Shhh… You Can “Animate” Without Being an Animator

This is a new batch of illustrations I made for a recent PSA (Public Service Announcement) for UNFPA Malawi, where I took still images and turned them into a simple animation using free online tools.

Still image from the PSA. View the full animation

My Malawian colleagues write the scripts and provide the voice-overs in the Chichewa language and I make the images and final animation.

To open the story up to English speakers outside of Malawi, I added English subtitles to compliment the Chichewa soundtrack. See more of these Nthambi animations on my Animation Portfolio Page or a few of the better stills under Illustrations.

I used the FREE web-based tool InVideo which is an easy drag n’ drop application that allows you to create dynamic moving videos out of stills in minutes.

More about InVideo and a host of other free tools you might try to turn your still images into animation in just a moment.

But first…

1.) Understand How It Works

turn your still images into animation
Illustration created for UNFPA Malawi

We call these short Nthambi movies “animations,” but really they are just a series of still images that also move, have text, and incorporate music and actors speaking.

I could make the characters also move and sync their lips (*kind of pointless right now since they are wearing masks!) and all the rest, but as I am only one person available to make the images and the videos have to be done quickly (usually within 4-7 days tops), I opted for this simple animatic style.

Animatics are actually a powerful prep tool used by animators where they take their storyboard and script and bring it to life by adding the timing, transitions, and a rough soundtrack.

They are meant to be a preview for a more polished and complex animation that will be created by a team of people (usually over many months or years and involving a large budget). Learn more about animatics here.

However, as seen on a number of children’s shows and networks like Sesame Street, Nickelodeon, and Baby TV, using this simple animatic style of “animation” almost has a storybook-like effect. Picture an adult reading to a small child who is looking at still images in a favorite book.

This way of turning still images into animation can be surprisingly effective, charming, and yet remains simple and comparatively inexpensive and quick to make.

2.) Pick Your Poison. Which Tools to Use

Illustration from the Nthambi series created for UNFPA Malawi

There are thousands of free tools available that make it easy for you to get started creating images, animation, video, graphics, and even websites even if you have zero design or technical experience and don’t know where to start.

The folks at InVideo were kind enough to give me a 25% discount code for their Business Plan that I can share with my online students from my InVideo course as well as my blog readers.

You can sign up for a FREE account here (<-*This is my referral link. If you decide later to get the Business Plan, you can use the code at checkout: INVIDEO25 for a 25% discount.)

OK. Now for some other tools. In this short video lesson below, I’ll walk you through the best free tools online (besides InVideo) and have you making something within the next hour or so that you will be proud of.


This lecture comes from my full course, Skyrocket Your Creativity: 7 Easy Ways. Learn More

There are thousands of free tools available that make it easy for you to get started creating images, animation, video, graphics, and even websites even if you have zero design or technical experience and don’t know where to start.

The trick is to use templates and guides to help you start putting things together which will then help you generate even more ideas.

Have a look at my very best FREE resources and tools. In just 10 minutes I will have you up and running making something new and exciting today. I can’t wait to see you turn your still images into animation.

Links for this lecture:


Get FREE images, music, and video for your creative projects: Blog Post and Giant List

My recommendations for specifically taking still images and making them move are Invideo, Canva (it now lets you make animated gifs and simple slideshow videos), and PowToon.

Other online animation tools you might try include:


3.) Find Some Support and Share in Our Creativity Group

Finally, if you haven’t done so already, consider joining a Facebook group I run called Creativity Is Contagious: Make and Share Daily.

The idea behind this group is to share something new daily (or more realistically every few days if need be!) It can be artwork you made, a photo you took, a quote you stumbled across, a blog post, some writing, a creative list, a new recipe, or any idea you may have.

Research backs up that the more you create, the better and better your ideas and projects become simply by increasing the quantity of what you make. I hope you will join us and share the good, bad, and the ugly daily or weekly.

Come on over and introduce yourself, make some new friends, share what you are working on, and get a nudge from me of you need one.

Hope to see you there!

Join today and get your creativity on.

Thanks for reading.

Got any other easy digital media creation, illustration. animation, storytelling, or creativity tips? Please leave them in the comments or post a link to your own creative work.

Happy designing!

Best wishes,