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8 Effective Storyboard Ideas for Animation

ben marvazi 2020

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The scene is set, the animator's toolset poised to go. Your mind is scrambling to sort through numerous overused ideas or there’s just…nothing. And just a tiny bit of panic starts to set in.

Sound familiar? Maybe you're looking at the numerous animations already created for various companies and wondering “how on earth do I come up with something new?” We get it!

From simply creating something new compared to what you have already created to trying to keep up with the booming animation industry, you’re drowning and you know that’s bad for business.

You’re right it is bad for business - whatever kind of animation business you run needs to be pumping out fresh, competitive content. And if not, well the potential for the following happening increases:…

  1. Your reputation as a good animation business goes down
  2. Your portfolio doesn’t increase in variety
  3. Your clientele list doesn’t form any boasting rights
  4. And of course, there’s no dollar bills.

Pretty gloomy right? But we’re not here to remind you of the gloom, we come bearing inspiration, an inspiration that concentrates specifically in the arena of the storyboard!

We have eight effective storyboard ideas for animation to stimulate fresh content and to get your animation business fired up.

If you’re new to the scene of storyboarding, you can start by reading How to Make a Storyboard for Animated Videos. You can also read our blog post on 5 Questions Animators Can Ask to Draft Great Creative Briefs if you’re needing some inspiration in that area.

an animator using their head creating storyboard ideas for animation

GIF by @Gamejam_com via GIPHY

We’re going to shake things up a bit here because we believe that YOU are full of storyboard ideas for animation - you might just need a new angle. So prepare yourself as we unlock our secrets on effective storyboard ideas for animation that actually work. 

1. Effective Storyboard Ideas for Animation - Words:

Use catchy phrases or play on words - you want to remain current! Use the “lingo” of the day and play with it - ruffle its feathers with your animation that makes it maybe ironic to the actual word or overused.

Look out for a catching phrase in the latest top hit song or pull into your animation storyboard an iconic moment from the latest blockbuster.

Be sure to either check the words trending or, if your target audience is a bit older, fish out some old popular phrases that will win your audience over with nostalgia. Do your research to keep it relevant to season & experience even.

In this example of an effective storyboard for animation from Coca-Cola, you can see they’re using mostly text and are pretty much-shoving calorie-counters out the way with its ironic encouragement to actually “keep the extra calories you burned as a gift from us”.

They play with the season and make winter activities pretty energetic. It’s simple, it’s funny and it’s an effective storyboard for animation.

effective storyboard ideas for animation using words

Image by Jenn Richter via cargocollective

That’s not all your options! How about using text only in your storyboard? Your audience won’t be left guessing what the animation is about when you’re literally spelling it out for them.

You can use the words in a variety of complimentary sizes, typefaces, and colors - give your viewers a fresh taste with the use of text only.

Make the text come alive even - give it character and personality. Let the animation storyboard lead to a surprise for your viewers as you entangle words with personality. In the example below - this one frame could lead to a host of ideas that use character text to tell a story.

Advertising for a mechanical eye? Get them circles blinking. Get the text to put itself together, maybe making a few funny mistakes along the way. Let your animation of a word reconstruct your viewer’s thoughts on simple words.

storyboards for animation can utilize words through stylization

Image by Matthew Butler via Behance

Another effective storyboard idea for animation is to use text the old-fashioned way - turn a whole frame into an explanatory text rather than use a voiceover for the words.

You know like right at the beginnings of film & movies when they didn't have actual live audio with the imagery. Go old-school on your viewers and put a new spin on old, well-used techniques to keep the viewer engaged.

buster keaton using text title cards like you can for animation storyboarding

GIF by i-Reex via Youtube

Don’t be afraid to flex those letters, flatten, twist, and turn them right into a successful animation dance that leaves the audience marveling at the simple text.

using text to move animation storyboard ideas

Image via ucenmanchester

2. Effective Storyboard Ideas for Animation - Sketching it out:

Alright, let’s just get our hands dirty with some ink, lead, paint, your graphic tablet & pen. Sit down and just quickly sketch out whatever comes to mind - no second-guessing, no erasing, just follow your thoughts even if it takes you in a different direction.

Simply just getting some of it out of your head will help make space for new storyboard ideas for animation. Plus because you didn’t triple guess every idea, you might actually have something to work with.

Sketch outside the box - like literally, what’s outside might become the inside. Don’t let the boxes intimidate you - you get to place the lines.

See what happens if you just continue drawing past those lines - create a “bigger picture” and you might just get your big effective animation storyboard!

sketching out of the frame for animation storyboard ideas

Image by Olivia Sola via medium

3. Effective Storyboard Ideas for Animation - Potential Styles:

Question: do you know how many animation styles there are? YansMedia says that there are thirty-one animation styles. How many of those animation styles have you tried? What would your concept and storyboard look like in a completely different style?

We challenge you to re-do your animation storyboard in at least three different styles. For a jumpstart, check out these two different  blog posts: 8 New Animation Trends Animators Need to Try! & 7 Types of Videos Animators Can Create for Clients

Combine animation styles for some fun and surprising twists - keep those viewers intrigued and on their toes. I know it’s a whole movie, but one can certainly take some animation ideas from “Spiderman - Into the Spider-verse”. How fun and intriguing is their combination of animation styles?

into the spider-verse as the ultimate animation idea masterpiece

Image by Kevin Burwick via movieweb

Of course, that being said we do recommend developing an animation style - as the animation-verse is pretty big, and narrowing it down will allow you to really keep your animation looking sharp.

But hey! That doesn’t stop you from using different styles in your animation storyboard to get some good inspiration and ideas.

