Get Started with Stop Motion Animation: Storyboarding

Not sure where to start when creating a stop motion animation?

My advice? Start with a storyboard. This will help you get clear on the story behind your animation, the props you need and the timings of each sequence.

A storyboard is probably the most important part of the process when creating a stop motion animation. Aside from the actual story of your animation of course. Defining your animation early on in the process, will save you a lot of time and potential timely or costly mistakes.

A stop motion animation storyboard helps define each frame that will make up the story of your video

A stop motion animation storyboard helps define each frame that will make up the story of your video

What is an animation storyboard?

A stop motion animation storyboard is quite simply images and text. The tools needed to create a storyboard are also very simple. Pen and paper.
That’s it.

The storyboard outlines the story of your animation. It also helps you work out timings, camera angles and the equipment/props you need to gather for your animation.

An example of a storyboard for stop motion animation (this is available as a free download at the end of this post)

An example of a storyboard for stop motion animation (this is available as a free download at the end of this post)

Your animation storyboard should clearly define what your animation will look like and how it will flow, through a series of drawings and brief notes. These drawings are usually simple hand-drawn sketches visualising the animation you or your animator are going to shoot.

When creating animations for clients, I make my storyboards with Adobe InDesign and vector images in Adobe Illustrator for clarity. But pen and paper is absolutely fine too.

“A lot of the time in animation is spent getting the story right – that’s something you can’t rush.” –
— Jennifer Yuh Nelson (director and storyboard artist inc Kung Fu Panda 2)


Top Tip: Moodboard

Before storyboarding I like to create a moodboard for my stop motion animations. This is a selection of images and a colour palette that reflect the look and feel of the stop motion animation.

A moodboard will also help you plan out the props you may need to buy or make, the colour scheme you will be using and just the general look and feel you are aiming to achieve. If you are creating an animation for someone else, it helps them to visualise how the stop motion animation will look too.

For a Spring inspired moodboard and props read 11 Prop Ideas for Spring Photography and Styling

A moodboard helps define the look and feel of your stop motion animation as well as what props you may need.

A moodboard helps define the look and feel of your stop motion animation as well as what props you may need.

Example Animation - Big Bash Events Valentines Animation

I created a simple animation for Big Bash Events on Instagram, for them to share on their main Instagram feed on Valentines Day 2019. Above is the moodboard I created and below you can see an example page from my stop motion animation storyboard.

Example of an animation storyboard for Big Bash Events for Valentines Day 2019

Example of an animation storyboard for Big Bash Events for Valentines Day 2019

What to include in your stop motion animation storyboard

  • Frame Number - numbering each frame makes the flow of the stop-motion animation obvious in your storyboard.

  • Keyframes - draw out the main action happening in each frame. Include arrows to make it clear which direction objects are moving in. Describe what triggers the action - for example I use finger clicks to make things appear, like magic, on screen.

  • Tween/Jump Frames - these are often actions that will move a scene from one to another. For example it could be a camera angle change.

  • Timings - don’t forget to include timing notes under each storyboard frame. In stop motion animation, it is important to know how many frames/images you need to shoot to get an object from A to B and how long it will take.

  • Composition - include the main elements in the storyboard and include lots of white space around the images to make it really clear what’s happening in each scene. (This post will help you with photography composition.)

  • Props - storyboarding really helps you work out what props you are going to need to make, buy and gather. Make a note of essential props in the notes section.

  • Colour - my initial storyboards are black and white but if I want to highlight something within the composition, I will use coloured pencils or pens to make these elements stand out. Or coloured vector images created in Adobe Illustrator.

What to include in your stop motion storyboard checklist | The Content Designer blog

Storyboard Checklist Summary

A storyboard can be as detailed as you like but the more information you include at this stage, the easier and more straightforward shoot day will be.

  1. Number the storyboard frames to easily see how the animation flows.

  2. Write notes under each drawing that describe the scene or props used.

  3. Use arrows to show direction of movement.

  4. Make a note of how long each sequence takes. It can be approximate.

  5. Illustrate and describe what event causes an object to animate.

  6. Illustrate and describe how a scene jumps from one to another.

You can also learn about the essential equipment for stop motion animation equipment in the post Get Started with Stop Motion Animation: Equipment

Download Your Stop Motion Storyboard

I’ve created a stop motion animation storyboard to get you started!

Tag me on Instagram with your with your storyboards and your animations. I love seeing what you have been creating.

Any questions? Leave a comment and I’ll answer your queries asap :)

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Get Started with Stop Motion Animation - Storyboarding. Includes a free download | The Content Designer Blog