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How to Draw a Storyboard

Updated on May 23, 2016
A typical example of a storyboard.
A typical example of a storyboard. | Source

What is a Storyboard?

Well, for those of you out there who don't know what a storyboard is, let me enlighten you.

Basically, a storyboard is a series of drawings that tell a story. Storyboards are used extensively in the movie and film industry, in the advertising and television industry and in other fields as well.

A storyboard artist must be able to tell a story in a sequential, visual way. To accomplish this, the artist is usually provided with a script or some other description of action or camera shots needed in a movie, television commercial or other visual presentation. The best storyboard artists are able to take a written or oral description and translate that into a set of sequential drawings.

This set of completed sequential drawings tell the story of a movie, film or television commercial. Most storyboards are used to depict the sequence of story in a movie or commercial. Another specific type of storyboard is called a "shooting board" or "director board." This special type of storyboard is drawn to focus more on camera moves like pans, zooms, close-ups. etc.

Sometimes a storyboard artist will work alongside a director on the set or film production studio. Other times they may work in their own studio or in the offices of an ad agency.

I know an artist who has been drawing storyboards since he began his career as a illustrator over 40 years ago. He says that creating storyboards has been one of the most rewarding aspects of his long career.

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In this storyboard, there are a number of different shots used.
In this storyboard, there are a number of different shots used. | Source

To Draw a Storyboard, Start With a Storyboard Template

One of the first things a storyboard artist will use is a storyboard template. In the days before HD and wide-screen television formats, the aspect ratio of a typical storyboard frame was 4:3. This was the standard size of most pre-widescreen televisions.

Most storyboard templates today are set up for widescreen production. The image at the right depicts a typical 4:3 regular aspect ratio frame. The actual size of the frame will determine how many storyboard frames appear on the template. In this example, there are 6 frames shown on this particular template.

Sometimes the storyboard artist will work with larger frames and sometimes with smaller frames on a storyboard template page. If an artist wishes to work with smaller frames. then more frames can be added to a storyboard template page. Typically, storyboard frames requiring less detail are sketched out on smaller frame templates. Storyboard frames that require a lot of detail will be created on larger frame templates.

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Basic Storyboard Skills

Reading and Translating a Script

The first thing a storyboard artist must learn to do is take a close look at the script used for a movie or commercial. From this carefully crafted script, the artist must create images that will tell the story visually.

The greatest talent of any storyboard artist is the ability to listen and translate sometimes vague concepts into easily recognizable images. The artist interviewed for this piece said this translation of the initial communication was the most critical part of the whole storyboarding process.

Storyboard Terms and Abbreviations

WSWide shot, full frame

MS - Medium shot

TS - Tight shot, similar to a CU

CU - Close-up

XCU - Extreme Close-up

3/4 - Three Quarter Shot

H&S - Head & Shoulder shot

Pan - Turn Camera left or right

Tilt - Turn Camera up or down

Zoom - Pull from telephoto to wide angle (or vice versa)

Cut to - Switch to next shot or frame

OTS - Over the shoulder

POV - Point of View

Knowledge of Camera Techniques

It just makes sense that if you're going to translate a written script into a visual form, you need to have a knowledge of the process by which this is accomplished.

Basic camera techniques used in the production of a storyboard include pans, zooms, tilts, etc. For example, H&S indicates a shot (frame) that shows a person's head and shoulders only.

A zoom means the camera moves toward the action or away from it. A two-shot indicates there are 2 people in the shot (frame).

There is a list of some terms and abbreviations used in storyboard descriptions to the right.

These terms are typically used in the script to indicate which type of shot a storyboard artist must create.

In the partial storyboard example shown to the right, there are a number of shot descriptions. From top left, reading down the page, the shots are as follows: 1) Close Up; 2) Two Shot; 3) Wide Shot; 4) Head & Shoulder Shot; 5) Wide Shot or Three Shot; and 6) Two Shot.

The sequence tells the story of a couple who have entered a furniture store and shared their Chinese food dinner on a dining room table. The sales woman enters (frame 4) and tells the potential customers all about the dining room furniture.

