Introduction to Storyboarding

What is a storyboard?

A storyboard is a sketch illustration describing the major action and emotional beats in a narrative story. The drawing describes the shot composition and any important visual elements needed to describe the action for the audience. A storyboard drawing is created in the same rectangular format as is intended for the final story project. The drawing can be as detailed or as simple as the story requires. Often times quick, simple sketches are created as the storyboard panels are intended to be expendable and serve only as a visual aide to describe the action to the filmmakers working on the project. The storyboard illustrations are not intended to be seen by the audience but serve as an internal blueprint to guide the production team of filmmakers.

A storyboard drawing dates back to the early creation of moving pictures as a tool filmmakers used to pre-plan their stories. As directors got to the point where they were more serious about stories and storytelling, many filmmakers found this pre-planning with artists' sketches to be useful.  With a storyboard drawing, you could get a sense of the big picture; how each series of shots work together as a sequence in a film. You can find out more about storyboard types in our article here

What is its purpose? 

Storyboards have a very important practical use case in film productions or any story development.  In films, especially animated films, production is very expensive. Many people are involved in shooting film and if things are cut or changed after it's been shot, huge amounts of money are wasted. Storyboarding allows you to edit and change things on paper, before any expensive shooting begins, resulting in a net savings. It also allows many people to look at the development of the film and be sure that the story is working for maximum emotional effect. Because of this valuable production step, storyboards are used in both animated and live action film and are still widely used today.

Everything you need to know about the storyboard creation process

Storyboards are, essentially, a shorthand for the visual storytelling language. What storyboard artists describe in drawings are aspects of cinematography including composition, camera angles, and staging. But don’t think of the storyboards themselves as being about drawing– they're about communicating.

The goal of a storyboard is the clean and clear communication of an idea. The storyboards may only be looked at for a few seconds, so whoever’s doing the looking has to be able to understand what they’re looking at with little or no effort– a storyboard has to “read” immediately. Because of the quickness and relative cost efficiency of storyboards, they’ve evolved into the blueprint for movies, TV shows, video games, and commercials.

There’s no greater thrill than creating your own stories, showing them to an audience, and having that audience react to them. Once you’ve got the story bug, you can never go back to other art disciplines. The passion grows in you.

As a story artist, not only do you use your craftsmanship, but you involve a thinking process designed to emotionally move an audience. You have to think about all aspects of your project, including how your images and scenes fit into the bigger picture of the story. Creating these moments will be some of the most challenging work you do.

As a newcomer, the amount of information you need to learn is daunting. But the reality is, through practice, much of the information you need to know is naturally absorbed in the working process. The rest isn’t hard work if you really enjoy it. It’s a long journey, but it’s this journey that will make your professional career a joy.

What education do I need to become a storyboard artist? 

There is very little information to be found in books and other printed materials, or online, that covers storyboarding and visual storytelling. Even art schools and traditional learning environments don’t really give you all of the tools that are truly necessary to improve your visual storytelling.

That’s not to say there’s no value at all to be found in art school. The traditional drawing skills of anatomy, proportion, composition, perspective, color, and design all apply when creating storyboards, and all require years of training, which most art schools nowadays will do a decent job of.

But most of the “big” schools are lacking when it comes to teaching the art of storytelling. And if that’s where your interest lies, well, those “big” schools charge a lot of money for an education that is, ultimately, incomplete.

It seems the crucial information on how to create better visual stories gets passed down from artist to artist, from within closed studio environments or only among professionals in the industry. Our aim here at StoryboardArt is to offer a foundation to learn the craft of storyboarding and visual storytelling in one place.

Basically, we’re trying to be the sort of thing we wish existed back when we were starting out.

What are the top skills storyboard artists need

Truly good storyboarding requires drawing and art skills, an understanding of cinematography and film language, and the ability to express yourself and get creative.

There’s only one real way to acquire the necessary skills, and that’s to put in the necessary time and effort.

That means practicing your drawing and art skills, for as long as you can, as often as you can. 

