Peter Crandall - abc styleframes

abc styleframes by Peter Crandall

I’ve started to work on slightly larger projects recently, and as with a lot of things in this business I’ve suddenly realised why people need things like storyboards and styleframes. They’re essential on larger and/or more complicated jobs. If you need to see examples of great styleframes, have a look at Nate Howe’s work, Peter Crandall’s site  or the artists featured on

There’s a number of reasons for this – larger projects need bigger budgets which lead to higher stakes; a larger team requires greater coordination and good communication. Your storyboards and styleframes help provide creative direction and free others to concentrate on animating to the best of their abilities.

Even if you’re the typical one-man-band mograph guy, having a clear blueprint to work from frees you from the pressure of not knowing where you are with project (otherwise known as “not knowing when a project is done”) and provides realistic targets to aim for. Finally and most obviously low-risk conceptual work is the smart way to ensure your client is happy at each stage of the production.

For styleframes I alternate between Photoshop and AE depending on the mood I’m in. I’ve found myself drifting over to AE more recently, mainly because the masking/matte tools make more sense to me and also because of AE’s particle systems and plugins. There’s something quite refreshing about diving into a comp and just working on a frame, safe in the knowledge that what you work on can be picked up and animated with no missing blend modes or alpha issues.

There are times when simply charging straight in has it’s benefits. You can come fresh to an idea and explore it immediately; this is often great for smaller jobs like lower thirds and quick idents.

I’m still making my way in the motion graphics world, so I’m certain I’ve only just scratched the surface of this massive subject – I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on the creative process in the comments.