Creating Stop-Motion Illustrations for Social Media

Illustrate Your Ideas – Creating Stop-Motion Animation for Social Media

Thinking of integrating some unique content into your social strategy? Go old school with a stop-motion illustration. Not only can stop-motion illustrations spice up your social media content, they offer a different way of storytelling and – in my opinion – are really fun to create.

I’ll get to the nuts and bolts of the set-up for creating stop-motion illustrations, but first, let me show you a few examples and explain why this medium is part of #CSUSocial’s content strategy.

Why Stop-Motion?

The cool thing about stop-motion illustration is that you can be as creative as you’d like by incorporating real photos, creating optical illusion magic tricks and can even add digital text into your edited project to make your illustrations come to life. Plus, one of the best things about creating stop-motion illustrations is the gritty nature of the process. It’s real. It’s raw. And the final product is minimally edited. As you read, you will see that the analytics for these illustrations have varied, but overall have been good for engagement.

The first stop-motion illustration I created for #CSUSocial was just about three years ago to the day when Colorado State University celebrated its 145th birthday. I teamed up with my clever and witty colleague, Nik Olsen from the President’s Office, who wrote the Founders Day script and lent his previously undiscovered voiceover talent to the project. The final product was a fun, unique way of telling CSU’s historic story. Telling a story about Founders Day could have been a real snoozer. But by adding photos with illustrations, mixing in a little humor and campy music, the final product resulted in an engaging, new way to share information.

My second stop-motion illustration came just a few months later when we learned that our hometown brewery, New Belgium Brewing, was donating $1 million to launch Colorado State’s first-ever Fermentation Science and Technology Program. Yes, that’s a fancy name for classes that teach students how to brew beer. How neat is that?

Perhaps my very favorite thing about stop-motion illustration is that it’s a medium that can successfully be used to tell stories that might otherwise be complex or challenging to tell. Take for instance this super scientific story by CSU’s PR whiz, Anne Manning. It’s a story about the work of one of CSU’s ground-breaking professors who had an amazing scientific breakthrough that is helping to unlock the mysteries of gene expression through RNA translation. His research will ultimately help cure things like breast cancer. My initial conversation with Anne left my head spinning in a confused, scientific haze (all the right-brained people in the room understand what I’m talking about – by the way, is it tax time again? Noooo!!!). Thankfully, with some brainstorming sessions with Anne and the rest of the #CSUSocial crew, we were able to hash out an illustration plan. Anne not only wrote the script, but she also narrated the piece. Who would have guessed this was her first VO gig, she was a pro. For this illustration, Anne and I won several awards including the Silver Pick Award from PRSA Colorado and a Gold Medal from CASE District VI.

Since then, we have sprinkled stop-motion illustrations into #CSUSocial’s content – a little here, a little there – just enough to keep it fresh. We’ve also used these quirky illustrations to tell quick, fun stories about CSU and to promote speakers on campus, like these.



Ok so, how do you set up to create a stop-motion illustration? It’s easier than you think and you don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment. My first few projects were filmed in a conference room, using two upside-down trash cans, a strip of foam core and an iPhone. Yes, it really is that simple to get started. Lighting is also important. If you don’t have a lighting kit or are filming with an iPhone, be sure to set up in a space that gets some nice natural light.


However, after having a couple conversations with Colorado State’s photography team, I learned there is actually a drafting table with lights and a camera mount in our portrait studio. Score! But don’t worry, the trash cans still work pretty darn well when I’m unable to secure the studio.


Camera with video recording capabilities: First and foremost, you need a camera. As I mentioned, iPhones work great. When I use the portrait studio, I mount our Nikon D750 to the overhead mount. Otherwise, my iPhone 7 plus works great. (Read this if you want to learn more about the equipment we use for other projects.)

Sketchbook: My sketchbook of choice is a 14” x 17” Canson Universal Sketchbook with 65-pound weighted paper. I like this size and weight because it gives me flexibility when creating. The pages are also thick enough that most of the time, the markers I use don’t bleed through.

Sharpies: I like having a couple different size Sharpies on hand. I like the standard permanent marker for most of my animations, but smaller or more intricate work may work better using a fine point Sharpie pen.

This and that: The rest of my stop-motion animation toolbox contains scissors, a mechanical pencil, X-Acto knife, and of course an animator’s best friend, a glue stick. Hand lotion and nice nails are also recommended 😉


The rest is up to you! Try to think outside the box. How can you make your animations jump off the page? Think about elements that can move, like the flame of a match or candle, or the mustache on a former president. Also, think of creative ways to trick the eye. I like to use my finger to touch a black and white image and magically make it come to life in color. Think about how to make your art move off the page, like in the New Belgium animation when the bicycle at the end rides off the page from right to left.

Let’s See What You’ve Got 

Have you created stop-motion animations or want to give it a shot? I’d love to see, and would also be happy to advise. Tweet me your creation or questions @jensmith7 and let’s make some magic!