Motion graphics: what it is and how to do it

Motion graphic: it is easy to guess the meaning of the term, i.e. moving graphics. But let’s see exactly what motion graphics is and how it can be realized.

motion graphic gif wellcome

What is a motion graphic

The term motion graphic refers to motion graphic design, i.e. a graphic design consisting of a combination of text, images, and symbols to which animation techniques are applied. Images, texts, and symbols that in themselves would be static elements, thanks to this graphic art, give the illusion of being in motion, through the rapid succession of specially designed and “drawn” sequences of images.

By motion graphics, we also mean the final product designed and realized. So we can make but also see motion graphics. But now we will focus on the art of creating motion graphics.

Ever since its first appearance, there has been debate about what the difference is between motion graphics and traditional animation: in motion graphics, text normally also has a prominent aspect.

Motion graphics is therefore a tool for creating content, thus making storytelling more effective and immediate. It is an animated graphic that tells a story through the seamless integration of plot, graphic design, movement, and sound with the aim of arousing emotion and engaging the viewer who, intrigued, will want to know more about the message conveyed.

motion graphic video

Animated graphics are used in particular in television theme songs, film titles, advertising, web videos, and to animate logos.

But it can also be used to create animations that improve the user experience on a display; animations that make it easier and more pleasant for the user to achieve their goals.

Motion graphics are an example of how multimedia content creation is progressively replacing visual communication. In order to succeed, it is not only necessary to have the technology at one’s disposal, but also to come up with original and innovative ideas that are able to make video components, images, animations, audio, and drawings interact with each other.

visual communication creation

How to create impressive motion graphics

To realize impressive motion graphics to support video marketing, several technical skills come into play. Let us, therefore, see how to structure a video marketing project in which motion graphics are the protagonist. If you want to learn more about the potential of using videos, sign up for the YouTube and Online Video Marketing course.

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Writing a screenplay that tells a story

An animated graphic always starts with a story that is transposed into a script and not with sketches of moving objects and/or people. Even if the animated graphic is short (usually ranging from 30 seconds to 3 minutes), a plot is still necessary to structure the dialogue or direction of the story.

animated graphic story

To find one’s own story, one must ask oneself these questions:

  • who is the user I want to reach?
  • what do I want you to remember, learn and/or do?
  • how do I want him to feel?

Also, while writing the script, consider which parts of your story can be best communicated through:

  • moving text: text-only storytelling can be great for situations where it will be difficult to use sound (e.g. a projected graphic during a concert). It is also a clever way to engage people, as they have to pay more attention when reading;
  • a voice-over that should accompany the animation on the display but should not provide the same information that could be shown on the screen such as an animated data display.
  • visual only: although not as commonly used, you can still create compelling motion graphics without text.

create image with motion

In any case, it is important, when planning, to always remember that simplicity and clarity are the keys to success.

Matching script and storyboard

Once you have the script, you can visualize it through the storyboard or through sketches of sequential images.

To do this, it is useful to brainstorm with the members of your design team (e.g. scriptwriter, graphic designer, and producer). During this phase, frames will be drawn and for each of them, the part of the script to be matched to bring it to life will be identified.

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Designing the storyboard

Style and color communicate as much as the story itself and are fundamental in any kind of visual project.

Once you have a clear idea of the storyboard with sketches, you can translate your storyboards into actual drawings.

Animating the final drawings

The animation phase is when everything comes together. And some things to think about are:

animate final drawings

  • the animation style. The transition from one scene to another affects the consequentiality of the story.
  • timing. The speed of the animation should neither be too fast nor too slow. In the first case, people will fail to grasp what you want to convey while in the second case, you may lose people’s attention. You must also consider all possible variations to stimulate emotion.
  • music. As with all other elements, music is another tool to guide your narrative. It can set the mood and influence the tone of the story.
  •  the sound effects. The key is to only use what adds value to your project and does not distract from the story you are trying to tell. And this obviously applies to everything that has been said here so far.

animation special effects

Animation effects

Now that we have our script and storyboard, how do we make a moving graphic? How do we animate an image, give it a soul or make it seem alive? To do this motion graphics can make use of both digital technologies and manual techniques (e.g. thaumatropy, phenachistoscopy), both special effects and visual effects.

Special effects (or SFX) are made in reality, in a physical way, and filmed on camera. They create conditions that would not occur spontaneously, such as many of the actions performed by Spielberg’s mechanical shark.

Visual effects (or VFX), on the other hand, are not captured by a video camera but are added later using special software.

To create movements with digital technology or software you can use:

  • animated fonts and titles;
  • a distorting effect such as glitching, creating a crackling in the images, as when the TV tries to recover the signal and the image appears as if scratched;

glitch builder image

  • combine images in 2D and 3D dimensions;
  • crushing and stretching. When objects or people are stretched and/or squashed, they are given the sensation of gravity, weight, mass, and elasticity;
  • morphing. One starts with an image and transforms it into another image. The image is morphed gradually from an initial shape to a target shape. The effect makes the image transformation look believable and natural;
  • anticipate. The spectator must be prepared for what is about to happen, and for this reason, the action that follows must be prepared by the preceding one so as to appear natural, it must be a consequence of it. This, however, does not exclude that every now and then it is good to “exaggerate” in order to make the images more dynamic and thus overstep the limits of respect for the laws of space and time;

2d and 3d animations

  • liquid motion. The images and the forms take on the appearance of a liquid, they liquefy;
  • color transitions;
  • the cinemagraph. An animated GIF but not the whole of it, but only a part of it (e.g. the image of a beer bottle from which foam is looping). The juxtaposition of a static image with a moving part inside it creates a striking effect;
  • Slow down the speed. Carefully adjusting the speed changes of objects, particularly when they enter or leave the scene, can make our animation more believable.

cultural trends effect

The choice of an effect is determined by the cultural trends prevailing at a specific time. Regardless of the context in which motion graphics are done, the main objective is to ensure that the characters, objects, and the world in which they live capture the attention of the viewer. Their design should be intuitive and at the same time pleasing, while their personality charismatic so as to arouse interest in the viewer.

