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5 Productivity Tips for the Traditional Story Artist

Storyboarding, despite being a fundamentally visual process, requires more of the artist than a good eye for design. It requires conviction. The storyboard artist must be able to navigate many possible branching paths.

Finding a clear route through is no easy task when every line in the script can be interpreted in any number of ways. To the story artist, this tends to result in multiple iterations at the thumbnail stage and therefore, lost time.

Say you were storyboarding a short film. Think of how many hundreds of frames you may be asked to draw. Now think of how many sketches you will abandon early on because they fail to move the story along efficiently or effectively. And if you draw by hand?

What if I told you there were certain tricks the traditional storyboard artist can build into their process to rival that of any professional story artist working today? Sounds impossible right? Well then I invite you to read on.

1. Draw Cleanly at the Thumbnail Stage

Sketching with unbroken, unfeathered lines is essential and goes back to what I was saying about conviction. If you can translate what your mind sees when you read a line in a script directly onto paper at this early stage, everything else will follow.

Yes, your thumbnails are there for you, but you need to be able to work from them and it is infinitely harder to clean up these drawings than to simply draw them with thought at the outset.

For detailed tips and tricks about this very subject, read our companion article, ‘How to Gain Speed and Accuracy in Storyboarding’.

2. Sketch Complex Objects as Shapes

The human eye is very good at interpreting visual data. Our survival depends upon it. This is also why the power of suggesting in visual works has such powerful impact. By drawing less and letting the viewer fill in the blanks, you are actually doing more.

Really what I am talking about here is developing a kind of shorthand that you can use personally to create less work for yourself, and it starts with drawing simply. Get the shapes down and add those details after.

3. Draw at One Hundred Percent

Create a printable template you can present finished storyboards to clients—arranged in a 3 x 2 grid for landscape and 4 x 1 grid for portrait—with ample space or notation. You then have the option to draw directly into your preferred template or onto bleed proof paper over the top.

Doing this will make your life much easier when you need to scan your illustrations, and you most assuredly will. Clients can be based anywhere and you may not ever even meet them, so I consider this very basic step incredibly valuable.

4. Reuse Your Character and Background Assets

Speaking of scanning, when you have the ability to copy/paste certain character positions, parts of backgrounds and even entire frames in post, do yourself a favour and do it wherever you can.

And if you draw something perfectly only to realise it’s on the wrong frame in your template? What about if a character or some other element is not properly to scale. Leave it.

It is always harder to try and redraw something that was already technically good to begin with. So if you like what you did, fix it digitally.

5. Apply Consistent Line Weight

Lastly, when you do the final line work for your boards, go with a pen thickness of 0.5 or higher and stick to it. You’re not rendering a comic so variation in line weight is unnecessary.

Well, that’s it. Hopefully you found at least some of the advice in this article useful. If you liked this post and are keen for more, be sure to sign up to the FTVC Insider newsletter.

Now get out there, find clients and draw!

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