3 ways to draw a storyboard

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3 ways to draw a storyboard
3 ways to draw a storyboard

Storyboards are (more or less) comic book versions of the movies. They illustrate the camera angles, timing, look, and action of the film so you can work efficiently on set. They also help create creative and artistic shots and prepare you for filming problems before they arise.


Method 1 of 3: Storyboard a Scene

Draw Storyboards Step 1
Draw Storyboards Step 1

Step 1. Finish the script before starting the storyboards

The script is a template for how a movie will sound, so the storyboard is a template for how a movie will look. Storyboards are how you envision how actors, props, background, and camera angles will fit into a particular scene or sequence of shots. It's your chance to visually plan your movie before expensive cameras, actors, and equipment are waiting for your directions on set.

With this in mind, one of the jobs of a storyboard creator is to improve the script by adding illustrations. You must know the whole plot before you start

Draw Storyboards Step 2
Draw Storyboards Step 2

Step 2. Draw boxes for each scene leaving space below for dialogue

Once you've written the script and have an idea of what will happen in the movie, get some paper or cardboard to put together the storyboard. Like in a comic strip, each frame represents a shot or scene and the space below is where you will fill in the dialogue, notes, or action.

While you can draw your own scripts, there are many free templates online that you can print to start drawing immediately

Draw Storyboards Step 3
Draw Storyboards Step 3

Step 3. Set the location and any important objects in the first frame of the scene

The most important function of the storyboard is to show what the shot will look like. For your first storyboard, you need all the essential details so that the people who read it know where they are. If you are in doubt about what to include, always ask yourself the following question: "Is this essential to understanding the scene?"

  • Every time you change location, you have to draw a new background. Remember: you are going to tell the story visually. Try to imagine what you would have to see if this were a movie.
  • If the background doesn't change between shots, you can leave it blank and focus on the action.
Draw Storyboards Step 4
Draw Storyboards Step 4

Step 4. Use arrows and notes to show any movement or change

For example, if you want one character to punch another, you don't have to draw five squares of a fist moving slowly toward a face. Instead, draw a box of the fist with an arrow indicating movement.

You can also use arrows to indicate camera movements, such as pan or tilt

Draw Storyboards Step 5
Draw Storyboards Step 5

Step 5. Fill in the dialogue and sounds from the scene below the picture

Remember: you're basically going to make a cartoon version of the movie, so you need to add the essential sound effects as well. Don't worry if it doesn't all fit together as you are only going to give the director and crew some clues as to where the sound should match, so the ellipsis ("…") can help.

Draw Storyboards Step 6
Draw Storyboards Step 6

Step 6. Make a new frame for each significant camera action or movement

Every time something happens, you need your own chart. If you are drawing a conversation, you should switch from one character to the other as they talk and draw a few takes of both at the same time. You have to draw each of these changes individually.

You can't just draw 1 or 2 frames and say they are "alternate takes" of a conversation. Imagine a scene where a mother is angry at her son for breaking a lamp. Showing everything from the point of view of the sad or scared child is very different from showing everything from the point of view of the angry mother, transitioning back and forth, or showing the broken lamp

Draw Storyboards Step 7
Draw Storyboards Step 7

Step 7. Include essential notes on movement, sounds, or special effects

If a scene calls for a bit of fake blood, mention it either by drawing it with a red pen or by making a note of it. If the chart requires a long, continuous shot, use arrows to indicate how everything flows. While there are appropriate terms for all of this, the most important thing is to tell the story visually in any way you can. If something makes sense as a guide for filming, include it.

If the camera doesn't transition but a lot is happening, you can use multiple frames for a single "transition". Every time something happens, you need a new frame, even if the camera doesn't move

Method 2 of 3: Improve Your Storyboards

Draw Storyboards Step 8
Draw Storyboards Step 8

Step 1. Find ways to visually express the themes of the script

Don't let the script "speak for itself". The best films are related thematically at all levels: in the script, the storyboard, the sound effects, the acting, etc. It's your job to turn a good script into a great visual representation. In each scene, ask yourself what the goal is, what is the mood or tone, and what are the props, characters, or highlights. How can you attract attention to them?