Graphic design software

A motion graphic designer can be a traditional graphic designer or someone with a background as a video maker, but both professionals have had to integrate their skills with the use of new technologies to make animated graphics and sound processing. We will now look at some of the programs that motion graphic designers use and that have one common characteristic: the ability to combine visual effects, text, sound, speech, data visualization, video, and 2D and 3D animation.

There are also programs within the reach of everyone, i.e. even the less experienced or ‘occasional’ graphic designer.

best program for designers

What is the best program then? Simple: it depends on the type of animation you need.

So let’s look at some software and a platform for making motion graphics.

Open source software available for Windows, Mac, and some also for Linux

1. Synfig studio: 2D animation software that can also be used with Linux. 2. a tool whose use is intuitive for creating 2D animations “by hand”. 3. Tupi: to be used for 2D desktop animation even by non-professionals. It also works with Linux. 4. Blender: with this software, you can create in 3D and there is also a support community. Widely used for making video games. OK for Linux. 5. DAZ studio: for 3D graphics. Suitable for both beginners and professionals. It has a rich feature set. 6. Crello.Create animated posts. Thousands of unique video templates. Has a free version and a paid version, but very reasonably priced. Requires no design skills.

particle builder

Free software available for Windows

1. Animar8or: created by a 3D graphics enthusiast. Suitable for semi-professional or animator needs. 2. Seamless3d: useful for 3D modelling. It has its own forum and provides tutorials.

  • Toon Boom: usable by anyone in its basic functions but for those with the skills it is also a highly professional software. Also used for television programs, films, and video games.
  • Moho (Anime Studio) 2D Animation Software: 2D animation software that also uses the tools of traditional animation.
  • Poser: 3D animation. To be used for the animation of people and animals.
  • Maxon’s CINEMA 4D: perfect for 3D animation and modeling, it also has the advantage of being easy to learn to use for those with a basic knowledge of Photoshop or After Effects.
  • Maya: has all possible functionalities for 3D animation, simulation, and rendering. The interface is complex for those who do not already use 3D graphics normally.
  • Nuke: a particularly powerful tool for 3D. Used in TV and film post-production and by leading motion graphics agencies.

nuke tools

  • Lightwave3d: it is divided into two parts independent of each other: one for modeling and the other for rendering For the latter, it is particularly powerful.
  • Photoshop CC: Photoshop’s video and animation functions allow for simple, frame-based animations. After Effects uses a similar interface, but its animation functions are much more extensive.
  • Adobe After Effects The basic version can be supplemented with plug-ins to add further functions, and there are several that are also free of charge. After Effects is a kind of hybrid between video editing software and Photoshop. There are also numerous templates, many of which are free. Everyone who does motion graphics is familiar with After Effects. Great for creating animated graphics and special effects.
  • Fusion 9: excellent visual effects, 3D, and particularly good for virtual reality.

fusion excellent visual

Software for MAC only

1. Cheetah3D 7: The program is primarily aimed at those starting out in 3D modeling, rendering, and animation. This is why it has an intuitive user interface. 2. Apple motion: essentially Apple’s version of After Effect for use with the Final Cut Pro X video editing program. 3. Kinemac: very easy to use as a tool for 2D but also recommended for 3D.


It is possible to use easy-to-use platforms to create 2D videos online, one of which is RENDERFOREST, which also has numerous templates.

Other resources

Free platforms

There are platforms from which one can download graphic animations such as Videvo and Videez.


There are various templates and there is also the possibility of finding some free ones such as on Motion Array.


The tutorials for using the software listed above are many and can often be found directly on the websites where the software is downloaded.

Here I point to two websites, which far from being exhaustive, do however have the merit of introducing you to the world of motion design and giving you an insight into its potential and beauty. Namely: Premium Beat with its tutorials for After Effect and School of Motion, where you can find tutorials for After Effect, Cinema4D, design and animation, and also courses.

tutorials for the software

For inspiration

Often, to get some ideas, it is useful to be inspired by existing motion graphics. And so “frequent” websites or communities that deal precisely with motion graphics projects and artists working with motion graphics.

One of the many useful resources in this area is Motion Graphics – Adobe Create Magazine.

adobe create magazine

A powerful video and social marketing tool

Today, the visual part of digital marketing plays a key role. People are always in a hurry and being able to capture their attention and get a message across in a few seconds is a difficult art. But with curated animated graphics, it is possible. Images, especially if in motion, are evocative, can arouse desires, and make us feel emotions and it only takes a few seconds for this to happen.

Even just remembering a product or service by associating it with what we have seen, and not just heard or read, is much easier.

So should we all become motion graphic designers? If you look after the graphic content on social media or your website, the answer is yes. Fortunately, there are many motion graphics programs, even for beginners, with which you can achieve excellent results.

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