That means studying cinematography and film language, and really starting to look at film and television, live-action and animated, in a completely different, more analytical way. That means getting comfortable with taking all the ideas in your head, nurturing them and turning them into stories, and putting them out there in an easily digestible format for the rest of the world to see.

It’s a long journey to become truly good at storyboarding, and it can be daunting, for sure, but it can also be a whole lot of fun.

Each success is another rung of the ladder climbed, and should be celebrated.

Even the mistakes and failures that everybody encounters along the way should be celebrated. It just means something was experimented with– something was attempted– and that is always a wonderful thing.

If you’re taking this journey, you’re in for a ride, but it all starts here, with drawing and art skills, an understanding of cinematography and film language, and the ability to express yourself and get creative.

Drawing and Art Skills

It doesn’t really matter where or how you learn to draw, sooner or later, you’re going to get one particular bit of advice– sooner or later, someone is going to tell you, “if you want to get good at this, you’ll have to do it every day, for a long time.”

Maybe they’ll also tell you, “if you want to stay good at this, you’ll have to keep doing it every day, forever.”

They probably won’t tell you, “no matter how good you get, or how long you’ve stayed that good, you’re never actually going to think you’re any good.” But that’s another topic for another day.

Anyway, there is no substitute or workaround for the endless, but enjoyable grind.

First, we build good habits. Then we develop good muscle memory. Then we rinse and repeat and rinse and repeat, for as long as we expect to do this and do it well, because if we ever stop, it all goes away, and it all goes away quicker than you might think.

It probably doesn't actually go away overnight. You can probably afford to take a night or two off– in fact, it may actually be healthy to do so from time to time.

But if you’re in it to win it, get ready to tally up a great many hours drawing over your lifetime.

You have much to learn, including anatomy, proportion, composition, perspective, color, and design.

This is a long game, so remember to breathe. 

It’s not going to happen overnight and it’s not going to happen without a whole lot of hard work and sacrifice, but it will happen. 

And, it will be worth it.

Cinematography and Film Language 

On your way to becoming a great storyboard artist, you must first understand what’s involved in the creation of a visual story.

These stories use visual elements, juxtaposed together in sequence and projected or displayed on the flat, two-dimensional screen of the theater, television, computer monitor, phone, or tablet.

Basically, three-dimensional concepts on a two-dimensional surface.

Since the beginning of motion pictures, a “film language” has been created to reference common traits specific to cinema that create the illusions of movement and depth on a flat surface. Since your storyboard images will serve as the building blocks of a feature film or animation, it’s crucially important to understand this film language and how it’s used.

Storyboard artists stand to learn a lot from the way movies have evolved over the years.

Early films were shot with a single camera straight on to the actors, without the variety of cuts, framing, camera work, and editing techniques we use today. By studying film history, you’ll see how early filmmakers influenced the stories of today. 

Actually sitting down and studying film is a huge part of learning the visual language behind the medium.

Storytellers constantly reference and expand on previously established stories, tropes, and cannons. We can adapt all that came before us, using it to inspire the work we produce today. This is a huge, rich history that can ultimately help us make more creative and original work.  

In the beginning, camera and cinema concepts may seem overly technical, but if you memorize and understand these techniques, you can draw on them when necessary to enhance your images. The exhilarating part happens when film language is second nature, and you can worry about the story content of the project you’re working on.

For a deeper understanding of the film language, see our in depth guide here.

Expression of Creativity 

Being able to make the lines on a tablet, piece of bristol, or napkin meticulously match the ones in your head will come. Meanwhile, just focus on telling stories as best you can, and in the way only you can, because that is something you already know how to do.

You’re learning storytelling via visual art, sure, but you are already very well-versed in the art of storytelling. We all are.

It’s in our natures as humans to tell stories– some true, some tall, and the best probably a little of both. It’s also in our natures to want to hear all those stories, too– to be informed, entertained, or again, probably a little of both.

Remember that we're all in this together, because sooner or later, you’re going to have to test out your work on real, live people.