  • Locate the most important element of the scene and find a way to attract the audience's attention to it in each shot, enlarging it, centering it, closing the focus, etc.
  • Gene Wilder didn't storyboard but thought like a visual comedian. In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, he conceived the famous intro where he "accidentally" stumbles, falls and rolls to loud applause as a way to portray Wonka as a funny, strange character hiding behind his comic facade.
Draw Storyboards Step 9
Draw Storyboards Step 9

Step 2. Avoid flat, two-dimensional compositions by always placing the camera at an angle

What should not be is a completely flat floor with the camera perpendicular to it. Slightly tilting the shot gives the storyboard three dimensions, even if it's just a slight change. Straight shots are rarely as exciting as dynamic, three-dimensional compositions.

  • Use the foreground and background to your advantage. Don't put all the characters or objects on the same depth line.
  • Also don't forget about the far background. It is a good place to create depth.
  • Of course, there are several reasons why you can break this rule, such as creating a perfectly symmetrical shot. You just need to know why you are going to break that rule before doing so.
Draw Storyboards Step 10
Draw Storyboards Step 10

Step 3. Provide motivation to transition from the camera rather than simply changing the shot

Usually this is obvious: if another character speaks, you have to transition to show it. If someone hears a noise behind them, you transition to show where the noise came from. All good transitions need a rationale, be it the plot, the characters, shifting the focus, or a purely artistic decision.

One of the most famous transitions is 2001: A Space Odyssey, where Stanley Kubrick, the director, transitions from a flying weapon to a satellite in space. In a single transition, he bridges the gap between primitive man and man of the future while hinting that very little has changed, just the setting

Draw Storyboards Step 11
Draw Storyboards Step 11

Step 4. Use the camera angle to indicate the relationships and feelings between the characters

The angle of the shot tells the audience how to feel about the characters or scenes. You can use this in many ways and you should always wonder how the angle of the camera helps or hinders the subject of the shot. For instance:

  • Looking at a character from above makes him appear weak, fearful, or powerless. Looking at a character from below makes them appear powerful, confident, and domineering.
  • Extreme angles, such as shots too high, too low, or slanted, show confusion, fear, or a quirky experience, like a psychedelic trip.
Draw Storyboards Step 12
Draw Storyboards Step 12

Step 5. Try to write the scene in prose if you have difficulty getting started

It's hard to sit down and start the scene and make decisions like camera angle and composition if you're still not sure about the direction you want to go. A good intermediate step is to write the scene as if it were a story. What parts emerge as the most important, what details stand out when writing, and what are the key actions in each shot? You can then edit this thumbnail script for practice before drawing.

Stick to just one or two descriptions for each shot or scene. You are not going to write a novel but a guide

Draw Storyboards Step 13
Draw Storyboards Step 13

Step 6. Study cinematography.

Storyboards are essentially practice shots for a movie. So your goal is to use the frames to arrange the lighting, cameras, and set in real life in a way that mimics the shot you drew. Immersing yourself fully in shot types, color composition, camera angles, etc., will greatly increase your toolkit as a storyboard creator.

Drawing a storyboard is cheap but filming it is not. If you are working on a larger movie, you need to know the approximate difficulty of the shots to determine if they are feasible. Very tall shots can look great and fit the movie, but shooting from a helicopter is very expensive

Method 3 of 3: Storyboarding Like a Pro

Draw Storyboards Step 14
Draw Storyboards Step 14

Step 1. Learn the terminology for common camera angles

Don't just depend on your drawings to get the message across. The world of cinema is full of vocabulary that will make your job much easier and make your storyboards more accurate. Jotting down camera angles helps the team quickly know which shots to prepare for and lets you see if you're accidentally getting repetitive with shot types.

  • Establishment plans:

    Quick shots illustrating the set, location, or starting position of characters.

  • General shot, medium shot, close-up and very close-up:

    If you are going to show a character, how much of him are you going to show? The wide shot shows the whole body, the middle shot shows from the waist up, the close-up shows the shoulders and head, and the very close-up shows only the head.

  • Up and down planes:

    up shots look at a character from below while down shots look at a character from above. The "worm's eye" and "bird's eye view" are the extreme versions of each of them.

  • Flat over the shoulder:

    one of the most important terms. In these shots, a person or object is to one side of the painting, from behind, while observing another person or object. This is very common in conversations between two people.

  • Duo plan:

    when both characters, usually speaking to each other, are both in the same painting at the same time. When drawing dialogue, duet shots often alternate with over-the-shoulder shots.

