Drawing Class Lesson 1: Storyboarding

In conjunction with the projects in your animation techniques course you will be required to prepare the storyboards for those assignments as part of the drawing course.

The Three Act Structure

Throughout the years stories have been divided into 3 distinct acts. In short one can think of this as a beginning, a middle and an end. These acts also have distinct characteristics. Most notably articulated in the video below of what Joeseph Campbell calls the “Hero’s Journey”. While your projects and stories will be much shorter, it is important to maintain a clear direction for your character so that an audience will sympathize with him/her and won’t get bored.

What’s the film about? Think of your screenplay like a movie poster. Have a tagline. “It’s about a guy who…”


Make characters. Make sure your hero is likable and don’t be boring.


Explain everything quick. Who what when where why.




Bring the drama.


Flip genres.  Make a Comedy a Horror, etc.


Opposites fall in love



Act I:


Start with a hook to get audience’s attention.


Introduce characters


Set the scene ( establish the environment )


Something bad happens to protagonist. His life is changed.


  1. Setup:Time and space are being introduced. When/Where are we?
  2. Inciting incident


Act II:


Protagonist is tested, but does not possess the skills to achieve his goal.


Something’s gotta change if he wants to get what he wants!


He gets his ass kicked.


  1. Response to incident
  2. Response from protagonist
  3. Fight back and lose. Trapped.


Act III:


Protagonist has a new outlook on life. Works hard. Kicks ass.


Surprise side character nobody expected to be on his side helps out.


Storyboards are an important part of many different disciplines. Today’s lesson will involve an introduction to storyboarding, as well as give you time to work on your sequential animation assignment for Animation Techniques.

Storyboarding Your Idea
The first thing I want you to do before you begin drawing is to take time to evaluate your story and start to imagine which different shots you will be utilizing. Get a clear picture of what you want each shot is in your head before you start storyboarding it. Once you’ve got a mental shot list, you can start to draw each frame. Make sure that the frames of your storyboard match the size of the frame for the aspect ratio which you will be using in the production of your short sequential animation.

What’s an aspect ratio?
An aspect ratio simply refers to the size of the frame which a film or video is created in. Think widescreen vs television.

What’s a shot list?

A shot list is just a list of shots for a project. It would be a good idea to write down your shot list before storyboarding.

As you plan your shot list, here are some questions to consider.

What’s the setting?
How many people are in the shot?
Are there certain items which the characters need in the shot?
Consider if you want it to be a close-up, wide-shot, establishing shot, or whatever type of shot you need.
What’s the angle of the camera? Looking up? Wide? Low?
Is stuff moving, if so, in what direction?
What’s your lighting going to be like, and in which directions do you want your shadows to fall?

Use the shot list as a guide. You don’t have to stick to it 100%, so as you storyboard don’t be afraid to tweak certain elements if you feel a change is justified.

Choose a style of storyboard you wish to use. Here are some free examples which you can print out.
Storyboard 1 Storyboard 2 There’s a lot more to choose from. Just go to google and search for “storyboard templates” in images.

Once you’ve got all of these preparations made you can then begin drawing. There’s no right way to draw a storyboard, in the end it should serve you, or others working on a project to understand how to shoot something.

They can be very detailed, such as this one which made by Shane Acker for Tim Burton’s film “9”.

Or they could be very simple.

All in all the most important thing to remember is that storyboards are a tool which will be used by yourself in this project, however in the future you may have to be working with a group of people who need to take directions while you’re not around. This is where a good storyboard artist comes in handy, because he is essentially choosing many elements which could be very important to the overall feel of the film.

Here’s a brief video tutorial from Sherm Cohen who is a storyboard artist at Disney if you’re still looking for inspiration and guidance.