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Storyboard Guide

How to create a storyboard and why.


A storyboard is a visual representation, typically a series of panels or sketches, used to pre-visualize a film, animation, or any sequence of events in a project that involves visual storytelling. Each panel of the storyboard illustrates a specific scene or action, including details about dialogue, camera angles, and transitions, among other key elements of the narrative. The purpose of a storyboard is to communicate how the sequence of scenes will unfold, providing a frame-by-frame outline that guides filmmakers, animators, and other creative teams through the production process.

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Storyboards allow directors, cinematographers, and animators to visualise the scenes and the flow of the narrative before actual production begins. This visualization helps in planning and can highlight potential issues that might only be visible when viewed as part of a sequence.

They serve as a communication bridge between different departments involved in the production process, such as camera crews, lighting, art department, and post-production teams. A storyboard conveys not just what happens in the scene, but how it will visually and emotionally impact the audience.

A storyboard can be used in the approval process for your client work. By using this you can communicate with the client your ideas and make sure you are on the same page.

Using a storyboard can save time and resources. It helps in organizing the production details, reducing the potential for costly errors or reshoots. By having a clear plan, teams can better schedule shoots, arrange necessary equipment, and prepare for specific scene requirements.

Storyboards provide a platform to experiment with changes in the storyline, scene composition, and camera movements without the expense of actual production. This flexibility allows creative teams to try different ideas to see which works best for the story they are trying to tell.

Modulite - Allwood Joinery - Sketch Storyboard


The first step in storyboarding is a deep understanding of the story of the animation. This text is your blueprint. 

  • Read Thoroughly: Spend time with the story, reading it multiple times to grasp different aspects of the narrative.
  • Identify Key Elements: Break the story into scenes and identify the key action, emotional beats.
  • Visual Themes: Note any descriptions that hint at the visual style or themes of the project, which will influence the aesthetics of your storyboard.

Before sketching, gather references that align with the vision of the animation. This research will ground your artwork and help maintain consistency throughout the storyboard.

  • Visual Inspiration: Collect images, artworks, and photographs that capture the mood, style, and color palette of your animation. Platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are invaluable for this.
  • Technical References: For accuracy in the portrayal of unique or complex elements (like mechanical devices or historical settings), gather detailed references. These can also include anatomy references for character poses.
  • Environment and Setting: Gather references for backgrounds and settings to ensure that environments are realistic and consistent with the world of your story.

With your research in hand, start sketching the key frames of your storyboard. These drawings don't need to be masterpieces, but they should clearly convey the action and intent of each scene.

  • Rough Sketches: Begin with loose sketches to explore different compositions and angles. Use simple shapes to represent characters and elements initially.
  • Character Dynamics: Show where each character is and how they relate spatially to one another and to the environment. Indicate movements with arrows or brief notes.
  • Camera Angles and Movement: Plan your shots to tell the story most effectively—consider wide shots for setting a scene, close-ups for emotional moments, and varied angles for dynamic action.

Once the layout of each frame is decided, add details to clarify the scene. This is crucial for the animation team to understand what you envision.

  • Backgrounds: Enhance backgrounds with elements that add depth and context to the scene.
  • Facial Expressions and Body Language: Add specific expressions and detailed postures to convey the emotional state and reaction of the characters.
  • Annotations: Include notes about camera movements (e.g., panning, zooming), character movements, and special effects. Specify types of shots and any changes in lighting or focus.

Proper timing is essential in animation to synchronize scenes with dialogue, music, and transitions.

  • Timecodes: Assign approximate durations for each frame or scene to guide the animators and editors.
  • Audio Cues: Note key audio cues in the storyboard. This includes dialogue timing, music beats, and sound effects, which are crucial for timing the visuals.

Storyboards are not set in stone; they evolve based on feedback from various stakeholders.

