How to Create Animated Whiteboard Explainer Videos For Free Using Apple Keynote

Sample whiteboard animation explainer video made with Keynote

This article originally appeared on Keynotopia’s blog.

Animated whiteboard explainers are some of the most viral videos on YouTube.

They are engaging, entertaining and educational.

They are also faster, easier and cheaper to create than live videos because they require no actors, lighting, or cameras.

And they have a much higher conversion rate than the same information provided in text form, mostly because most people don’t have time or patience to read anymore.

I recently wanted to create one of those videos for PingTag, and I spent a couple of days looking at and trying different options.

It became clear that creating one of those videos is expensive and time consuming!

If you decide to hire someone to do it for you, it would cost anywhere between $500 and $5,000, and you will still need to be involved to provide input, guidance and feedback throughout the process.

And if you decide to do it yourself using a whiteboard explainer software, you still need to spend a few days learning and using a new tool, and $100-$200 to buy the tool and the templates.

After experimenting with different tools, I realized that I could create animated explainer videos for free, in less than a day, using a tool that I already had and knew how to use.

And in 10 hours, I was able to create the following whiteboard animation video using nothing but Apple Keynote.

I LOVE Keynote and use it for many tasks ranging from UI design to print design and even for creating social media images and videos.

When I created Keynotopia UI templates, I had never imagined that over 100,000 professionals and companies will end up using it, and it made me realize that so many others also agree that Keynote is way more than a presentation tool.

It is Apple’s equivalent of a Swiss army knife.

In this guide, I am going to show you how to use it to create whiteboard animation videos for free is less than a day.

Why use Keynote?

Keynote contains a wealth of features that allow you to get 80% of the results with 20% of the effort, and that make it an ideal tool for creating those animated whiteboard explainer videos:

  • Vector drawing tools and layout systems that are typically present in professional design tools
  • A large library of vector shapes is included for free
  • Built in animations and transitions to animate shapes and slides
  • The ability to create different visual styles and to switch between them with a single click (marker on whiteboard, chalk on blackboard, ink on notebook, pencil on sketchbook,…)
  • Background music and soundtracks for slides and videos
  • The ability to add voice-over to a slideshow and record it as a video.
  • Sharing and live collaboration: you can create the video together with your team
  • The flexibility to create different variations of the same video for A/B testing without having to re-create the entire video or hire someone to do it.
  • You can integrate those animations in your regular presentations, like your pitch decks or your classroom demos.

And the best feature ever: Keynote is included for free on the Mac, iPad and iPhone (I would have gladly paid $100 for it)

How to create a whiteboard animation video in one day using Keynote

Here are the steps that I followed to create the animated video for PingTag.

I used Keynote on the Mac for the entire process, except when I switch to the iPad version to draw storyboards.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

If you prefer watching to reading, here is a screencast that I recorded for the entire process:

Step 1: Create an outline

In your favorite text editor or note taking tool, create an outline for your video. You can also create an empty slide in Keynote, add a text shape, and type your outline there.

For my PingTag explainer video, here is the outline that I have created, which is a tried and tested layout for most product explainers.

  • Problem or pain point
    When we loose one of our valuable items, there is nothing on it that allows people to return it back to us.
  • Current solutions and what is wrong with them
    Bluetooth trackers
    — — They get expensive quickly
    — — You need to change their batteries regularly
    — — They cannot be attached to everything
    — Contact labels
    — — They need to be changed when you travel to match the new phone number at your destination
    — — They publicly expose your contact information to scams, harassments and identity theft
  • The new solution and why it is better
    PingTag: A QR tag that allows people to reach you without revealing your contact information to anyone.
  • Benefits
    Privacy
    — Change phone number any time
    — Add multiple contacts
    — Add public note
    — Works anywhere in the world
    — No apps download or installation required
  • How it works
    — Scan the tag
    — Send a message to the owner through the web interface
    — The owner gets an alert and can reply directly from SMS without revealing his/her number
  • What can it be used for?
    Keys, bags, wallets, phones, laptops, headphones, passport, water bottle, pets and car
  • Call to action
    Try it for free + link
    — Print tags at home or purchase ready-made ones.

Step 2: Write the script

There are multiple ways to create a YouTube video script using Notion, spreadsheets or a simple pen and paper.

