What are the different styles of explainer videos?

You probably expected a top 20 or maybe a top 100 list of explainer video styles. Didn’t you?

That’s a great wish. But let’s get to the very basics.

Let’s get to the family tree and identify the most elementary styles.

There are really only 2 mother categories of explainer video styles. Live-action and non-live action.

Don’t be sad. It will not limit your possibilities. Each of these styles will have hordes of variants.

Here are some unique categories sorted in increasing order of their popularity.


As simple as it can go. Put together a set of really well-done slides (yeah Powerpoint, but there are many other options). Spice it up with beautiful images. Animate the text. Add some great transition effects. Layer with an engaging voiceover. And convert it into a video!

Warning: Make it interesting, never-seen-before content. Else your viewers will doze off or run away.

This is a nicely done explainer slide show.


Call it typography or kinetic typography.

Text is the HERO in this type of video. The only character.

To be super effective, the sentences should have mind-blowing messages. Statistics. Facts. Fiction.

Unlike the lines of a newspaper that stick up your face on a windy day; the text doesn’t remain still.

It moves, it dances, it entices, it enlightens, it motivates.

Music and voiceover are mated with the text to give a powerful impact.

My pick would always be the Spotify explainer. It uses text, music and a bit of animation to produce an awesome effect.


This is one spectacular way to bring your audience into your video!

The powerful thing about this concept is, you give control to the viewers. Control to change the story!

At certain interesting decision points, you give them a few options. They select one and the story takes a new direction. This one is sure to keep the viewers hooked!

An interactive video style can work for all types of explainer videos.

Here is an imaginary script for the ‘Digital Detox’ niche that can use an interactive video.

A middle-aged customer, sitting on a salon chair, getting his hair cut.

The hairstylist is having a hard time. Every few minutes, as he tries to snip, the head tilts slowly to the right. Why? The customer has dozed off!

“Sir”, the stylist says in an irritating tone. In one swoop move, it brings the head back to 90 degrees. He starts snipping again.

The stylist, on the other hand, is getting repeated mobile notifications. The mobile is on the shelf. The notifications are silent, but he can see them.

Distraction is starting to itch his b*lls.

Two events start happening in parallel.

  1. Yet again, the customer is starting to doze off, with his head slowly tilting.
  2. The stylist gets a call from his girlfriend.

With both his eyes on the mobile, the stylist has no view of where his hand is going.

He moves the pair of scissors near the right ear. Opens the blades, for a snip.

The top of the ear (almost 20% of the pinna) is exactly between the two extremely sharp steel edges.

The pair of scissors seems like PacMan ready to gobble a DOT (yeah you get it, the ear!).

And the distraction monster is right next to him.

Pacman eating ear zoomed out

pacman eating ear zoomed in

Ear image from Freeiconspng.com, Pacman images from Cleanpng.com

Right at that moment, you PAUSE!

With the video frozen you give 3 options to the viewer.

  1. Blood and gore
  2. The stylist doesn’t snip, takes the phone call
  3. Sleeping beauty wakes up, showers the choicest expletives

“Don’t cut ears, cut out your mobile. Get a digital detox today. Sign-up for FREE!”

That’s a call-to-action that this video can have!

This is one superb interactive explainer video. At any point in the video, just keep your mouse clicked, you will see an entirely different story!

Keep toggling and you will as if you are watching a Nolan movie with 2 parallel stories!

Pretty cool!


If you have to make a demo explainer video; you have to use screencasting.

You start with a script with key actions that help demonstrate your product.

Use screen recording software. Hit the record button. Follow the script and explain the concept.

Oh, a blooper! Stop recording immediately. Start again. After rounds of bloopers, you become blooper-proof. Finally, you capture the demo on video.

Edit it. Add text, music, and voiceover (if the voiceover is not done while screen recording).

Mission accomplished (feel like Ethan hunt minus the stunts).

This is a great example of a screencast video by a Youtuber providing tips and tricks to use Mint.com.


Typically used for promo explainer videos, it’s essentially a movie or a movie trailer.

With a slight difference – Here you want your audience to feel informed, excited and then take action (signup, buy stuff).

Unlike a movie where they come out of the cinema hall, happy, energized, elated. Or scratching their head and cursing it.

The process goes like this.

Write a lovely script. Decide the tone of the video (funny, tear-jerking, raunchy?).

If you want a highly customized video, get a super camera. Hunt for locations, or use your (or your neighbors). Get some actors (or you be one).

FACT – This hilarious explainer video of DollarShaveClub.com featured the founder himself (so don’t be shy, but don’t go overboard).

Don’t want to shoot? Go for stock footage.

Though making a video entirely using stock footage and making it look original is challenging. Not impossible!

You need to have awesome editing skills to get there.

Whatever you choose, once done, go to your editing room and snip, snip, snip.

Polish it with studio effects. Add music, some additional text. Mix the recorded voice or record a voiceover.

Your live-action explainer will be ready.


The world loves animation! What is an animation? Cartoons! No, not necessarily.

Here is the simple definition. These are drawings, texts, objects that are put into motion by amazing wizardry.

The wizardry is performed by high caliber computers with exemplary hardware and software.

This bouncing ball is the most basic form of animation.

Gif source – By Branko at English Wikipedia

To create this simple movement, see how it was created frame by frame.

There are 6 frames or 6 simple images. These are played one by one in a loop to create a visual of movement.

Image source – Wikipedia

“Freaking hell. All that work for one bouncing ball?”.

This question would hold water in the 50s when computer animation was rare.

Today, there are awesome computers for your aid.  A whole lot of varieties.

It can create complex, ready to use animation in minutes. Take a sigh of relief!

For explainer animation, the variants are growing by the day. 2D, 2.5D (that’s not a typo), 3D, Whiteboard, Parallax, you name it!

This detailed animated explainer video for Walmart steals the show!

Embed video:

Pat your back! You have now armed yourself with the knowledge to choose your own style.

What next? Understand these rock-solid steps to make your explainer video!

Featured Image credit –
Original Image by Gabriel Avellaneda from Pixabay

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