That’s a scary, scary thing, but it’s a very useful thing too, because it’s when you get to playtest all of the ideas in your head.

By doing so, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t– what you can build on and what would maybe be better off abandoned.

It doesn’t matter so much who you share your work with. If you have other creative types to bounce your work off of, great, but all the same, you can grab a family member, a friend, or really anybody who’s willing.

Do try to find folks who’ll be honest with you– nobody gets better by just hearing “Oh, cool!” repeatedly.

Likewise, nobody learns anything by just hearing “I don't think this is cool…” repeatedly either, so keep constructive and insightful in mind as qualities you’re looking for in those honest folks you're pulling in.

Once you find your people, get comfortable with showing.

Where do Storyboard artists work? 

In animation and live‐action film, new media platforms such as video games, and web and mobile applications, the need for storyboards– and artists to create said storyboards– is greater than ever. Still, the number of people who do this for a living is relatively small. While certain industries will hire staff storyboard artists, most storyboard artists are freelancers, and in most cases, freelance storyboard artists don’t work on storyboards exclusively, but also in other areas such as print, product illustration, comic books, or concept art.

The choice between being a staffer or a freelancer is often not that difficult, depending on what kind of lifestyle you want to lead. And in your career, you might even find yourself shifting back and forth between the two.

Staff Storyboard Artists 

Working as a staff storyboard artist means you work in the way most people think of: You get hired as an employee by a company, where you have an assigned cubicle or office and you work 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday. The standard corporate benefits would apply. Most of the tax you owe on your income is withheld for you. You have co‐workers and supervisors that you get to know over the long haul. There are employee reviews and office politics. You work there as long as you can before you either quit, get fired, or get laid off.

Full-time staff storyboard positions mostly reside in the animation industry, TV shows, or the gaming industry, in which a single company has several projects in production at once, and storyboard artists can jump from production to production, once their contribution to a specific project ends. Salaries vary, depending on experience, from around $40,000 USD to $150,000 USD per year.

Freelance Storyboard Artists 

Working as a freelancer means you’re self‐employed: You are your own boss. You demand your own pay rates. You decide if you’re going to work or not. If you want health insurance, it’s up to you to pay for it (unless you happen to be part of a union). And you’ll have to keep track of your own income taxes and expenses.   

Freelancers can be hired on to gigs for a day or for months. They may work at home via the internet or they may have to commute and work on‐site, depending on the job. Freelancers generally make it a policy to charge by the day rather than the hour, and generally speaking, a freelancer's rate is often higher than what a staffer makes. A freelance storyboard artist might charge nearly $700 USD per day.

However, freelancers often find themselves going long stretches without work. You spend a lot of your non‐working time trying to find work, via the internet, through phone calls, or through some kind of marketing program. You’re constantly sending out your portfolio and resume, cold calling, schmoozing, or building up your online portfolio. Freelancers’ annual incomes fluctuate, depending how much work they can drum up, but if you keep reasonably busy, you can make a comfortable living.

Most storyboard work related to live-action productions is freelance. Storyboards are not as universally used in live-action as they are in animation, and when they are used, it is generally only for specific sections of the production, such as sequences heavy in special effects or action. Also, most productions involving live-action are done on a project-to-project basis. Once a project is complete, the production company essentially shuts down and ceases to exist.

The different types of storyboards

There are several main types of storyboards with different techniques required for each one. There will be differences in the specific technical requirements for each type, but each type will require strong drawing skills and a thorough understanding of cinema language.

Beat boards

At the early stages of a film, or on certain kinds of jobs (such as agency boards for commercials), a storyboard artist may be asked to draw beat boards.

Beat boards don’t necessarily reflect how a project will actually be shot, but rather the major story points of a project, so it can be imagined in a visual way. Storyboard artists might work from a set of beat boards and flesh them out to fill in the gaps.

Beat boards are often single-panel storytelling images that convey meaning and emotion. These are usually the “big” moments from a story. The level of detail will vary depending on a project’s needs, but artists usually have more time to work on and add detail to beat boards.