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Ability to Draw or Sketch

While it is not essential, the best storyboard artists have developed the skill to draw or sketch just about anything or any person from any angle. When you're creating a visual image from a written script, well-rendered drawings simply communicate better. Though they are rarely used, I have seen storyboards drawn using stick figures.

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Great storyboard artists are able to communicate action and emotion in their work.
Great storyboard artists are able to communicate action and emotion in their work. | Source

Start by setting up or getting a hold of a storyboard frame template. There are a few websites online that provide a free download for storyboard templates.

If you don't know how to draw, just do the best you can. Remember that the main purpose of a storyboard is not great drawing - the main purpose is to communicate an idea or story.

This can be dome using simple stick figures. The storyboard examples to the right are well drawn and communicate the sequence of the story.

Source

The example to the immediate right is a storyboard done for a creative director working for an advertising agency that had McDonald's® Restaurants as a client.

The first step in the storyboard process was a script written by a copywriter at the ad agency. The script was written to communicate a single concept of idea in the television commercial.

In this case, the concept revolved around loud hip-hop music, cars and the drive-thru at McDonald's.

The artist, working with the director, used a combination of wide shots, close-ups and product shots to clearly tell the story.


Storyboard Software

In recent years, the development of digital graphic tablets and storyboard software has revolutionized the storyboard industry. Even though there are still a number of artists who use the old ways of hand drawing storyboards, those methods are fast fading away.

Regardless of what methods are used to create a storyboard, directors, film companies and advertising agencies will continue to use the simple storyboard to communicate their sometimes vague and complex concepts.

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How to Become a Storyboard Artist

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    • MKayo profile image
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      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      trusouldj - Thanks for stopping by and the comment!

    • trusouldj profile image

      trusouldj 4 years ago from Indiana

      Amazing. thanks for sharing.

    • MKayo profile image
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      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      healthwealthmusic, heidithorne and cre8tivOne - thanks for the read and compliments!

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very inspiring hub. I am glad to know about this from you. It's like a pre production where we have to make it before produce a movie. Thanks for share with us. Voted up!

      Prasetio

    • savingkathy profile image

      Kathy Sima 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Fascinating hub, and I love your storyboards. I would love to be able to do this type of thing, but alas my drawing abilities leave a lot to be desired. Congratulations on the well-deserved HOTD!

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 4 years ago from Australia

      and congrats on HOTD award :)

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 4 years ago from Australia

      Great information on how to draw a storyboard I am going to 'bookmark' for future reference. Thankyou and shared :)

    • Hezekiah profile image

      Hezekiah 4 years ago from Japan

      Nice Hub, have always been wondering about film production, scripts and storyboards.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Congrats on HOTD!

      Very well done. I remember trying to draw storyboards when I was in broadcast class. UGH! I'm no artist...trying to get my shots shown in the storyboard was a real challenge.

      I remember most of the abbreviations and lingo, as well..ECU was what we used for "extreme close up," and getting the camera operator to realize that ECU did NOT mean "up the nose shot," was sometimes a challenge, given that I was a mid-life student in a class of fresh-from-high-school students... LOL

      I went on to produce a monthly hobby show on cable access TV for a few years, and that was a blast. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

      Voted up, interesting, useful and shared.

    • cre8ivOne profile image

      cre8ivOne 4 years ago from Midwest, USA

      This is cool! Thanks for sharing your knowledge on storyboard writing.

      :)

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      What a beautiful and helpful post! Great tips for anyone interested in making videos.

    • healthwealthmusic profile image

      Ruth R. Martin 4 years ago from Everywhere Online ~ Fingerlakes ~ Upstate New York

      I have always admired story boards. Thank you for breaking it down so it is easier to understand the process :)

    • MKayo profile image
      Author

      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for the read and kind words, jpcmc!

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I never knew there is so much going on with when creating a storyboard. Cheers on your HOTD award. It deserves the limelight.

    • MKayo profile image
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      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      Thank you, Stephanie! Glad you were able to learn something - my day is complete! Best, M

    • MKayo profile image
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      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for your kind words. Yes, second one this week - I was surprised as well!

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 4 years ago from New Jersey

      Congratulations on your Hub of the Day. This was really interesting to read. There was a lot of useful information. While I do not do storyboards, it was fun to learn about them.

    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      One more thing, I just realized that this is your second "Hub of the Day" this week. Great job!

