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How to Gain Speed and Accuracy in Storyboarding

Storyboarding requires a dextrous hand and a good eye for design. Your job is to plot the quickest route to the end result and render it into reality.

The method—whether digitally, traditionally or a mix of both—isn’t as important. You only need to know your tools and how to use them effectively.

So how do you attain the speed and accuracy necessary for pursuing a career in storyboarding for film and television? It all comes down to practice, patience and a little light reading. Let’s get started.

1. Develop Your Visual Library

No artist or illustrator in the world can draw everything off the top of their head. The creative process doesn’t work like that. Hence the ‘process’ part of the equation.

What you don’t know how to draw, you need to use reference for. So to ensure you have as much visual information at your fingertips, you should be looking to build your visual library—or mental repository of inspiration for all things design.

Feng Zhu of FZD School fame explains it perfectly in his Design Cinema: Visual Library art education video (and I highly suggest you check out everything else he’s done).

2. Learn to Understand Lighting

Storyboards are works of art, yes, however they are not intended to look pretty. Their purpose is to clearly and simply interpret the screenplay or shooting script if there is one.

All of this is to ensure the director will be able to understand and communicate the complexity of the required shots and shot sequences to others working on the production.

To do this, stick to these three values:

• Highlights
• Mid tones
• Core shadows.

Where necessary, do feel free to include:

• Cast shadows
• Reflected light.

Doing so will simplify the amount of information contained within each frame and reduce the overall time spent on completing your storyboarding projects.

3. Do Not Render Unimportant Details

Clients do not like to see their money go to waste on detail when they commission a storyboard artist and they won’t care how much time and effort you put into rendering their backgrounds or characters.

Consistency should be your priority and the odds of achieving this falls off dramatically with each additional minute you spend rendering beyond what would be considered appropriate. Less is more and all that.

4. Do Not Erase Your Mistakes

In the beginning you will make a lot of mistakes. So what I should have said is learn from your mistakes but that’s more my next point.

The key take away here is to realise when you make a mistake or draw are line that isn’t exactly where you want it to be, you need to be okay with it so you can move on.
Try to use a single and fluid line each time you touch a pen to paper or a stylus to a drawing tablet when planning an illustrating your storyboards.

This will give you a better economy of line and will go a long way towards you developing a technically efficient drawing method.

5. Aim for Progress, Not Perfection

One final piece of advice for speed and accuracy in storyboarding is to never work backwards. This point is very much like the above albeit on more of a mindset level.

Don’t be afraid to incorporate your mistakes into the final frame when ‘trying to find the line’. If you mess up, trace your frame onto a new page or lower the opacity of the erroneous layer if working digitally and draw over the top.

Over time, you will see a drastic improvement in your drawing ability which will serve you well in the long term when approaching clients and bidding for storyboarding projects.

For more tips like these, check out our other articles tagged in Visualisation.

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