Storyboarding Tips: Special Effects

By Anna Warfield

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I get so excited to show people all of the amazing things I do with the Storyboard Creator. I have made many storyboards of all different kinds - some silly, some instructional, some templates - so I have played around with the editing tools "a lot". I have learned so much and I want to share it with you!

I have found that the best way to create special picture effects in storyboards is to experiment. Tinkering is not an option for most people, however, so I have put together some storyboarding tips to help you make your storyboards extra special.

Be sure to check out the Storyboard Creator Help Page for tutorials and explanations of individual functions!

Layering | Cropping | Key Search Terms | Image Filters | Combinations

Look for Blue "Edit Scene" Buttons

Smart scenes are amazing! The SBT artists have made multiple versions of each scene so you can customize your storyboards quickly and easily. With the click of a button you can change day into night, toggle between rain and snow, include furniture or not and more.


Imagine you are holding a stack of paper, perhaps homework assignments or worksheets. If the papers are neatly stacked on top of one another, you should only be able to see the top paper. If you take the top paper and put it at the bottom, you can no longer see that first page and can only see the second paper.

Now imagine that you drop this neat stack of papers on the floor and the different pages spread out in a heap. The papers probably get out of order and overlap each other and maybe even turn the wrong way around. Use this example as a thinly-veiled metaphor for layering images in the Storyboard Creator. Every image - be it a character, item, or even scene - occupies one layer of the cell, or in terms of the paper analogy, each image is like one of the sheets of paper. Each image is separate from the others and can be manipulated within its layer, such as rotating or resizing.

The most recently chosen characters and images will automatically take up the front layer, like adding a paper to the top of a pile. Scenes will automatically drop to the back-most layer or "bottom of the pile". You can change the order of all the layers at any time by using the layering buttons on the image editor.


A quick way to make your storyboard stand out is by using filters. Filters change the coloring or apparent texture of the images. In many cases, only some of the images in your storyboard will use a filter like "Canvas Bumps" and other times you might use the "Grayscale" or "Sepia" filter on ALL parts. Check out the table below for some suggestions on when to use each of the filters and a storyboard example.

Color is the standard that all images come in by default. There is no "filter" applied.

  • Typical storyboards
Grayscale turns all images into varying shades of gray.

  • Showing a flashback
  • Old photograph or picture in a newspaper
  • Drastically limiting the range of color
Sepia converts the images' colors to shades of light brown.

  • Showing a flashback
  • Old-timey photograph or document
  • Dreams
The Pencil filter makes the images look hand-drawn.

  • Sketches or in-progress work
  • Coloring Pages
  • Printing
The Pen filter is like the Pencil filter in that it makes the images look hand-drawn, but many of the lines are darker.

  • Sketches or in-progress work
  • Coloring Pages
  • Printing
Canvas Bumps
Canvas Bumps adds texture to the image without distorting it.

  • Paintings or other art
  • Making a copied item appear different than the original, even in the same color
  • Giving a rough texture to something, like a brick wall or a rock
Diffuse Light
Diffuse Light is a filter that gives a "bubble" look to characters, items, and scenes

  • Plaques
  • Mirrors and windows
  • Adding slight shadows
The Blur filter makes everything a little fuzzy.

  • Showing contrast to the focus
  • Item behind a window or other glass object
  • Foggy weather
Soft Focus
The Soft Focus filter makes everything have a soft, brighter quality.

  • Dreams
  • Ethereal or other-worldly creatures or spaces
  • Illuminating flat and/or dull objects

Cropping and Resizing

Storyboard That images are all scalable vector graphics, which means that the quality of the image doesn't change when you make them bigger. Some of the images can be stretched out or smushed together, but there are plenty that have a fixed ratio and can't be distorted. Even if you squish a scene, the quality of the image doesn't change, just the proportions.

Thus, if you crop a scene and enlarge it, it is as if you were zooming in on that one spot. If you crop a character, enlarge it, and then put that really big part of a character at the bottom of the cell, that character looks like she is in the foreground. Once you get the hang of cropping, you will be taking bits and pieces of images and putting them together in ingenious combinations!

Cropping is my favorite. I crop stuff all the time. Cropping and resizing images will change everything for you. Play with point of view, show greater distances, continue action on the borders of your scenes, and re-purpose items!

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