Continuity boards

Continuity storyboards or shooting boards describe every shot and every beat within those shots.

These storyboard images will have a complete flow of each camera angle and are suitable to hand off to the cinematographer to use as reference to shoot the movie. An edited video reel with temporary dialogue and music– called an “animatic”– can be created using continuity boards. TV and feature animation productions will also produce continuity boards for use with an animatic or as the blueprint for the animation. To make for better hookups, less arrows are used and instead more poses are added to describe the action.

Live-Action boards

A live-action movie production will use storyboards as a reference to plan compositions and schedule necessary set pieces and equipment.

In most situations, live-action storyboards are only used as reference, since much of the camera angles will ultimately be decided upon by the director and cinematographer. Staging indications might also change when the actors perform. Because of this, live-action boards are most commonly used as inspiration. However, more action-heavy movies might use storyboards to their full advantage and plan every camera angle and action. 


The story artist will usually work from a completed draft of the script or under a director’s notes. There is little opportunity to deviate from the script or the director’s notes.

Live-action boards might look like finished illustrations, requiring that more time and detail be added to the drawings, though the level of detail will vary with each production. It might be necessary to create continuity boards for a live-action project, but more often, shortcuts are used, such as arrows for camera and stage direction instead of multiple poses.

Almost all live-action work is done freelance, and live-action feature film storyboards are often the most coveted kind of storyboard work, because the jobs tend to be longer-term. However, these gigs are mostly union jobs, and finding work if you’re not a member can be frustrating, if not near-impossible.

Feature Animation boards

Feature animation boards are used extensively as the tool for molding and designing a story, and decisions made in a feature animation story department will affect the whole production.

Story adjustments might be required all throughout the production, with new or revised storyboards being called for even near the last few months. There might be a finished script, but the story artist has more freedom to suggest changes. There’s an effort in feature animation to work together as a team, to produce the best story possible under the guidance of the director.

Drawings are produced with the intention of creating animatic reels, and thousands of images might be produced over the course of a production.

The level of detail might vary greatly– even last-minute thumbnails might make it into the animatic reel. The true value of the drawings is not their beautiful execution, but the communication of the story point. Still, a feature animation story artist position requires both top-notch drawing skills and story knowledge.

Arrows are rarely used to describe the action, as each beat and camera move is documented with multiple poses. It’s not a priority to create drawings that are “on model,” since the animators will create the final look of the characters.

TV Animation Boards

TV animation boards are similar to continuity boards, but with the added element of drawing “on model” characters and environments.

A story artist for TV animation establishes a tight blueprint for the rest of the production to follow. Since much of the animation work is produced overseas, it’s necessary to draw accurate and exciting poses for the animators to follow. In certain cases, overseas studios will simply enlarge the storyboard images and use these images as the key poses for animation and layout.

Camera work and layout elements need to be indicated in the panels.

Deadlines are usually tight and there is little opportunity to deviate from the script. Certain shortcuts can be used in TV animation, but with digital storyboards, the work is getting more complex, almost resembling feature boards.

Advertising boards

The traditional approach to advertising boards is to create highly rendered images to be able to pitch or sell the idea to the client.

Advertising storyboard panels might look like finished illustrations, with full colors or with tightly rendered shading.

Arrows can be used to describe the action, since the emphasis here will be on slick and classy presentation. Story design might also be less of a priority than the image presentation. With advertising storyboards, you might work from a rough script or outline that describes the images necessary to produce.

Video Game Storyboards

Video games can be very complex, requiring storyboards for both in-game action and cinematic cutscenes. The level of detail will vary depending on the production, but the boards are often a cross between continuity boards and TV animation boards.

Storyboard artist staff positions in the gaming industry are rare. More likely, storyboards would be one of many different art tasks you’d be asked to carry out as an in‐house illustrator or designer. Such a person would have to excel at painting, designing characters, environments, props, and be expected to effectively adapt to a variety of styles.

Sometimes, storyboards are outsourced to freelancers, or the cinematic sequences are outsourced to a digital effects company, which might in turn outsource the storyboards to freelancers. The gaming industry is non‐union.

