Learn to Storyboard: The First Steps of Visual Storytelling

Leo M., Story Artist at Walt Disney Studios

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12 Videos (1h 41m)
    • What is Storyboarding?

    • Rules & Tools of Storyboarding (Part 1)

    • Rules & Tools of Storyboarding (Part 2)

    • Generating Three Ideas

    • Sample Research

    • Research for Pretzel Story

    • Paradigm

    • Thumbnails

    • First Pass

    • Second Pass

    • Final Pass

    • Final Pass Cleanup Tutorial

45 students are watching this class

Project Description

Storyboard a favorite story from your life

Understanding Storyboarding

  1. Set up your tools

    Get set up with your pen, paper or digital tools. In the next unit we'll start generating our story ideas. 

    Download a free trial of the Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud here if you'll be working digitally. Totally optional, but you'll see me using Adobe Bridge to browse through my storyboards. 

Coming Up with Your Story Idea

  1. Come up with three simple ideas

    Think of three simple , gutsy, ideas or situations that you would like to share with an audience. When I say “gutsy” I mean something that is really personal and unique to you. Don’t be afraid to share a story because of other people’s opinion or taste. Please follow your gut and be as personal as possible.

    Share a funny story, a scary story , or whatever speaks to you. What we will work on is how to explore your idea visually in the best way possible.

    Please do not forget to have fun with it!!




  2. Choose your best idea

    Pick one of the three simple ideas you see the most potential in.

    Ask yourself: Why do I want to tell this story? Try picking this idea because it is the one you really want to tell and it’s the closest to your heart. Also, make sure it’s a simple story. Simple is good!

    Remember some of the reasons why I chose the pretzel story over the other two. 


Researching Your Subject

  1. Start your research

    Once you have picked the story you want to tell, you can start your research.

    How are you going to tell your story? Do you still remember the locations, characters, props that were part of your story?

    You have to be specific if we want to tell something unique and interesting.

    Build a small file of images and references that would help you to bring these elements of your story alive. You can start your research online. The Internet is an amazing tool for research. Nowadays you can type anything on google and you will find millions of reference.

    Here are some of the images I collected for the research on my childhood story, note how broad they are. 



    Another great way to do research is going to libraries. Books offer a lot of substance and basis so you can tell something believable and specific. Everything that would help you to bring those memories visually would help you. It could be family pictures, newspaper articles, magazines, etc.

Exploring and Structuring Your Idea

  1. Use the paradigm to structure your idea

    Start organizing your story. Every story has a beginning, middle and an end. Based on the exploration you did in the first step, try to envision how your story will start, what will happen in the middle, and how it will end.

    Below is a simple way to tackle it:

    • A character wants something.
    • He actively pursues his goal.
    • He either get’s it or he doesn't.


  2. Dramatize your story

    You can describe your story literally but of course it wouldn’t be fun. Add drama to your story by being creative. Be poetic while telling your ideas. If you want to leave out information, do it. If you want to push your story making it funnier, go for it. If you want to make it darker and scarier by intensifying the mood, that's your right.


  3. Thumbnail out your main beats

    Now that you know your paradigm and dramatic points, it’s time to start putting your ideas on paper. Think about the story you want to tell and start drawing or writing situations that you might see happening in your story. The more you explore your ideas, the more specific and interesting will be your story.

    What are main beats? They are the key moments of your story. They will serve as poles which will hold your story together. You can have them in thumbnail size or written on index cards.

    In this step, try to be as rough as possible. The focus will be to explore your possibilities so you shouldn't be spending too much time in embellishing drawings. If you have to draw stick figures or even just write down ideas it would work just as well.


Executing Your Idea

  1. Storyboard your first pass

    Storyboard your story in continuity. Usually at this stage you will have lots of notes since it’s your first stab at it. Don't spend too much time laboring on drawings.

    Everything you created in the paradigm and thumbnailing phase should be incorporated here. Don't forget perspective, staging, flat space, deep space etc.  


  2. Storyboard your second pass

    This pass should start to have more of a flow. It should feel more continuous and less beat-y. Be aware of how you are posing your characters. This is the pass where we want to avoid any jump cuts. 

    Address the feedback you got from friends or classmates on your first pass. Present your second pass to your peers.


  3. Storyboard your final pass

    This pass is about cleaning up your 2nd pass. Lower the opacity to keep the rougher sketches as a background and then apply a clean tracing on top. 

    This will be the final version of your project. Share your boards on your project page.