Bad Habits To Avoid When Drawing

Bad Habits To Avoid When Drawing

You are going to develop bad working habits as you go. Call it an inevitability of living the artist’s life.

You won’t mean to. You won’t even notice as they sink deep into your drawing game, and it might take years to realize they’re there, even as you’re doing them, each time you put a pen to paper, a stylus to tablet, or do whatever it is you do to make your art happen.

And that’s OK.

Avoiding bad habits might be impossible, but breaking free of them isn’t. Shaking off a shoddy practice just takes a bit of pattern recognition and the practical application of an alternative that’ll serve you better in the long run. 

Eight Bad Habits Of Storyboard Artists… and How To Fix Them

Look, we’re not going to lie to you and tell you these are the only eight bad habits you’ll ever have to watch out for. They’re not. They’re probably not even close. We might hit the hundreds if we were to rattle off a full list, and even if we did, there still might be hundreds more than that.

But these eight are among the bad habits we see popping up often: 

Not Setting Aside Time To Practice

Don't beat yourself up if you're struggling to draw every day. Depending on what else you’ve got going on, it might not always be possible. Sometimes, school might get in your way. Or work. Or any number of things that come with living a life.

Try to squeeze it in. If you succeed on most days, you're probably doing just fine. Remember that even half an hour is better than nothing and practicing throwing lines and quick-drawing shapes is better than nothing, but if you come up short sometimes, don't feel bad. Just try again the next day.

Also remember not to stop practicing something just because you got it right once. Whatever it is, make sure you keep going until you can nail it every time, and then, you'll have to keep going still, because you don't ever want to get rusty.

Rushing Through Your Work

If you're just starting out with this whole storyboarding thing, take your time.

At some point, in many professional settings, you will be expected to turn boards around, fast and furious. And at some point, you'll be able to. But that point doesn't have to be right now, so don't stress about being slow to finish off a scene.

You've got a lot on your plate, including maybe developing your drawing fundamentals, which also takes time. Speed will come. For now, just focus on learning what you need to learn, and doing the very best job you can.

Falling Into Artistic Crutches

We all have our artistic quirks– our go-tos that pop up in our work, over and over.

Things we do because we like ’em.

Things we do because they work.

Things we do because we can't do something else.

It doesn't matter whether you're just starting out as a storyboard artist (or an artist of any kind, really), or if you've done this longer than the next person has been breathing, there are going to be things.

And at any level, there's opportunity to explore new ground and improve your art overall when you're aware of them.

Do you have a go-to type of shot that pops up in your work all the time? Try deliberately avoiding that quirk for a project and see what the end result looks like. What solution(s) did you find to replace it?

Getting Caught Up In the Details

Grab a script and pick out a shot– any shot. Storyboard that shot twice– once super simplified, and once as detailed as you feel like going. Aside from the level of detail, everything about the shot should be the same. Don't change anything about your solutions to the story point.

Lay them out side by side and be honest with yourself– does all the detail in the second one really help it read? It could be the super simplified one is too far in the other direction, but you could probably add just a little bit more and finish the job.

Also consider what part of your arm you’re drawing from. If you're throwing lines from your elbow or shoulder, you're probably fine, but if you're always drawing from your wrist and fingers, you might be getting a little too deep into the finer details.

Draw your big shapes, detail them just enough that they'll read properly, and reserve a few wee tick marks for smaller things that actually do help visual storytelling, like facial features.

Thinking Busier Is Better

Stick to one primary or major focal point on each of your storyboards.

There could be secondary or minor focal points– little things happening in the background that elevate the main thing happening, or little things happening that set up a main thing that needs to happen later, but there should only be one big thing driving forward one story point at a time.

It can be hard to know for sure how many storyboards to draw to fulfill a story point or action. Approach each story point or action in three beats to start. Beginning; middle; end. Setup; confrontation; resolution. If it reads, leave it. If the gaps seem too airy, add something. If you're drawing the same thing with only minor changes, stop at two, or even one.

Not Revisiting Old Stuff

Don't throw out or delete your scrapped storyboards! Whether you're just starting out or have been in the industry for years, every so often you probably create a storyboard that just doesn't work.

Save them and look at them later– see if you can nail down WHY it didn't work or what you might do differently if you were to take another crack at it.

And if you do any kind of storyboarding course online, don't assume you're done when you’ve run out of exercises.

Go all the way back to the thumbnails. Would you resolve all of the story points exactly the same way, the second time around, or would you try something different? What about your fundamental drawing skills? Even if the solutions remain the same, could you improve on their presentation?

The Quest For the 'Perfect' Tools

As you progress with your art and experiment with different tools, you’re sure to find a few that you really like. It might be that you like the way a tool feels in your hand, or that you like the specific marks a tool makes. And that’s OK– we all develop preferences as we explore and grow and we should embrace them.

But in the beginning, settling in with the basics– an HB pencil, an eraser, a chunky black pen and a few gray-toned markers (let’s say one light, one medium, and one dark), a pack of cartridge paper, and a cheap sketchbook is more than enough to create perfectly serviceable storyboards.

Learn to do the job and do it well with just these and any other tool will just be a cool thing to try out, rather than some Holy Grail. Nobody wants to be the person who can’t draw without their fancy pen. But, really, who wouldn’t want to be the person who can walk into a room, say “Hey, toss me a Sharpie,” and get cracking?

Comparing Yourself to Others

No matter how good you get, there’s always going to be somebody out there you think is better than you– somebody whose work you come across and just wish you could draw like that instead of the way you naturally do.

But that’s the thing: You draw the way you naturally do, and you should embrace that.

Learn your fundamentals and let it take you where it takes you, and you’ll do just fine.

Know that “good” and “better than” are just arbitrary terms. Focus on being solid, but also focus on being you– somebody, somewhere is going to dig it, promise.

What other bad habits have you caught creeping into your own drawing game? Did you manage to get beyond it? Let us know in the comments.

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