What makes a great animation storyboard

Whether it’s a thrilling, fast-paced tale of adventure or a simple, heartwarming tale, the best stories are the result of extensive planning.

Written by Jack Last

Good stories weren’t just made by chance, you know. 

Whether it’s a thrilling, fast-paced tale of adventure, or a simple heartwarming tale, the best stories are the result of extensive planning. 

There’s the task of coming up with a concept in the first place. Then, there’s all the work that goes into crafting a narrative, and shaping its introduction, the obstacle in the middle (where you keep your audience on tenterhooks), and the joyful moment of resolution that concludes it all. 

What’s more, even after all these question marks are figured out, you have to ensure that all the key moments are timed to perfection. Engagement has to be held from the beginning right through to the end. This means keeping the momentum going, while also confirming that the plot is easy for viewers to follow.  

It’s a lot of points to cover. And that is, precisely, why animation storyboards are such an invaluable addition to a campaign.

What is the purpose of an animation storyboard?

An animation storyboard is, in essence, a detailed visual layout of the plan for your animation.  

Story boarding is the final step before the illustration and animation begin. As a result, storyboards are designed to provide a full outline of the animation, its characters and its narrative plot. 

The animation storyboard will feature a series of panels, each filled with a rough illustration. These should cover each of the animation's key scenes in order, while also giving the team that is working on the project a strong sense of what the final result will look and feel like. The end result is not dissimilar to a roughly-drawn comic strip. 

Using an animation storyboard saves teams significant time and money. Animation and illustration are both lengthy processes. So, by adding the pre-step of creating and presenting an animation storyboard, all the invested parties can visualise the content and provide their feedback, before it has been illustrated and animated. This means that changes can be made far more quickly, easily and, therefore, cheaply. 

To this aim, animation storyboards give reviewers a very comprehensive understanding of the entire animation proposal. This includes the characters (both their design and their personas), backgrounds and setting, the scenes and storyline, pacing, the narrative arc, camera angles and frame compositions, and how the key messages will be communicated. 

As a result, animation storyboards are a fantastic way to get detailed and accurate feedback, ensuring reviewers get a clear sense of the designer’s vision. 

They are also ideally suited to engaging with any clients, stakeholders and other team members. Equally, this clear layout helps the marketing and creative teams to fine-tune their design and concept. 

Then, once amends have been made and approved, storyboards can be used by the illustration, animation and voiceover teams, to achieve a precise, sleek piece of content.

What elements contribute to a strong storyboard?

In order for a storyboard to achieve all the benefits listed above, it should include the following key components: 

  • A clear storyline - a breakdown of the story that your animation will follow, including the series of events, in order. For best results, the storyline should also pivot around the three main phases of beginning, obstacle and resolution. 
  • Keyframes to show each framed shot - each tile in the storyboard should illustrate the shot planned for the animation. This includes the angle to take, how the character(s) will be framed, and any other camera design details. 
  • Visual consistency - even at this early stage, there should be a consistent sense of visual identity across the entire storyboard. This includes the colour palette, illustration style, animation style, typography and logos. By including this in an animation storyboard, all of these elements can not only be kept harmonious with each other, but also remain firmly on-brand. 
  • Annotations and notes - the storyboard can also be used to include notes about the vision for the animation. These annotations could include, for example, details of how a character will move, how the design links to any elements of the company’s branding, or any ideas for potential alternatives to the option detailed in the storyboard.  
  • Timing and pacing - a storyboard should also provide an outline of the timings for each panel, and when it will occur in the video. Typically, this is done by adding a note of how many seconds into the video this scene will begin. This will help to give teams a clearer sense of how the narrative will play out, while also ensuring the animators stick to these strict requirements. 
  • Emphasising key moments - to help further demonstrate the creator’s plan for the animation, the storyboard should highlight the video’s key moments. This will place emphasis on the core points that the rest of the elements revolve around. That way, during the feedback, reviewers can help to ensure these elements achieve the maximum possible impact.
  • Character expressions - although the storyboards won’t yet feature the complete, perfected character design, it is still important that everyone involved gets a strong sense of the character’s personality. After all, this will be an integral part of the video’s tone. Sketches of their expressions are a fantastic way to achieve this. 
  • Transitions - either through note form or through sketches, an animation storyboard should also illustrate how the scenes will transition into the next. This is a key part of securing a sleek, seamless animation, which hits the right tone. 

