5 Ways to Master Environmental Storytelling with Animation
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Create a visual narrative
  2. Animate natural elements
  3. Use color to convey emotion
  4. Incorporate sound for immersion
  5. Build a world with detail

Storytelling has always been a powerful tool to convey ideas, emotions, and messages. But when you add the elements of animation to it, the results can be magical. This is especially true when it comes to environmental storytelling through animation. It's a unique way to depict the beautiful intricacies of our natural world, draw attention to important environmental issues, and inspire action. This guide presents five effective ways to master the art of environmental storytelling through animation. Let's dive right in.

1. Create a Visual Narrative

When you're using animation to tell an environmental story, the first step is to create a compelling visual narrative. This is your opportunity to use the power of visuals to carry your story and engage your audience. Here's how:

Start with a Clear Message

Before you even start sketching, you need to have a clear message. What do you want to convey through your animation? Maybe it's about how plastic pollution is destroying marine life, or how deforestation is leading to loss of biodiversity. Make sure this message is at the heart of your visual narrative.

Design Relatable Characters

Characters are often the soul of any story. In environmental storytelling through animation, your characters could be animals, trees, or even elements like water and air. Making your characters relatable will help your audience connect with them and empathize with their experiences.

  • Create expressive characters: Use animation techniques to make your characters express emotions. Let them laugh, cry, or show fear—depending on what your story demands.
  • Give them a personality: Just like humans, your characters should have distinct personalities. A tree could be wise and patient, while a young deer could be curious and adventurous.

Use Visual Metaphors

Visual metaphors can be a powerful tool in environmental storytelling through animation. For instance, a melting ice cream could represent global warming, or a parched land could symbolize water scarcity. Using such metaphors makes your narrative more engaging and thought-provoking.

Remember, creating a visual narrative is all about using your creativity to its fullest and letting your imagination run wild. So, go ahead and start crafting your environmental story through animation.

2. Animate Natural Elements

Animating natural elements can be a great way to bring the environment to life in your story. If done right, it can make your animation more realistic and immersive, enhancing the overall impact of your environmental storytelling. Here's how you can go about it:

Understand the Nature of the Element

Before you animate a natural element, take the time to understand its nature and behavior. How does water flow in a river? How does a tree sway in the wind? The better you understand these behaviors, the easier it will be to animate them in a realistic manner.

Use Animation Techniques to Your Advantage

There are many animation techniques that can help you animate natural elements effectively:

  • Slow In and Slow Out: This technique is about altering the speed of an animation to make it more life-like. For instance, when animating a waterfall, you can slow the animation down at the beginning (where the water is falling from) and speed it up towards the end (where the water is hitting the ground).
  • Squash and Stretch: This technique can be useful when animating elements like water, which can change shape. By squashing and stretching the water, you can make it look more fluid and dynamic.

Be Mindful of the Details

When animating natural elements, pay attention to the details. The ripple effect in water, the rustling of leaves, the crackling of fire—these small details can make a big difference in making your animation more realistic and engaging.

Animating natural elements might seem daunting, especially if you're new to animation. But with practice and patience, you can become adept at it, and add a whole new dimension to your environmental storytelling through animation.

3. Use Color to Convey Emotion

Color can be a powerful tool in environmental storytelling through animation. It can set the mood, evoke emotions, and even tell a story on its own. Let's explore how you can use color to enhance your animated narratives.

Set the Mood with Color Palettes

Color palettes can create different moods and atmospheres in your animation. For example, soft pastel colors can create a sense of tranquility and peace, while bold, vibrant colors can convey excitement and energy. Play around with different color palettes to see what works best for your story.

Use Color Symbolism

Colors hold different meanings and emotions in different cultures. This is known as color symbolism. Use this to your advantage in your animation. For instance, green often represents nature and growth, while blue can symbolize calmness and stability. By understanding color symbolism, you can communicate more effectively with your audience through your animations.

Experiment with Color Grading

Color grading is the process of adjusting the colors in your animation to achieve a certain look or mood. It's a powerful technique used in films and animations to enhance storytelling. For example, a scene can be color graded to look warm and vibrant to evoke feelings of happiness and joy, or cold and desaturated to create a sense of sadness or despair.

Remember, color is not just about making your animation look pretty. It's about using it to enhance your environmental storytelling through animation. So next time you're working on an animation, think about the colors you're using and what they're saying to your audience.

4. Incorporate Sound for Immersion

Sound is a vital aspect of environmental storytelling through animation. It can transport your audience right into the heart of your animated world, making them feel like they are part of the story. Let's dive into the ways you can use sound to captivate your audience.

Use Ambient Sounds

Ambient sounds, or background noises, are the sounds that naturally exist within an environment. Imagine the rustling of leaves in a forest, the bustling of a busy city, or the soft lapping of waves on a beach. Including these sounds in your animation can make your world feel more real and immersive.

Emphasize Key Moments with Sound Effects

Sound effects, when used at the right moments, can add a whole new level of depth to your story. A sudden crash, a soft whisper, a heart-wrenching cry—these can all evoke strong emotions in your audience. Use sound effects to highlight important moments in your story and make them more impactful.

Use Music to Set the Mood

Music can set the tone of your animation and influence the emotions of your audience. A cheerful tune can make a scene feel light-hearted and fun, while a somber melody can evoke feelings of sadness or melancholy. Choose music that aligns with the mood you want to convey in your story.

When you effectively incorporate sound, you can transport your audience into your animated world, making your environmental storytelling through animation even more compelling. Remember, sound is not just an accessory but a powerful narrative tool. So, listen carefully—the story is in the silence, the whispers, the roars, and the melodies.

5. Build a World with Detail

Deeply engaging environmental storytelling through animation often lies in the details. By investing time and creativity into crafting a detailed world, you make your animation more believable and engaging. Let's explore how you can build a rich, detailed world in your animation.

Use Textures to Enhance Realism

Textures can make your animation feel more tangible and lifelike. The roughness of a tree bark, the smoothness of a pebble, or the softness of a cloud—these can all add depth to your animation. Pay attention to the textures in your animated world, and make sure they are consistent with the real-world counterparts.

Create Unique Characters

The characters in your animated world should be as unique and detailed as the world itself. Give your characters distinctive features, personalities, and backstories. The more detailed your characters, the more relatable they will be to your audience.

Consider the Environment

Every detail in your environment should serve a purpose. Whether it's a worn-out signboard that hints at a city's past, or a blooming flower that signals the start of spring, these details can add depth to your story. Always consider how the environment interacts with your characters and influences the progression of your story.

Building a world with detail is a crucial step in environmental storytelling through animation. By paying close attention to textures, characters, and environment, you can create a vibrant, immersive world that your audience will love to explore. Remember, in animation, every detail counts. So, get creative, explore different ideas, and let your world come to life in all its detailed glory.

If you're passionate about mastering environmental storytelling in animation, don't miss the workshop 'Storytelling In Illustration' by Mirelle Ortega. This workshop will help you enhance your skills in conveying stories through illustrations and explore the power of visual storytelling in the world of animation.