Previs storyboards

Previs is short for “previsualization” and is a method for using rough 3D animation to block out the scenes in a script.

3D artists with story training will take script pages and create animated movie files representing the shots of the film. The finished result can vary from highly complex animations with lighting indications and effects to rough and simple cameras flying through the digital set. The advantages to Previs are the clear timing and the scale of the shots with accurate camera lenses.

Creating  a previs sequence usually requires the help of multiple 3D artists. Previs teams might also work together with traditional storyboard artists to create drawings before committing resources to expensive 3D assets. There is debate as to whether previs methods or traditional storyboard methods are more effective.

The reality is that previs is another tool for visual storytelling and the result should always be the same: Tell the best story possible. No amount of fancy 3D animation can save a poorly conceptualized scene. And a storyboard artist should understand that previs is a useful tool and is now a part of the visual storytelling industry.

The process of creating a storyboard 

First, you should find out all the technical details of the project necessary to complete your job– what aspect ratio your project will be in, any relevant character designs or background designs, etc. These should be provided by the producer or head of the project. If there are no reference materials, research some of your own. You should also find out the final image delivery format for the project.

Most projects will have an outline or script, which will be the basis for creating images for the project. If there is no script, direction will most likely come verbally– take good notes and ask any questions about things you don’t understand before you begin any drawing.

Below is a typical process for tackling your storyboards:

Step 1: Script Analysis 

Read and reread the script until you get to a point where you understand everything that happens without having to refer to the page. You should know the sequence of events as well as the who, what, where, when, and why. More importantly, you should know how all the characters are feeling internally about what’s happening, and how they are outwardly acting upon those events. You should understand the overall themes the screenplay is trying to get across and how this relates to the particular scene.

With a good sense of the big picture, you should be able to break the story into beats. This helps you prioritize what’s important to show in a scene and what to leave out.

Do you know how to draw all of the things that appear, or have adequate reference materials to help you? Research anything you don’t have covered. Is there a scene you know of similar to the one you need to board? If so, look at it as reference and inspiration (but not to copy). Do all these things before drawing a single panel.

You can now organize and plan how you’re going to express the story in film terms. It might be helpful to mark up the script with notes and thumbnail sketches. You can figure out how you’ll describe the information in the story and when. You can figure out what shots work best for a scene at a given moment. It’s also helpful to draw a plan or architectural view of the scene to help figure out the staging of things before moving on to actually drawing the boards– you can arrange furniture and plot out the entrance and exits of your characters from the scene in relation to the camera. You can also show this plan to your director to make sure they’re on board with your camera choices.

Call out key words in the description and dialogue that represent actions you need to draw. Action cues as it relates to drawing storyboards can be found both in the descriptive paragraph and in the lines of dialogue, so pay close attention to every word in the script.

Look for places to add secondary action that supports the story.

The most important thing is to identify and fulfill the story point of the scene. Most of the time, you can read the script and interpret the desired story point. If you don't understand the meaning of the scene, consult your director and make sure you understand beforehand what the story point of the scene is before creating any images, as this will affect the content of your scene.

Anything else that distracts from the story point probably shouldn't be there.

The storyboard artist needs to read into the dialogue and identify the subtext– this information will help when staging out the shots. Adding subtext to a scene can create a powerful visual statement without adding or changing the dialogue. The character might not outright say what they’re feeling, but you can show their feelings visually when you draw your storyboards.

Step 2: Thumbnails

The next step is to create a thumbnail first pass of the scene. A thumbnail version of a storyboard is a fast and rough sketch to see how your shot choices and your compositions are working before you begin adding detail. These are normally tiny drawings– no bigger than an inch or two– with many drawings filling up a single sheet of paper. You can use these drawings to quickly lay out your whole scene, as well as to show your director for initial approval.

There’s no need to polish your drawings in a thumbnail. In fact, fancy drawing distracts from what’s important– the story point and the shot flow. In the thumbnail stage, all you need to convey are the basic information about camera angles, composition, and staging. No amount of shading will sell a shot or make up for story flaws.

