How to Storyboard: An 8-Step Guide for 2024



Creating a storyboard is a critical step in the pre-production process. This guide combines essential steps into a streamlined, easy-to-follow approach, suitable for any project.


A storyboard acts as a visual representation of your film’s sequence, breaking down the narrative into individual panels. It’s more than just a sketch; a storyboard visually narrates how a video sequence will unfold, serving as a blueprint for the entire production.


In crafting a storyboard, one follows a linear sequence of drawings, reference images, or photographs, each representing a distinct shot in a scene. This visual guide not only establishes the look and feel of the scene but also intricately details the movement within it. It’s a tool that indicates the precise staging of actors, the placement and movement of the camera, and can even encompass dialogue and sound directions.

By adhering to these guidelines, a storyboard becomes an invaluable asset in planning and visualizing the project before any actual filming begins.


This guide is designed to seamlessly integrate essential steps into a cohesive, easy-to-follow approach, making it perfectly suitable for a wide range of projects, from films and videos to commercials.


Here are the 8 steps to follow to storyboard like a pro!


1. Establish a Timeline

Start by setting the chronological order of events in your story. Whether linear or involving complex elements like flashbacks, this step is crucial for organizing your narrative.

Starting with a clear timeline does more than just organize your narrative; it serves as a roadmap for your entire storyboard. It allows you to visualize the progression of your story, ensuring that each scene logically flows from one to the next and that transitions, especially in non-linear stories, are handled coherently and effectively.


2. List Main Events

Note down the key events in the order they will appear on screen. This will form the backbone of your storyboard and guide the subsequent steps.

Begin by thoroughly analyzing your script or narrative outline. Look for critical plot points, character developments, conflicts, and resolutions. 


Pay special attention to moments that evoke strong emotions or contribute to character arcs, as these often make for impactful scenes.


3. Choose Your Storyboard Medium


The choice of your storyboard medium is a fundamental decision that will significantly impact your storytelling process. It involves selecting the method you’ll use to create your storyboard, and it typically comes down to a choice between two main options: traditional hand-drawn panels on paper or the more contemporary approach of digital storyboarding software.

Opting for the traditional method involves physically drawing your storyboard panels on paper. Hand-drawn storyboards allow for a unique artistic expression. Artists can use various drawing styles and techniques to convey their vision.

Digital storyboarding software, like Shai, represents a more contemporary approach to creating storyboards. This AI storyboard generator offers a range of features and benefits that streamline the process. Using Shai for storyboarding your project means:


Flexibility: in terms of editing, rearranging, and sharing storyboard panels. Changes can be made quickly and efficiently.


Efficiency: features like AI script-to-storyboard make it possible for the user to create storyboards in minutes avoiding long, manual and tedious tasks that otherwise would need to be completed in the traditional way of generating storyboards.


Collaboration: Digital storyboarding softwares like Shai facilitate collaboration among team members, allowing them to work on the same project remotely.


4. Determine Your Aspect Ratio

An essential technical step, deciding on the aspect ratio of your camera’s frame will dictate your storyboard panels’ dimensions, ensuring accuracy in how scenes will appear on screen.

Consistency in aspect ratio ensures that what you sketch accurately represents how scenes will appear on screen. It prevents distortion and maintains the visual integrity of your project.


Different aspect ratios can evoke distinct visual moods and storytelling effects. For example, widescreen formats like 16:9 are often associated with cinematic experiences, while 4:3 ratios may have a more classic or nostalgic feel. 

Your choice can contribute to the overall aesthetic of your production.


To determine the correct aspect ratio, start by considering the specific requirements of your project. Are you creating a video for a widescreen TV, a standard 4:3 format, or a platform with unique aspect ratio specifications? 

Once you’ve determined the aspect ratio, apply it to your storyboard panels. Ensure that the panels you create maintain this ratio to accurately represent the framing and composition of your scenes.


5. Decide on Detail Level

Depending on your project’s stage, decide how detailed your storyboard should be. This could range from basic sketches to detailed illustrations. This step allows you to strike a balance between precision and practicality.

The level of detail to choose might also come to who is going to be the recipient of the storyboard. For instance, if you are planning to share the storyboard only to the internal team, composed by individuals who are able to visualize creatively, an high level storyboard might be enough since your team is likely able to understand the concept with low-detail sketches.


However, if you are pitching a client, you might want to make your storyboard more detailed, so that the client’s team can effectively understand what you are trying to achieve creatively.


6. Create or Import Your Images

With your aspect ratio set, create or gather images for your storyboard. Focus on clarity and purpose, whether drawing by hand or using digital methods. Use photos or media references as needed, ensuring they convey your vision clearly.

The images you use should be clear, concise, and purposeful. Each image should communicate a specific moment or scene in your story. If you have a specific look or style in mind, ensure that your images capture it accurately. 


7. Write Scene Descriptions

For each key scene, write a description that covers the essential elements – character actions, settings, and any significant changes. This will guide what you illustrate in each panel.


These descriptions serve as the bridge between your vision and the visual representation, providing invaluable guidance to both the storyboard artist and the production team. 


Descriptions should include character actions, setting and environment and dynamic changes.


Keep your scene descriptions concise and to the point. While it’s essential to provide necessary details, avoid overwhelming the reader with excessive information. A well-crafted description is clear and focused.


8. Sketch Thumbnails and Use Arrows for Motion

Begin sketching the scenes, focusing on composition, camera angles, shot types, props, actors, and special effects. Use arrows in your static images to indicate motion, whether it’s character or camera movement, to convey dynamic actions within the scene.

Motion arrows also serve to indicate camera movement. Whether it’s a pan, tilt, zoom, or tracking shot, these arrows clarify the camera’s role in the scene. They provide essential guidance to the production team on how to capture the intended visuals.

Motion arrows can convey emotional nuances. For example, a character moving away from the camera might signify isolation, while approaching the camera could symbolize intimacy or confrontation.


This structured approach combines traditional practices with modern techniques, ensuring a comprehensive and effective storyboard creation process.


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