Animators, animation studios and motion graphics people share a secret weapon: the storyboard. It's a vital tool for anyone working in the animation industry that helps you get crystal clear on the storyline before you dive headfirst into cinematography.
Storyboard pros know that storyboarding has countless benefits. It'll help you break down your story into thumbnails then sort them into a sensible flow – ensuring your story's perfectly paced. And it'll force you to start visualizing your final output, thinking about the likes of camera movements, special effects, and more.
In this step-by-step tutorial, we'll show you how to go about creating a top-notch storyboard that'll level up your production process. And we'll throw in a free storyboard template for good measure, too.
A storyboard is super similar to a comic book – a series of drawings accompanied by a little bit of text, where each drawing represents a specific part of your animated film. Storyboarding became popular in filmmaking back in the 1930s thanks to the OG storyboard artist, Webb Smith, who turned it into something of an art form.
Smith, an animator at Walt Disney Studios, started drawing rough sketches of frames on different bits of paper, then stuck them up on a wall to communicate a sequence of events. Many years later, bigwigs at the likes of Disney, Dreamworks and Pixar still follow the same process when cooking up box office-busting feature films.
Walt Disney in front of the Pinocchio storyboard
Being a storyboard artist in animation is a biiig challenge. You're in charge of cinematography, illustration, character design, prop design, backgrounds design… the list goes on.
When your mind's buzzing with an idea, it can be tempting to dive straight into filmmaking. But if you don't know where you're headed, you risk drawing yourself into a corner. Making a pre-production plan is going to make the whole process a lot easier. That's where storyboarding comes in.
Storyboarding is where you take your kernel of an idea and reproduce it in image form. You can use it to detail things like establishing shots (so that your viewers know where you are) or close-ups (where you show an in-depth view of a person, object or situation). As well as being important for animation filmmaking, it applies to other film genres, too – even our mate James Bond and his live-action films.
Make sure that each image on your storyboard contains enough information for people to understand what's going on, but not so much that it masks the most important details.
Three things to remember
New projectand name it after your animation
You can use custom fields to add extra information and keep all your ideas in one place. We recommend adding a
Notes field and using a nifty custom icon.
Notes and any other new fields that'll be useful for your planning. For example, you might want to add a field about camera angle, sorting shots by:
Worm's eye (low) view to make your character seem powerful
Eye level (regular) view for normal shots
Bird's eye (high) view to make your character seem vulnerable
You may also want to add a field dedicated to camera moves, like:
Panorama shots (a camera move where we move the viewer from left to right or right to left, vertically or diagonally)
The cut (try to get as close as possible to show whatever's most important at that moment while still leaving enough room for any action that might happen in that scene)
Add a simple illustration in each frame to help tell the story. Emphasise each moment, and think about how your character feels about it.
Don't worry if you're not a pro board artist – a simple sketch is fine. There's also a tonne of stock images and handy illustrations in Boords' image editor.
Leave more information in the
Notes field of each frame to give more context. You can also show what a character's thinking with thought bubbles. Try to include any details that your production team will need to know.
Now that you've got the entire story laid out, take a step back and check that everything flows correctly. Drag and drop frames if you need to tweak the order.
You might find it helpful to review the story in animatic form. Click
Animatic to convert your images directly from storyboard format to an animatic.
Your animatic will be arranged into a timeline with the position of each frame marked by a grey dot. Easy.
After you've finished your storyboard, you can show it to other people for feedback.
Sharein the top right of the screen
Manage peopleto give people editing access
We've got plenty more articles that can help with your animation craft. Have a sniff around our blog, or check out some suggestions below:
Boords is the simple, powerful way to storyboard your next blockbuster animation.
Try Boords today for free. We can't wait to see what you make!