  • Team Input: Present the storyboard to your team, including directors, animators, and possibly stakeholders like clients or investors. Encourage feedback.
  • Revise Accordingly: Use the feedback to refine the storyboard. Changes may involve adjusting the flow, rethinking scenes for clarity, or enhancing details for better understanding.

With revisions complete, produce a clean version of your storyboard.

  • Digitization: If you’ve been working on paper, consider digitizing your storyboard. Use software like Adobe Photoshop or Storyboard Pro to create a polished version.
  • Consistency Check: Ensure that all frames are stylistically consistent and clearly annotated. This is your last chance to make minor adjustments before the storyboard guides the production process.

Finally, compile and present the finished storyboard.

  • Format: Decide whether to present your storyboard as a digital file, printed boards, or through a slideshow. Each format has advantages depending on your audience.
  • Narrative Walk-through: When presenting, walk through the storyboard as if telling the story, explaining the flow and logic behind each decision. This helps others see your vision and provides context for each frame.


  • Panels

    Each panel represents a shot or a key moment in the storyline. It's akin to a comic strip where each box shows a different scene or action.

  • Annotations & Dialogues

    Under or beside each panel, there may be dialogue that corresponds with the action or notes about what is happening in the scene, camera directions, lighting cues, or information about the characters' emotions and movements.

  • Camera Angles & Movement

    Storyboards include indications of camera angles and movements (pan, tilt, zoom, etc.) to guide the cinematography team on how the shot should be captured.

  • Timing

    Sometimes, storyboards include timings for each scene to guide the editing process and synchronize with the script's pace and rhythm.


Thumbnail Storyboards

Quick, rough sketches are usually used in the early stages of project planning. They’re not detailed but give a quick snapshot of the scene layout.

Presentation Storyboards

More detailed and polished, often used for presentations to clients or producers. These storyboards are closer to what the final film or animation will look like and may include color and detailed backgrounds.

Technical Storyboards

Include detailed technical information useful for the production crew, such as specific camera angles, lens choices, and detailed motion paths for moving shots.



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A storyboard is a visual representation, often resembling a comic strip, used to pre-visualize films, animations, or multimedia projects. It outlines the sequence of scenes and actions, providing guidance on camera angles, dialogue, and transitions.

Storyboarding is crucial because it acts as a blueprint for the production. It allows creators to visualize and experiment with the sequence of scenes, plan camera movements, and ensure coherence in storytelling, which helps manage time and resources efficiently.

Key elements include panels (which depict each scene), dialogue or action notes, camera angles, and movement descriptions. Annotations regarding timing, sound effects, and character movements are also common.

The level of detail in a storyboard can vary depending on its purpose. Thumbnail storyboards might be very sketchy, just enough to outline a scene, while presentation storyboards could be fully detailed and colored, closely resembling the final product.

Not necessarily. While having drawing skills can enhance the quality of a storyboard, the clarity of communication is more important. Various tools and software can help create storyboards without extensive drawing skills.


Common storyboard software includes Adobe Photoshop, Storyboard That, Toon Boom Storyboard Pro, and FrameForge. These tools offer various features that can simplify the creation and editing of storyboards.


Yes, storyboards are often revised during production as new insights are gained, obstacles are encountered, or creative directions change. They are a guide, not a strict rulebook.


A storyboard is a series of static images, while an animatic is essentially a storyboard put into motion, often with basic sounds or dialogue. Animatics provide a better sense of timing and how the motion will look in the final product.


Digital storyboarding is faster, more flexible, and allows easier edits and sharing. Digital tools also offer libraries of pre-drawn figures and elements, streamlined animation features, and the ability to integrate with other digital production tools.


Typically, the director, cinematographer, and storyboard artist collaborate on the storyboard. In animation, character designers and lead animators may also contribute to ensure that character movements and visual styles are consistent.

The time can vary widely depending on the complexity of the project, the detail required in the storyboard, and whether it is being done digitally or by hand. A simple project might take a few days, while a feature-length film could require several weeks.