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Sketching for Storyboards


Pretty much everything you draw can be broken down into a few elements:

  • S‐curves
  • Straight lines
  • C‐curves
  • Ellipses
  • Compound shapes

Ghost your stroke just above the surface of the paper several times and let the pencil tip lightly drop on to the paper as you try to master a single smooth, wobble‐free line. Practice and master doing this from a single angle — if you want to draw your line or curve at a different angle, don't change your stroke, but spin the paper instead.   

Find the time to draw at home — consider drawing during family TV time. Or draw your coffee cup from different angles during breakfast. There is always an opportunity to make a quick sketch, no matter what you are doing. 

Get into the habit of carrying a sketchbook everywhere you go and using it every opportunity you have. If you’re in line at the movies, you could be drawing. Likewise, if you’re on a bus or sitting in a coffee shop.

The idea is to move your hand and build the pencil mileage that will help you produce great work later on — it makes no difference right now whether the drawings are good or bad, as long as they exist.

If you have nothing to draw, you can always spend time practicing the elements we mentioned:

S‐Curves

Practice drawing S‐curves that have a subtle, gentle curve to them. It may be so subtle that you're almost drawing straight lines. Try to trace over S‐curves you've already drawn, as smoothly as you can, in as graceful a stroke as you can. Then, practice reverse S‐Curves in the same way.

Straight Lines

Draw two dots on a page and practice your accuracy by trying to draw a straight, freehand line that passes through both dots in a single stroke. Continue practicing by drawing a series of straight parallel lines in this way. Draw slowly at first, gradually building up your speed as you become more confident.

C‐Curves

Practice drawing C‐curves as you would S‐curves, focusing especially on those subtle curves. You can practice more severe curves by drawing three dots on a page and then trying to draw a smooth, graceful line passing through all of them.

Ellipses

Practice drawing smooth, even ellipses at various sizes, trying to close the shapes as cleanly as possible.

An ellipse is a very difficult shape to master, especially when dealing with varied perspective views. Treat practicing drawing ellipses as you do drawing straight lines.

Compound Shapes

Draw shapes with three to five sides using only S‐curves, C‐curves, and straight lines.

Art of the Rough

Rough drawings are used by all kinds of illustrators, graphic designers, and animators, and all for different reasons. As a storyboard artist, your primary concern is placement of characters and objects within their environments in the clearest, most dramatically satisfying way possible.

Spending a lot of time making a single character drawing look just right is a waste of time.

Prioritize fulfilling the story point with your drawing skills. When working on roughs, you should expect to do a lot of rearranging of characters and objects before taking the drawing to finish — meaning you should be able to draw, erase, and redraw quickly and painlessly:

Simplify

You can take advantage of silhouettes by drawing in shapes. Notice most things can be broken down into easy-to-draw, primitive forms such as cylinders, cubes, etc. Take away some of the picky details, and these forms aren't hard to draw. Learning to do this will speed up your drawing time, and help your images read instantly. 

Characters

Use what we’ve mentioned above when drawing characters by simplifying their bodies, hands and faces for maximum clarity. What’s important is to communicate the poses and expressions, not the details.

Star People

Can’t draw? No problem! Make a “star man.” It’s the most basic representation of a character without drawing a stick figure. With a little bit of practice, you can get all types of body positions and even expressions.

Another method is to use a simple block shape for the male form. You can taper the sides a bit, but the shape is still basically rectangular. Add arms and a head, and you’ll have a simple but complete figure. For the female form, try a diamond shape for the upper body. The lower shape should be more rounded. Add arms and a head and you’re done — just a few lines are enough.  

Poses

For posing your characters, try breaking down the human shape into four components: 

  1. Head
  2. Torso
  3. Hips
  4. Limbs

Position the figure in the frame with the head first. Drawing the torso and the hips separately allows you to offset the shapes for flexibility and to create an illusion of weight. Practice drawing figures by using the body divisions in this order. The faster you become at drawing recognizable poses, the better you can communicate your ideas with your storyboards.

Hands

Draw a box and add five sausages to it. With these basic shapes, you can make hand gestures quickly and easily.

Heads

A head can be as simple as a circle. Add vertical and horizontal axis lines to describe the angle — you can move the axis lines off‐center to point the face in any direction you choose.

If you add a carrot shape for a nose, you can use that to point the head in any direction also.

You can also distinguish a male and female face by using the sphere as a base and then modifying the shape. The lower part of the face can be wide and angular to give the face a more masculine appearance, or curved with no hard angles to appear more feminine.

Eyes

The shape of the eyes and placement of the eyebrows can indicate expression, as well as the direction in which a character is looking.

Pupils seen from the front are round, while pupils seen from the side are oval.

If you are in a real rush, you can often get away with just drawing the pupil to direct the gaze of the character.

Eyebrows are essential for showing expression.

Have you ever tried to experience skydiving just reading a book? It doesn’t even come close to the real thing. The same goes with sketching and storyboards. You have to actually draw over and over until the info really sinks in and starts to show in your drawings. For now, start with the tips above and that’ll get you started on the path to creating solid drawings. 

Leave us a comment and let us know your favorite sketching activity. 

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