4. Effective Storyboard Ideas for Animation - Movement:

Okay, I hear ya,” movement? Really? It’s an animation storyboard - that’s what it’s supposed to do!” But seriously though - don’t forget movement! DO a quick check: is your character facing forwards in an upright position the whole time? 

What about using clock-like movement with your character to switch a scene in your animation storyboard? Get those words hanging upside down before flipping them right side up or get a view of your character as if you were lying on the floor looking up at them.

nike using movement as an animation storyboard idea

Image via Staticflickr

Play with time - forwards, backward, outside of time altogether. Have you thought about what would happen to the animation storyboard if you decided to make three whole blocks the exact same sketch? Keeping the image suspended in time?

Get your audience wondering if their internet stopped working for one or two seconds. 

Movement in time makes or breaks an animation storyboard.

5. Effective Storyboard Ideas for Animation - the Basics:

Of course, you as an animator, more than most understand that angles, shapes, space, pattern, and unity are basic technique stuff, especially when it comes to creating the storyboard idea for animation. But have you intentionally used it recently?

As in, dig out the definition of space and see if you haven’t gotten a little stuck in one kind of space.

Look over your previous animations and note any themes. You could even take one of your last animations and apply a completely different kind of unity or pattern in your storyboard.

This will stimulate ideas for new animation storyboards that could be based on a similar idea but look completely different because you just changed the use of unity.

Another vital technical aspect is light in your animation storyboard. Some of the most iconic animation scenes are when a shadow does something different from its source.

Playing with light and shadow in your animations will undoubtedly stir interest as the strong contrast pulls the viewer in. I mean Peter Pan chasing his own shadow is pretty hard to forget.

disney can often be looked as the basics for animation storyboard ideas

GIF by Disney via Tumblr

6. Effective Storyboard Ideas for Animation - Emotion:

an emotional storyboard idea for animation

Image by Madison Howell via artsation

The most important goal to achieve at the end of any animation is one or more emotions. Just one emotion has the power to provoke a choice in your viewer. And you, dear animator, hold that power - so make sure it’s in your animation storyboard.

Take your viewer on an emotional roller-coaster but know what emotion and choice you want to achieve at the end. In your final animation storyboard that should be clear as the spectacles sitting on your nose (if you’re wearing them that is).

You could really toss things up for yourself by recreating a storyboard with completely different use of emotion throughout - try it with a few emotions. Or you could try to keep the emotion the exact same throughout the animation- might be challenging but we know you’ve got it in you.

Experiment with the whole color wheel of emotions as you layout your storyboard ideas for animation.

7. Effective Storyboard Ideas for Animation - Characters:

Now, dear animator, we come to the section talking about the animation of a character. The kind of character, naturally, determines how it will move throughout your storyboard; it will communicate to different audiences and will draw specific cultures. 

Try to view your animation storyboard through different age groups, cultures & genders. Sketch out one storyboard and then ask yourself what would need to change if it was aimed at a younger crowd - how would the animated character change? 

If it was a different culture, would your character’s hair change shape and movement? Sketch out different storyboards and maybe, just maybe, you could combine a few to create a very different inclusive storyboard that will get your animation more attention.

In the illustration below you can see how Zootopia [which won an Oscar by the way!] changed up the newscasters for different countries. Just a little bit of different storyboard characters can increase your viewers.

regional differences in storyboard ideas for animation

Image via BoredPanda

8. Effective Storyboard Ideas for Animation - Some Fun:

Alright, we’ve covered some solid effective storyboard ideas for animation but let’s not forget a pretty big part of animation - it’s fun! Go add some spice, some fun, and games in your animation storyboard - do some teasing, draw out the laughs.

Marvel and Disney leave loads of hints, clues, references, and “easter eggs” all over their films. If you’re going to be making a series of animations for a client, then why not create your own “easter eggs” that refer back to previous or coming animations.

animation storyboard ideas can have some fun easter eggs

Image by Marisa Nascala via goodhousekeeping

Another fun, slightly dangerous way you could go is to create animations that tease a current topic - politics, cultural behaviors, seasons, holidays.

Why not get your audience laughing at themselves or the most recent “big news”. Nothing gets away with stirring the pot like a cute, little, innocent teacup.

Effective Storyboard Ideas for Animation You Should Try

Your storyboard, brilliant animator, has all the directions in the world to soar towards. It’s simply not possible for you to get stuck stranded on no-mans-land when there are so many effective storyboard ideas for animation!

So go on and make a list of different typefaces, of shapes that could represent characters, and of styles, you could use and integrate. Research the latest and prolonged trends - what gets and keeps attention currently.

Play outside the lines of your comfort zone and your literal storyboard squares - poke those bears, be the Easter Bunny. Maybe even try different storyboard software!

There are few things as good for your business as variety, awareness, and solutions. Create your own idea-generating checklist from the storyboard ideas for animation above and use it on yourself and on any of your employees.

We don’t mind - that’s what we’re here for: to get your animation business into its best shape.

Of course, there are so many more ideas we can offer and a whole bunch of other content that might help you! And there might be some baffling business choices, client satisfaction issues, income versus output problems that you could use some advice on.

We’ve got blogs on 10 Career Opportunities in Animation You Never Thought Of or How to Improve Animation Workflow. We at Business of Animation are here to clear the murky waters of your own animator's life storyboard.

You can start right now by watching our free master class, reading our blog on How to Start an Animation Studio, or adding another frame to your storyboard with our free marketing handbook

We can help with your business’s storyboard so you can enjoy creating captivating storyboards that turn into captivating animations.

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