How to make a storyboard

 26 June 2017

Illustrator and animator Daniel McGarrigle explains how to make a storyboard. He also explains what a typical working day for him looks like and what it's like being a freelancer with this job.

"Hi, I am Daniel McGarrigle and I’m an illustrator and animator.

"I was always into art since a very young age. In school, I would always be drawing on notebooks and making stuff. I love art, it definitely was my favourite subject.

"I did graphic design but I didn’t think it was entirely for me, I was more into video and animation. I’ve always been into cartoons. So I went on to do a Masters in motion graphics.

"After I went to college, I ended up going to Canada and I was fortunate enough to work as an animator for two years and then when I came back, I’ve now started my own graphic design and illustration business."

What is a typical day like?

"A typical day involves waking up and sorting through emails in the morning and then I like to map out my day and prioritise what projects are coming up.

"Then I get down to lots of drawing."

How has technology affected your job?

"Technology has affected my industry in the fact that it’s made it really easy for me to work anywhere.

"I’m quite lucky in that I can work from my bedroom."

Being a freelancer

"Working freelance means that sometimes you don’t always have work but the upside to working freelance is that no two projects are the same.

"There’s a lot of variety and it can be really exciting."

The tools to use

"Sometimes I would just use a normal sketch pad but also I would use a drawing tablet and a stylus which allows me to get the drawings quicker into the computer."

Top tip for getting into animation

"If you’re interested in animation, it’s pretty cool but just watch a lot of cartoons.

"Always think about how the cartoons are made, breaking scenes down into storyboards, think about why characters are the way they are. When inspiration strikes you, just draw."

How to create a storyboard

"Today I’m going to show you how to make a simple storyboard. The term storyboard was invented by Disney for when they used to map out their earliest animations.

"They would put up large pieces of paper on a wall and arrange them to make a story.

"Day to day when I’m making a storyboard at work, I would use a tablet and a stylus. But for storyboards you don’t really need that, you can just use a normal notepad and a pen.

"The storyboard is not meant to be the final version, it’s just meant to give an overview and idea of how it’s meant to look.

"So don’t worry about making it perfect."

1) Create a template

"Remember to leave a space under each box if you want to put a description in of what’s happening.

"Storyboards are usually made up of multiple pages but for this one, we’re only going to use one page.

"I’m using six frames and we’re going to use these frames to map out key scenes.

"Key scenes are usually what happen at the start, the middle and the end. Now before I get into drawing, I’m gonna map down what each key scene is."

2) Choose key scenes

"In my first frame, I’m going to have my spy character sitting at home watching TV.

"Second frame, the door knocks and the spy character looks. He’s alerted and he’s like who’s this?

The thing about storyboards, there’s no one right way of doing it 

"Third frame, we’re gonna have the spy peering through the keyhole trying to see what’s out there.

"Fourth frame, we’re going to switch to the camera view so it’s going to be as if we are looking out of the keyhole and we’ll see there’s a little present that has been left for the spy.

"Fifth frame, the spy gets really excited and he’s like there’s a present for me?

"So he goes to open it and in our final frame, a boxing glove pops out of the box and punches him in the face.

"I think that tells the story pretty well so now let’s get to work and start our drawing."

2) Draw the thumbnails

"So I’m going to talk you through what happens in each frame. 

"Our first frame is our establishing shot where we’ve got our spy character, we’ve got the prop of the couch and we’ve got the door with the keyhole.

"In the second frame, we have our little spy character and I added a question mark above him to show that he’s confused who’s at the door.

"It says knock knock but if this was an animation, it would be an actual sound effect.

"You can often write sound effects in the actual frame or you can write it below if you feel like you haven’t explained it enough in the drawing.

"Third frame, we have our little spy character looking out the keyhole.

Think about why characters are the way they are. When inspiration strikes you, just draw

"And in the fourth frame we can see from the spies point of view; this is what the spy sees when he is looking through the keyhole.

"In all the frames before that, it was framed on the spy and his living room.

"Now in the fifth frame, we switch back to the regular angle of the spy in his living room. We see now he’s opened the door and he sees the present.

"Now in the sixth and final frame, he’s opened the present and we get the BAM. It’s a smack in the face, it’s a hidden boxing glove.

"Sometimes what’s happening in each frame might not be obvious to the animator so the storyboard artist can often leave notes of if there’s dialogue or sound effects, these can be added in underneath each relevant picture.

"The thing about storyboards, there’s no one right way of doing it. For films, the storyboard artist might have to meticulously draw out every scene, every minute, every camera change or like we’ve done here we can just map out the key scenes.

"A good idea is to show your friends and ask if they have any suggestions for ways you could make scenes different or more fun."

Re-capping the steps

"And just to re-cap, we start by drawing six boxes on our drawing pad.

"We then come up with our timeline by jotting down some quick ideas.

"Next, we draw and fill in each box for the different key scenes of our animation.

"Then we can add any sound effects or notes under each frame.

"Then we have our finished storyboard which we can show our friends or ask other people for any input or ideas.

"So as you can see it’s really fun to jot your ideas down into a storyboard and now it’s over to you guys to create your own."

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