If you don’t thumbnail, you’re just settling for the first idea off the top of your head. This works occasionally, but most of the time, you want to dig deeper than your first idea. Up-front planning will save you a lot of pain in the end. Be organized and THINK! Thumbnailing is about discovering the emotional beats through shots and staging. Explore every possibility until you discover the most efficient way to get there. This is a process in which you might draw, cross out, and redraw ideas.

Each drawing should only take a minute or so to draw. The idea is to organize your thoughts on paper before you begin your finished storyboards. In a storyboard assignment that might take you one week, you might spend up to three days simply scratching out thumbnail drawings and organizing your ideas. Once these ideas are clear and organized, creating finished storyboard panels is a smoother, quicker process.

Here are a few elements that are important to get across in your thumbnails:

  • Interesting composition  
  • Unique camera angles and a variety in your shot choice
  • Interesting staging  
  • Resolution of the screen direction  
  • Communication of the story point

The distinction between simple and sloppy roughs is very clear. Beginners will often rush through their roughs, expecting that their finished drawings will fix or cover up any sloppiness. This is the opposite of what you should be doing. If you take the time to nail the roughs, and make them as clear and as accurate as possible, you’ll have a strong foundation on which to build your finishes.  

Once you’ve roughed out a full scene in thumbnails, go over them to be sure you’ve gotten all the important information onto the boards clearly, that you're getting the maximum punch out of the scene, and that it flows well. If you’d never read the script before, and were viewing these images for the first time, would you still be able to get a good sense of the story and a feel for the finished movie? Fix any problems you see.

At this point, you can look over the boards with the director. You might get a few notes back from the director, but after completing your thumbnails, it’s usually time to move on to finished storyboards.

Step 3: Final Storyboards

Since you’ve now worked out all the major story problems, this is an easier step, since you only need to focus on drawing and execution. Even though this is the opportunity to make the drawings as beautiful as possible, don’t lose sight of clarity and simplicity. A finished storyboard should be clear and understandable. Again, the main purpose is to describe the story point and emotional beat of the story.

Each storyboard type requires a different finish, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Give the figures solid poses with clear silhouettes 
  • You can add simple tones– two to three gray tones is plenty
  • Limit the use of color. Save yourself time by only using color when necessary  
  • Limit the use of arrows. Adding more panels with more character poses will help the action flow   
  • Use clean, “on‐model” drawings for traditional TV boards
  • Add a perspective grid to each panel for maximum clarity

The ability to look at your scene and determine whether it’s working or not– and why– is a key part of training your storyboard skills. With this goal in mind, here are some key questions to ask yourself as you stage and draw your storyboards:  

  • Does the shot fulfill the story point?  
  • Is this the BEST camera angle for the story point?  
  • Does the shot have depth? Is there a foreground, middle ground, and background?  
  • Am I using a profile shot? Is my composition too flat?  
  • Is there a good silhouette?  
  • Are there too many horizontal and vertical lines in the shot? Avoid symmetry
  • Are subjects coming at the camera or going away from the camera? Maximize the illusion of depth
  • Do I cut from a low-angle to a high-angle? Use variety in your shot choice
  • Are the shapes in my composition interesting?  
  • Am I reusing this composition? Avoid reusing shots. Keep the audience interested with creative shot choices

What is an animatic and how do storyboard artists use it? 

An animatic is a timed-out version of the storyboard panels in video format. It will often include temporary dialogue, music, and sound effects to offer a first-pass representation of the story. The idea is to create a rough “story reel” video that can be watched by the key creatives of a project and analyzed for story issues and improvements to be made in subsequent storyboard passes. A well-executed animatic gives a very accurate representation of the shots and action needed in a narrative film project. 

