Scribbling and Scribing: Whiteboard Animations

 In Blog

Sharing a story with lasting impact is at the heart of why we make animations. The great thing about animation is that it can be carefully crafted to suit all kinds of needs. The whiteboard animation style simulates someone drawing out a series of connecting graphics by hand. The program we used to create our Brexit animation is called Video Scribe and is fast becoming another great tool in our ever growing skill set.

We wouldn’t be very good at what we do if we just stuck to the product manual, so when we first looked at the sample videos from the program to get an idea on how things work, there was always going to be something further to add to make our scribe animations stand out from the rest. Using tools together or in different ways is a great approach to coming up with an exciting idea.

Design & Planning

One of the interesting features of scribe is that it works with a huge art canvas, after doing some experimentation we have found two methods of using scribe that really work for us.

Method 1 – Starting with the final scene in mind, so that when the scribe has finished it has the ability to zoom out to reveal a scene, shape or image constructed out of smaller images drawn out throughout the animation. Pretty damn clever if you ask me!

Method 2 – Drawing out the animation in a pattern focusing on how each frame is presented, rather than zooming out for a final image.

Choosing which methodology will suit all depends on the project itself.  Personally, I have a soft spot for the first option, but this depends on which best tells your story.


“So your path is chosen…” now as with any other animation – you need to create a storyboard. Its important to plan out what you’ll need to draw and how it will all come together. Add annotations describing how to transition between scenes in the storyboard notes at this stage. With a scribe animation the transitions may be the same as most of the illustrations are ‘drawn’ into view using the software. If we were aiming to end with big reveal of a larger picture, we would need to sketch out how all the illustrations fit together to form the desired image – in a way that will allow the camera to follow the logical pattern, not needing to jump from one side of the screen to another.


Video Scribe contains a huge library of illustration that anyone can use, but we prefer to create them bespoke. A fairly loose hand drawn style works well with a Video Scribe, as the person appears to ‘draw’ the illustrations in. There’s no reason why a more vector-like style can’t be used, perhaps to match a brand look and feel more closely.

Our illustrations are drawn using Adobe illustrator, then saved as SVG files with specific settings to make it easy for Video Scribe to understand. When using a hand drawn style we get the best results by actually drawing out the image straight onto the screen using a graphics tablet. For us it’s a chance to use our high end Wacom touch-screen monitor to trace or free hand draw all the illustrations with colour.

Not to bore you with the details, but there are 3 main layers for each illustration.

The bottom layer is for all the colour within the illustration, using a fill instead of a stoke otherwise video scribe will draw out your fill before your strokes – and that’s when things get messy!

The middle layer is for your strokes, we prefer to draw this layer first then add the fill in after – underneath that layer.

Video Scribe software will draw out the file in the same way it has been drawn out in illustrator, but the paths can be re ordered within the layer to fine-tune the animation.

The top layer is the stroke that covers the whole illustration and will draw out your colour. We do a simple scribble over the top then make the stroke completely transparent which ensures that Video Scribe reads that the stroke is without displaying it.

This may sound mad, but that stroke will fill in the colour after the line strokes have appeared.


Once all the illustration has been done, the assets are ready to import into Video Scribe. The main part of any scribe is a excellent hand model, so choose your hand wisely. Try different styles of hand and pens. We also look at how illustrations animate in. Once the animation is looking great we import the voiceover and start to time the illustrations to the voice. Sometimes the hand has a mind of its own so be careful when proofing and make sure the hand is doing what it should be doing. Then you’re finished, congratulations – it’s a scribe!

Thanks for reading,

Sam Grigg

Junior Designer, The Like Minded

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