How to start creating a storyboard: initial steps

  1. Understanding the project - first and foremost, you need to confirm that you understand the project and all its nuances. This goes beyond determining the design, storyline and characters of the video (as important as these are). You also need to ask who are the target audience? What are the KPIs? What is the core message? What is the company’s branding? What reaction are we trying to evoke from the viewer? 
  2. Gathering resources - then, you will need to collect all of the separate elements of the animation, as they currently stand. This includes the script, the character designs, the set designs, the colour palette, the typography (both the fonts and the content), and outlines of each of the scenes.  
  3. Selecting a storyboard template - determine whether it would be more effective to create the storyboard using traditional pen and paper, or to invest in a digital tool. If a large group of people need to see the storyboard, or if the client has not been involved in the creation process up until this point, then it may be worth using a specialist digital storyboarding tool. 
  4. Breaking down the storyboard - split up the planned story into its constituent events, then highlight all the key moments.
  5. Selecting the format - spend some time figuring out what would be the best way to display the content, to maximise understanding. Depending on how many people are viewing the storyboard (and time constraints!), it is usually better to create more panels rather than less, to successfully illustrate each event and enhance understanding.
  6. Sketching panels - get to work illustrating each of the panels in turn. These should only contain a low-moderate level of detail, while still communicating the style of the frame, what the characters are doing, the background, and any other important visual details. 
  7. Visualising key moments - taking the key moments that you have identified, set aside some extra time to bring these to life. These will need to include plenty of detail, and usually a number of annotations, too. After all, it’s critical that these moments make their mark. 
  8. Ensuring a good flow - in between each of the panels, you should also detail how the video will transition from one scene to another. This will help give the animator all the details they need to secure a sleek, flawless finish. 
  9. Adding descriptions - ensure that the viewer has plenty of detail, so that nothing gets lost in translation. Look at the storyboard that you have created so far and, at any point where there could be a cause for confusion, add further written descriptions. 
  10. Reviewing and refining the storyboard - continuously polish the storyboard, adding in extra details and removing or polishing any of the weaker points in the concept. 
  11. Sharing your storyboard for feedback - once you’re happy with it, you can share the storyboard with the rest of your team and the key stakeholders, for them to review the proposed content and share their feedback. 

Finalising the storyboard - finally, take in any amends that have been requested, and finalise the storyboard. Then, it is ready to send over to your illustrators and animators.

How does an effective storyboard benefit the animation process?

Having a storyboard unlocks a wide range of advantages for the animation process. These span everything from improving the precision of your storytelling, to getting a clearer estimation of costs. 

The main benefits of creating and sharing an animation storyboard include: 

  • Conveying the design concept more clearly, ensuring all viewers fully understand the vision 
  • Ensuring better communication with key stakeholders and internal teams 
  • Securing more useful and precise feedback (thanks to the improvements in communication and collaboration) 
  • Identifying (and resolving) any potential flaws sooner
  • Allowing more sophisticated fine-tuning 
  • More effectively determining the best pace and timing for the animation to follow 
  • More accurately estimating the project’s costs 
  • Saving time, money and effort (making changes at the storyboarding stage, rather than amending it after it has been animated) 


As you can see, although they are simple on the surface, storyboards form the foundation of a successful animation project. 

Animation storyboards play a pivotal role in securing strong storytelling, seamless design, and engaging narratives, while also fuelling clearer communication, and achieving more precise and valuable feedback sessions. 

In short, they are the crux of securing the highest quality end result, which utilises all the inputs, ideas and talents of your team. 

Why work with an animation agency like OK Social?

OK Social is a motion graphic studio, specialising in the creation of powerful, engaging animations. In practice, this means that we help clients - spanning a huge range of industries, products and services - to design memorable branded content, which is precisely geared to achieve all their core KPIs. 

Don’t want to take our word for it? It’s for these reasons that we’re the trusted motion graphic studio of some of the world’s largest brands, including the likes of Coca-Cola, the BBC, Deliveroo and Ford.  To find out more about our animation services, and how they can be used to enhance your marketing strategies, our talented team are on hand to help

We’d love to talk about your new project.
You can reach us at hello@oksocial.co.uk

I’m Jack, the Motion Director here at OK Social. I’ve been working in the world of motion design and animation for nearly 10 years. I had the pleasure of working with leading agencies and brands around the world, such as Samsung, Ford, Shell, Deliveroo, and Starbucks, to name a few.

From a young age, I’ve always been interested in animation, from making stop-motion films in my room as a kid to learning animation on my first computer. It started as a passion and still is to this day. Part of what I do now is more than just animation. I help craft the narratives of the stories we tell to ensure they make an impact to the audience and remain worthy of their attention.

So how do I do that? It starts with asking the right questions, leading to solving the right problems. First, diagnose what the problem is. Then, we can start to see if we can help. I believe that communication plays a key role in delivering a smooth and successful project. Looking into the future, I’m excited to expand my knowledge into creating more engaging stories that make a difference.