Creating your first animatic  

As with any aspect of storyboarding, creating an animatic reel takes trial and error to get right. With advances in digital storyboarding software, you can more easily move from drawing to timing out scenes. A basic understanding of video editing in programs like Adobe Premiere or Toon Boom Storyboard Pro will get you started. The important part is to have clear information in your storyboard panels that translate well when timed out in video format. There are also technical hurdles to consider, such as panel resolution and aspect ratios, but what’s really important is what’s drawn inside the frames of the storyboard panels.  

After the first drawing phase is complete, you’ll convert to a video-editing mentality to have crisp timing of the panels in your video-edit timeline. When ready, you can export the video project for review with the creative team. Animatics, just like storyboards, will likely require multiple iterations to get just right before final approval happens inside a creative team. 

Why do you need a great animatic for your portfolio?

Today’s storyboard artists need to be familiar with how to create animatics and properly present storyboards for the editorial process. This skill is a natural extension of making storyboard drawings and is one more reason why storyboard artists should be familiar with the filmmaking process. Having a great animatic for your portfolio will show you have a solid command of how to construct a cinematic scene and could make the difference in landing a job. 

How to create a portfolio and what to include in it

In order to find work, you will need a professional portfolio and a way to promote yourself in the industry. 

First, you need to find out what jobs are available and what companies are looking for. Do your research. Not every storyboard job is the same. Each assignment will have different requirements and may even require a different portfolio. With the internet, it’s now easier than ever to find out which companies are hiring, and what exactly they are looking for. Most major studios will publish their portfolio requirements and job openings on their websites.

Online job boards and LinkedIn are also good resources to find out what companies are looking for.

Every storyboard job may require a different portfolio. What we’ll describe here is a standard storyboard portfolio that you can use for many different jobs and storyboard types:

If meeting company representatives in person or reaching out via physical mail, you'll want some kind of hard-copy portfolio to show. This can just be an inexpensive art portfolio containing plastic sleeves with printouts of your artwork. For most companies, an 8.5” x 11” portfolio is fine. Make sure your printouts are in full color or are otherwise high-quality prints. If you do physically mail these portfolios, don’t expect them to be returned. NEVER SEND ORIGINALS.

Keep multiple copies of your portfolio on hand, as you never know when a job might come up.

You will also absolutely want to create a PDF version of your portfolio to send via e‐mail.

The majority of your portfolio should relate to storyboarding. Character designs and sequential art can be included, but should be placed near the back as supplemental material.

Here’s what you can include:

  • Around 10‐15 total pages of your absolute best work
  • 8‐10 pages of storyboards with a variety of samples
    • Dramatic scene
    • Comedic scene
    • Cartoony
    • TV / feature boards
    • Realistic boards
  • 3‐5 pages of relevant supplemental materials
    • Thumbnail pages
    • Single-panel storytelling images
    • Character designs
    • Illustrations
    • Comic-book work
  • Play to your strengths as a visual storyteller. If you’re better with comedy scenes, show more comedic storyboards. If your specialty is action and strong dramatic compositions, show more of that off instead. Limit the number of panels on a page– four to six. Any more and they’ll get too small and hard to read. Include any necessary descriptions or dialogue, but don't go overboard with text.

    Your online presence is as important as your offline presence. Make sure your social networking accounts are clean and clear of any random details that would discourage a potential employer. Employers do look and search for you online. Keep your online presence as professional as possible. Clean up those drunken pictures of yourself on Facebook and erase any flame wars you had on blogs and forums.

    Create a website, if you haven’t done so already. This should be an online version of your portfolio, with perhaps some expanded pages of other artwork you wouldn’t necessarily put in a physical portfolio. In this day and age, no storyboard artist should be without a website. Consider including your e‐mail and your website address on your business cards as well.

    Learning to create storyboards is the start of a wonderful career

    In a guide like this one, we just barely begin to scratch the surface of what is involved with a career in the entertainment industry as a storyboard artist. If what you read above excites you, you’re ready to develop that creativity inside you to tell stories for a living.

    This may be the start of a new learning process, and an infinitely rewarding one at that.  

  • great info. found few valuable nuggets even after 5 year of my practice. a very good foundational understanding worth going back to time to time.

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