  • Points of view:

    they are simply when the camera mimics a character's point of view.

Draw Storyboards Step 15
Draw Storyboards Step 15

Step 2. Familiarize yourself with camera movements to illustrate moving or changing shots

The following list is not exhaustive but is a good basic guide to writing consistent storyboards. Every time you want to add a shot, write the camera movement in the storyboard.

  • The follow-up it's when the camera follows the action without making cuts, like following someone as they walk down the street. Use arrows to indicate movement and multiple squares if necessary.
  • The panning it's when the camera simply rotates in one direction, often following a character as they move or exposing something close to them. Draw an arrow to illustrate the direction of the camera.
  • The displacement is when the camera physically moves in or out. Imagine a shot of a television and then the camera slowly "scrolling" back to reveal a family watching television in their living room. Use 4 lines pointing from the center of the screen to each corner of the box to indicate the offset.
  • The rack focus it's when there's a blurry object in the background and a sharp one in the foreground and then the focus shifts from one to the other (it can also go the other way). Draw a line to indicate where the focus begins and where it is moving.
Draw Storyboards Step 16
Draw Storyboards Step 16

Step 3. Make appropriate notes of the transitions between takes

The following transitions are some of the most common in film and you should take note of them in the storyboard. Each requires a small drawing next to the words that visually represents the transition. Start with a small rectangle representing the screen just before the dialogue and then fill it with the transition:

  • Fade in and out:

    this is simply when the image slowly appears or disappears from a blank screen. For a fade-in, draw a triangle pointing to the left, and for a fade-in, draw a triangle pointing to the right.

  • Crossfade:

    when one image slowly fades into the next. To draw it, make two intersecting triangles in the box starting from the four corners. This represents the drawings for the overlapping fade-ins and fade-outs.

  • Swept:

    when an image is physically moved across the screen, revealing the next shot below it. Simply draw a vertical line in the center of the rectangle and an arrow through it to indicate in which direction the first image will move.

Draw Storyboards Step 17
Draw Storyboards Step 17

Step 4. Remember the basic marking instructions to help set the scene and actors

The following terms refer to the location of an object in the shot. They can also help direct movement, such as a character walking in from the background of the shot to the foreground, which could be expressed as "FAPP" (background to foreground).

  • Foreground (PP):

    the area near the camera.

  • Midplane (PM):

    the center of the frame.

  • Background (F):

    the area furthest from the camera.

  • Off camera (FC):

    this is useful if there is sound, dialogue, etc., that viewers cannot see or if a character enters or leaves the frame completely.

  • Overlay (S):

    when one object or image overlaps another but both are visible.

Draw Storyboards Step 18
Draw Storyboards Step 18

Step 5. Label the shots correctly so that the rest of the team can read them

In general, a "scene" in a storyboard actually refers to uninterrupted camera movement, not an entire event. These scenes are put together to form a "sequence", which is the entire action or conversation that you are going to act out (what you would normally call a "scene").

  • Every time the camera transitions, you must change the scene number to indicate a new shot.
  • If a single scene requires multiple actions without switching cameras, these are labeled as panels. If a shot required three storyboards, you'd label each panel "1/3," "2/3," and "3/3."
Draw Storyboards Step 19
Draw Storyboards Step 19

Step 6. If you are confused, your goal should be clarity, not symbols or perfect vocabulary

The main goal of a storyboard is to narrate the movie visually, not to pass a vocabulary test. While you should always strive to learn the terminology, storyboards should be easy to read for directors, cinematographers, and the rest of the crew. If you have an idea but don't know how to express it, use your drawing skills to convey the message as simply as possible. You should use arrows, notes, and multiple panels to share your creative ideas when words aren't enough.

  • Imagine a single long take, like the beginning of Raging Bull. While there is no cutout, you couldn't contain that shot in a single panel. You would need to link a lot of panels with arrows, notes, and dialogue to plan the shot.
  • The vocabulary lists mentioned here are not complete. There are hundreds of words, takes, and clues that professional storyboard creators use. To be a professional, you have to continue researching the terms.


  • If it's helpful, you can fold a piece of paper into 6 squares to easily frame your scenes, or download a free storyboard template from the internet.
  • Don't make them perfect; a rough sketch will do.
  • Storyboard software often contains a database to help you monitor script information, props, locations, camera directions, etc.

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