2 Methods of Hand Drawn Whiteboard Animation

February 4, 2015
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In this edition of ‘Creativa Production Secrets’, we look at one style of video that has been very popular in the past few years – The Whiteboard (Sketch) animation video. Let me start by showing you an example of this style in a video we did for The City of Port Phillip.



As the name suggests, it involves a hand sketching pictures on a whiteboard that tell the story as the story is being narrated. There are several variations to this style but essentially it can be split into 2 categories: 1) you see the hand drawing the images as it is being drawn; 2) no hand is seen.

Regardless of which style is used, the look is distinct: the illustrations are hand-drawn, and it is usually black and white, and sometimes simple colours are used to highlight points or objects.

And as I always say in my blogs, there are many ways of skinning this cat, but since all good things come in pairs, I’ll show you 2 ways of doing a Whiteboard animation video.

Option 1: The Obvious Method

The first method is, as I call it, “The Obvious” method.

So if you ignore the few bits where little graphic ‘props’ animate on screen,  all you need to do here is to find a good sketch artist, plan what you want to draw, sketch it out on paper first to make sure you like what you see; then, set up a whiteboard either on a table or on the wall, and shoot it.

A few things to note though:

Make sure you light it well so that you remove most of the shadows that the arm or hand will cast when drawing on the board. It may not be immediately obvious, but it is actually quite distracting when there is a dark shadow on the whiteboard when the illustration is being drawn.

If you plan to “zoom into” the various parts of the video as it is being drawn, make sure you plan it before you start the shoot. If you shoot the video in timelapse, then use a good stills camera, and put it to full manual mode, including manual white balance, and don’t use Fluorescent lights because they flicker from photo to photo.The good thing about shooting the sketch animation in timelapse is that you only need to shoot it fully wide, and you can then zoom into the various parts in post-production. Since a still image from most DSLRs are 4K resolution.

Do remember that it will probably take the artist a much longer time to complete the drawing then then what is needed for the final video, which is why Whiteboard animation videos always look fast-forwarded; this is to condense the actual footage to the Voice-over of the video.

Option 2: The OCD Method

The second method is what I call, “the OCD” (Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviour)  method. This method is more engaged, but the results are much better, as you can see from the first video presented at the top of this blog. This method allows you to totally control almost every aspect of the video and will even allow you to change it, relatively, easily when it is completed.
However, you will need considerable skills in several pieces of software in order to get this done.

As with the first method, you still need to plan the drawings with the script. The difference is that now, the drawings need to be completed first, either on paper or digitally. For this example, I’ll use a dog that we used in one of our videos.


Next you will need to digitize the drawing if it is not already a digital drawing. Once it is in digital form, you can then put it into either Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Flash, or Adobe After Effects for the next step.

Here is where it gets difficult. In either Photoshop, Flash, or After Effects, you will need to start recording the erasing of the picture. The key thing to remember here is that you have think about how you would draw this picture – in reverse. In the case of this dog, I would probably add the details of the fur last and start drawing the head first. So when erasing, I will do the opposite – Erase the fur details first and work backwards until I get to the head drawing.


Now that you have done that export the video if you are in Flash or Photoshop. If you are doing this in After Effects, then you can skip this step.

Bring the exported video into Adobe After Effects, and reverse it and you should see the image being “drawn on”. And because you have done this digitally, you can change the speed and timing of different parts of the sketch to fit your voice over or music.


At this point, you can actually leave the video as it is, and you would already have the second style of Whiteboard videos which is where you don’t see the hand drawing. If you want to add the illusion of realism, you will want to add a hand holding a pen or marker moving along as the lines are being drawn on.

To do that you will need to, either, take pictures or a video of a hand making small drawing movements. I mean really small. Just imagine a hand holding a pen and drawing a small circle with it, without moving its wrist too much. That’s the action you want. Remember you will need to shoot the hand against a green screen if you are using video, and if you are using still to make an animated sequence of movements, then make sure you can easily extract the hand and pen from the background because you will be compositing the hand onto the sketch video.
Next, move the hand to follow the lines as it is being “drawn on”. Again, I’m not saying that it is easy to do, but the results as you can see from the first video example is quite amazing.

The good thing about this method is that you can always remove the hand if you don’t want it, or change things where needed.

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Creativa provides complete video production and animation services for clients direct or for agencies nationwide, specialising in creating content that engages Aussie audiences. Working with local crews dotted around the country to capture live-action video footage, we manage all the coordination for you. Whatever type of video you need, we’ve got you covered.