicking "Save Image." These images are royalty-free, so you can use them absolutely everywhere.
- Amazing Animations also has a lot of categories, but also use more space for ads as opposed to GIFs.
- The Animation Library goes so far as to tell you how many animations are in each category and also gives you the very handy ability to test the GIF against different backgrounds. It also has some social-media features such as a "rating" system, a personalized "favorites" list, and other email features.
At the other end of the spectrum are GIF Animations, which only show one image at a time when you click on their categories - devoting the rest of the page to ads. These are the sites to stay away from if possible - they are simply wasting your time. With enough patience, though, you can almost certainly find the perfect GIF for your project.