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I get so excited to show people all of the amazing things I do with the Storyboard Creator and Book Maker. 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!

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.

super storyboarder tip scenes

edit scenes modal of boston skyline


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
Storyboard in Color
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
Storyboard with Grayscale Filter
Sepia converts the images' colors to shades of light brown.

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

  • Sketches or in-progress work
  • Coloring Pages
  • Printing
Storyboard with Pencil Filter
Marker / Silhouette
The Marker filter makes scenes look hand-drawn, while items and characters can be silhouetted in all black.

  • Hand drawn backgrounds
  • Showing mystery
  • Placeholders
Storyboard with Pen Filter
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
Storyboard with Canvas Bumps Filter
Diffuse Light
Diffuse Light is a filter that gives a "bubble" look to characters, items, and scenes

  • Plaques
  • Mirrors and windows
  • Adding slight shadows
Storyboard with Diffuse Light Filter
The Blur filter makes everything a little fuzzy.

  • Showing contrast to the focus
  • Item behind a window or other glass object
  • Foggy weather
Storyboard with Blur Filter
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
Storyboard with Soft Focus Filter

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!

One of our other favorite cropping techniques makes characters look like they're sitting or standing behind parts of the background. Want a barista behind the counter in your cafe scene or students at the lunch table in your cafeteria? Crop them! Simply size the character, place them where you'd like them to go, and then you can line up the crop box with the line of the counter, table, etc. and bam! They're magically "behind" the item.

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 repurpose items!

Key Search Terms

Some of the best effects and customizations come from items through Search. Here are some of my favorite search terms to use. Most items are colorable, and all items can be cropped, resized, and given a filter.

  • Glow
  • Stars
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Smoke
  • Cloud
  • Magic
  • Shadow
  • Effect
  • Blood
  • Glass
  • Hole
  • Rain
  • Snow
  • Wind
  • Dirt
  • Window
  • Face

Special Effects Combinations

In the storyboard example below, I edited the scene on the left to be at night, snowing, and changed the filter to Blur. On top of that, I placed a mostly transparent overlay. My goal here was to set the scene: a winter evening, dreary and lonely during a snowstorm. It was very simple and very quick.

The scene on the right is a bit more complicated. In this scene, I really took advantage of cropping, sizing, and layering. Right up front we see large bright cards and a solitary coin. Because of the first person point of view, it seems as if the viewer is actually holding the cards! These cards and coins are the focus of the scene - the most important part of the story.

Jump to the back. The background scene is a wallpapered room at night time. The next layers on top of the background are shadows, the characters behind the table with their cards. Then comes the cropped tabletop (actually a 3D hemisphere from the Shapes category) with the money and deck of cards. My goal was to show a big difference between the items in the foreground and the rest of the scene. To emphasize the contrast even more, I added in an overlay to slightly darken everything behind the hands.

To get a better sense of what I did, make a copy of this storyboard and play with it yourself!

Find colorable overlays under Scenes > Patterns.

Example of a Magical Scene

Add some magic to your fairytale scenes by searching for stars, glow and wand!

In the scene above from the story Cinderella You can see that various stars were added to highlight magical objects and create the illusion of a spell. A single star can add extra sparkle to a diamond or tiara. The "glow" is layered behind the characters to give them a dazzling effect. Can you find them all?

The examples below show you just how easy it is to find the hundreds of different art assets that can create the appearance of special effects in your storyboards!

Examples of Search Results

Please note: For "blood" you will need to enable the PG filter on your image options. For more information on how to do that, watch this short video on enabling more image options!

How to Use Special Effects in Storyboard That


Look for the "Edit Scene" Buttons

When creating your storyboard, keep an eye out for the blue "Edit Scene" buttons. These buttons allow you to access special effects and customization options for each scene.


Apply Filters for Visual Enhancement

To make your storyboard stand out, use filters. Choose from a variety of filters such as Grayscale, Sepia, Pencil, Marker/Silhouette, Canvas Bumps, Diffuse Light, Blur, and Soft Focus. Each filter has its own unique effect and can be used to create different atmospheres or visual styles.


Experiment with Cropping and Resizing

Take advantage of the cropping and resizing capabilities in Storyboard That. Crop scenes or characters to focus on specific elements or create interesting compositions. Enlarge or reduce the size of images to emphasize perspective, show greater distances, or combine elements in creative ways.


Combine Special Effects for Desired Outcomes

Combine multiple special effects to achieve your desired visual result. For example, you can edit a scene to be at night, add snow, apply a filter like Blur, and overlay a transparent layer to create a specific atmosphere or mood.


Utilize Layering and Positioning

Make use of layering and careful positioning to create depth and focus in your scenes. Arrange elements in the foreground and background to convey different levels of importance or perspective. Experiment with different layers, shadows, and overlays to enhance the overall composition.


Review and Refine

Take a step back and review your storyboard with the special effects applied. Make any necessary adjustments or refinements to ensure that the effects complement the story and convey the desired message or atmosphere.

Frequently Asked Questions about Storyboarding Tips Special Effects

What are some creative ways to come up with worksheets for picture effects activities?

Teachers can create worksheets that prompt students to think critically about picture effects, such as asking them to analyze the impact of a specific effect on a photo or design. Another idea is to create worksheets that guide students through the process of creating a specific picture effect, breaking it down into manageable steps. Finally, teachers can also create worksheets that allow students to experiment with different picture effects and create their own designs.

How can I integrate picture effects into my lesson plans?

Picture effects can be used to enhance storytelling, as well as to teach graphic design principles such as color theory and composition. For example, students could create collages using various picture effects to illustrate a story or concept. Teachers could also have students create before-and-after images to demonstrate the impact of certain picture effects.

How can I use picture effects to promote cultural awareness and inclusivity in the classroom?

Picture effects can be used to celebrate diversity and promote cultural awareness in the classroom. For example, students could use picture effects to create posters celebrating cultural holidays or create images of diverse characters in literature or history.

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