    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      MKayo, this is very impressive, and awesome that you shared this valuable information. I know my hubby has used storyboard artists in the past, being in the Entertainment industry, and I didn't know the depth of what went into this. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • MKayo profile image
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      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      Thank you, JayeWisdom.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      You really earned Hub of the Day! Voted Up+++

    • MKayo profile image
      Author

      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      MarleneB - Yes, the storyboard does help, especially for those folks who cannot think visually. Thanks for stopping by to read my Hub!

      Twig22bend - Thanks for the read and compliment!

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Great job explaining all about how to draw a storyboard. I can only draw stick figures. You are right that people can do storyboards with just using stick figures if it is the best they can do. I once sold a script (very small production) by accompanying the script with a storyboard. I was desperate to get the job and I do believe the storyboard helped a lot.

    • twig22bend profile image

      twig22bend 4 years ago

      Oh so interesting. Thanks for sharing. Congratulations on your HOTD.

    • MKayo profile image
      Author

      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      Lady Wolfe - Thanks for stopping by and reading my Hub. AND thanks for the VoteUp! M

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      Lady Wolfs 4 years ago

      Great hub. Nice job and very interesting. Congratulations on Hub of the Day!

      Voted up and awesome!

    • The Unlearner profile image

      Jo 4 years ago from Isle of Wight UK

      Oh what a great article. I love story boards and I know a few children at our home ed group that have just started to get into creating them. I also like stop motion animation, which obviously requires a good story board to begin with. For young children too, it is a very useful and creative way to engage them with the concept of sequences, and how to plan a story. Well done, great read.

    • waynet profile image

      Wayne Tully 4 years ago from Hull City United Kingdom

      This is quite awesome!

    • Wonder wool profile image

      Priyanka Estambale 4 years ago from United States

      Amazing Hub! Congrats for the Hub of the Day!

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      Congratulations on HOTD! It is well deserved.

    • emimemo profile image

      emimemo 4 years ago from USA

      I have done the story board one time in the past. A friend wanted to submit the story to somewhere and needed the story board with it. It was a short film, but took me long time to draw them. I can see how Pro. and Non-Pro. way to make the story board. Thank you for sharing.

    • Kenja profile image

      Ken Taub 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      So nice to see, whether you're an ad man like me, an artist or a happy viewer of TV or web spots. You rock, nice Hub MK. regards, Ken

    • Faith A Mullen profile image

      Faith A Mullen 4 years ago

      Congrats on HOTD! Great hub. And your drawing is awesome :)

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      I love storyboards! As a kid, I could read books all day as long as they're in storyboard format. When I had my first two kids, I would make up stories for them using SB layouts, with pencil, and of course they loved it! Kids are now grown and well... you know the rest.

      I think you just gave me an idea for a kid holiday project !^!

      Voted up and very useful.

    • Celiegirl profile image

      Celiegirl 4 years ago

      Thanks!

    • Fred8080 profile image

      Fred8080 4 years ago from Perth, Western Australia

      Storyboarding: The art of design & animation.

      Great hub buddy!!

    • profile image

      calculus-geometry 4 years ago

      Really impressive! I have a friend who is an amateur artist who can draw like this on the spot, not stick figures but really well-developed human forms, any scenario you can come up with. So far hasn't found any market for his skill. Is it a hard industry to break into? It sounds like something he would be great at!

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

      Very nice hub and enjoyed it much as a fellow artist. whonu

    • bonnebartron profile image

      bonnebartron 4 years ago from never one place for too long

      Nice, Did you make these storyboards yourself?

    • MKayo profile image
      Author

      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      Thanks, caramellatte - Your name makes me want to head to my local coffee house.

    • caramellatte profile image

      caramellatte 4 years ago

      Cool hub! :)

    • MKayo profile image
      Author

      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      Hey thanks donnah75 - for the read and leaving such a nice compliment from a fellow visual artist!

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      I am in awe of the art you have shown in this hub. I never did hone my drawing skills. I prefer to create my visions through staging drama productions, which sort of requires the same ideas as storyboarding. I have used this concept in my classroom as well. Assigning a storyboard project allows students to show their comprehension of literature in a visual way. Great hub. Beautiful!