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How to Make Common Craft-style Explanatory Videos

More than a decade ago Common Craft introduced the world to a new style of explanatory videos. This style uses simple cutouts on a blank white background and a well-scripted voice-over.

Early Common Craft videos like this one about wikis used actual paper cutouts that were moved by a hand that you see in the video. Later ones like this one about podcasting uses digital cutouts and you don’t see a hand in the video. Both versions are effective in communicating big ideas. This post is about making Common Craft-style videos with digital tools.

Step 1: Create a Script

Once you have identified the topic that you want explain. Write and revise the script that you’re going read when you record your voice-over for the video.

Step 2: Find Artwork to Use in Your Video

Common Craft sells digital cutouts that you can download to use in your own videos (disclosure: they give me free access to the cutouts). You can also find suitable drawings on Pixabay. Use the “illustrations” search filter on Pixabay to find drawings. Of course, you could make your own drawings to save as PNG files then use in your video. If you use Google Drawings to make your drawings, you can save them as PNG files from the “file” drop-down menu.

Step 3: Add Your Digital Cutouts to Slides

In the video at the bottom of this post I used Google Slides. You could also do this in PowerPoint or Keynote. Use the transitions and animations tools to add simple animations to your slides. Click the animations while you record your voice-over.

Step 4: Record Your Slides and Voice-over Together

In the following video I used Screencastify to record my slides and narration at the same time. As you will see in the video, I specified in Screencastify that I only wanted to record my browser window and not my entire desktop.