I found that the best way is to create the script directly within Keynote using Presenter Notes.

If your presenter notes aren’t showing, you can enable them from View > Show Presenter Notes.

For each of the bullet points in your outline, add a new slide, and then write 1–2 paragraphs that expand that point(this is what you will be narrating using voice over) in the presenter notes for that slide. Then add a second paragraph describing how the scene would look and how it would animate.

For example, here are the slide notes for “How PingTag works” point from my outline:

Step 3: Create the scenes

Now, the fun part begins: creating the actual content of your video.

Go back to the first slide and start finding and adding shapes from the shape library onto your slide based on its presenter notes.

Think of each slide as a snapshot of the last frame of that scene before transitioning to the next one.

At this point, it is important to decide which visual style you want to have for your animated explainer video: whiteboard, blackboard, notebook, sketchbook, etc.

You can also decide and change those styles later, but it’s faster to do it after you create your first slide.

To do that, select all the shapes in your first slide, then in the Style tab of the properties panel, add an outline, and select the stroke shape, thickness and color corresponding to the drawing style that you want for your presentation, and then set the Fill for that shape to None.

Adding strokes to shapes is essential, as it will allow you to animate that shape using a line draw animation in a later step.

You can also change the background of your slide to match the stroke style that you are using. For instance, if you want to use ink strokes on college ruled paper, go to view > Edit Slide Layouts, duplicate a blank slide, and then Google a background image that you would like to use and copy/paste it over that slide layout, then switch your slides to use that master slide.

Once you created your first slide, duplicate it (this is important, as it will allow you to use Magic Move later to create transitions between slides), and then select all the shapes from the previous slide, then move out of the frame to whichever side you like. When Magic Move is added later, this will animate their positions and will create the illusion a camera moving over the surface that you’re drawing the shapes on.

You can also scale in/out the shapes from one slide to another to give the impression that you are moving the camera further away from or closer to the drawing surface. This helps when you’re trying to zoom into or out of a specific point.

And once you created all your scenes (slides), preview your presentation by clicking through it as a series of storyboard frames and see how it looks and feels so far.

What happens if you can’t find a shape that you want?

There will be times where you can’t find a shape that you need in the included shapes library. In that case, you will need to find and download a vector shape that would work, and then convert it into Keynote format.

Unfortunately, Keynote cannot import SVG directly, but I found a quick workaround that I will create a detailed post about next. Make sure you subscribe or follow me to get notified when it’s up.

Step 4: Add animations

There are 4 different types of animations in Keynote:

  • Build in: to show a shape
  • Build out: to hide a shape
  • Action: to animate the shape after it’s shown
  • Transition: to move between slides

To add animation to your shapes so that they look like they are being drawn live, go back to the first slide, select all shapes on that slide, and then click on the animate tab on the right panel, click Build In, and then line draw. Keep all options the same, except for the drawing time, which I suggest you set it between .5 and 1. Then click on the build order at the bottom, and make sure the animations are triggered in the right sequence you’d like to “draw” the shapes in.

Note that Line Draw animation will not be available if the shape does not have a stroke, and that’s why we added strokes to all shapes in the previous step.

If you added text to your slides, you can use the “Keyboard” build in to animate the text. I’d recommend unchecking the “Cursor” option for that animation. A good font to use for this type of videos is Marker Felt.

Now, we need to add the “camera” animation between slides. To do so, select all slides from the left panel, and then click the Animate tab of the right panel, click Build In, select Magic Move, and then set the duration to 0.3 seconds. This will add magic move transition to all slides at once.

Preview your progress by playing your slide show and clicking through it.

Step 5: Add background music

Let me tell you a secret: I always start any video project by listening to dozens, if not hundreds, of music loops until I find the one that feels right for the purpose of that video.

Then I download it, and play it on a loop with my eyes closed, while I visualize the entire video in my head.

I iterate in my head first, before I iterate in the tools. Once I can see the entire thing in my imagination, I can transfer it to reality.

There are lots of websites to download music loops from, and my current favorite is Uppbeat.io

Once you find and download the music, you can add it to your presentation to be played in the background as you are going through it.

Click the document icon on the top right corner of your toolbar, and then click audio, and drag and drop the soundtrack you have downloaded into the soundtrack list. You can add multiple tracks to be played in a sequence or a single track to be played in a loop. You can also turn tracks on and off to experiment with different sequences and loops.

Adjust the volume to 10%-15% so it doesn’t interfere with the voice over.

Step 6: Record voice-over

Another great feature in Keynote that makes it possible to create the entire animated explainer video in Keynote is the ability to add voice-over to the presentation and record it as a video, while the soundtrack is playing in the background.

To record your voice over, click the Record… button on top of the soundtrack panel that you already have open from the previous step, which will bring up the live recording interface.

Change the layout to show previous and next slide as well as presenter’s notes.

Now, all you need is to hit record and narrate each slide from the slide notes, while advancing the slides and animations in sync with your narration and with the soundtrack playing in the background.

And if you make a mistake, you don’t need to re-record the entire thing. Just stop the recording, rewind to the previous slide using the slider at the bottom, and start from there. Keynote takes care of sync’ing the background music to the right spot and resuming the recording from that point forward.

Once you are done recording, you can hit play to review what you have so far, and if you’re not happy with it, rewind and re-record.

If you make changes to your slides after recording your voice-over, Keynote will warn you that your recording will be out of sync, and you will need to re-record the entire slideshow again.

Step 7: Export your movie

The only step left is to export the live slideshow that you have just recorded as a movie that you can later upload to YouTube.

Go to File > Export To > Movie… and then select Slideshow Recording in Playback and whatever resolution you like for your final movie.

Bonus: Hand animation

In most animated explainer videos, you see a hand holding a pen and moving around the surface while drawing different shapes. This is either a real hand drawing on a whiteboard while being recorded by an overhead camera, or a static image of a hand tracing vector shapes being drawn by an animated whiteboard software tool.

That was the only thing that wasn’t simple or straightforward to create with Keynote.

After some experimentation, I found that you can use shapes to create motion paths to animate the hand on top of it.

I chose not to use that for my video as it would have required doubling the number of animations in each slide, which I didn’t have time for, and I didn’t believe it added enough value to the video to warrant the effort.

If you want to add hand animation to your videos, here is how you can do it:

  • Find an image of a hand holding a pen or a sharpie on Google, preferably with a transparent or white background
  • Drag and drop the image onto your first slide, select it, and then from Format > Image tab in the right panel, select Instant Alpha, and then click and drag on the white background of the image until it disappears.
  • With the hand image selected, click the Animate tab, then add a Build-in => appear and a build-out => disappear
  • Select both the hand and the first shape on your slide, then click Format menu > Shapes And Lines > Make Motion Path From Shape, and then click on that shape again.
  • Set the duration of that new animation to match the duration of the shape being drawn (0.5 seconds in our case) and then select the shape, and set its animation direction to Clockwise or Counter Clockwise to match the shape drawing animation.
  • You will also notice that the hand animation is not aligned with the shape animation. To fix that, select the shape, preview its line draw animation, find out where it starts, and then move the hand to align the tip of the pen with the starting point.
  • Click the Build Order button at the bottom of the Animate panel, drag the hand animations so that it appears before the shape animation, plays with the shape animation, and then disappears after it’s done.
  • Duplicate the hand
  • Repeat the previous for every shape on every slide.

Here is what you end up with:

If I find an easier and faster hack to make hand animation, I will post about it in a future article.

There you have it: instead of spending hundreds of dollars hiring someone to create an animated whiteboard explainer video for you, or spending a couple of days learning new tools that you have to also pay for, you can create it yourself in one day using the best free tool that you already have and know how to use: Apple Keynote.

So, what’s next?

I am turning Apple’s vector shape library into animated hand drawn ones with different styles (sharpie, chalk, pencil, ink, etc.) that can be used directly into any presentation or video. Having something like that would have probably saved me 2–3 hours on my animated video explainer, so I will be making those templates available for download in the next week or two for others to use.

If you’d like to be notified when the templates are available for download, sign up here.

Here is a preview of what will be included in those templates (all shapes include their line drawing animations):

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Entrepreneur, product designer, and consultant. Helped 15 startups design+launch (5 acquired). Founder of Keynotopia and Augmentop. 100K+ customers.

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Amir Khella

Entrepreneur, product designer, and consultant. Helped 15 startups design+launch (5 acquired). Founder of Keynotopia and Augmentop. 100K+ customers.