You may watch the video or read the transcript below.

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Today, I’m going to answer a question that has plagued me as I began working on my storyboarding portfolio: Do you need to have locations and characters designed to storyboard?


I heard that sometimes, particularly regarding feature animation films that are created in-house, storyboard artists appear on the scene before other designers. Or there may be some early concept sketches to get the storyboards going as designers work on developing characters, props, and locations. Alessandra Sorrentino suggests talking to design departments to figure out what is possible and what may be too expensive to create as a storyboard.

In TV, according to my friend Dany Demysh, character designer extraordinaire, storyboard artists usually have access to a FunPack based on the script. The lead designer will create the FunPack working with the director, providing a 3/4 front and 3/4 back views of the character with some facial expressions to give the board artists a launching point. The designs the board artists use then are considered tight roughs, so they are close to final but might be tweaked later once production starts.

Regarding storyboarding for live action, according to Aaron Sowd, it’s good to go on location and get as much reference from different angles as possible of the location and to talk to other teams — be informed as much as possible, before you begin storyboarding.

The Phantom of the Opera — Thumbnail — Phantom and Christine.

For the purpose of creating a portfolio piece, which is what we are doing… I guess it depends on your preference.

For “The Phantom of the Opera” I have some concept sketches and some rough designs of the characters, but as yet, I do not have the characters designed. I do know roughly what locations should look like, but I have yet to gather references and create layouts and location designs.

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare Cover

Since this is a portfolio piece, you may wish to take existing character designs and cast them in your story. For example, I though about storyboarding a funny scene from my favourite romance novel The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare casting Ariel and Erik from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” as Emma and Ash and an anthropomorphic Shere Khan from Disney’s “The Jungle Book” as the butler Kahn.

Using existing designs may be a good idea for a portfolio piece, since showing that you can work with existing character designs is a skill every story artist should have.

“The Duchess Deal” Cover Art with Ariel and Eric

As a storyboard artist, your job will not be to design characters. Also consider that storyboard artists do not draw characters as they are designed. They create simplified versions of existing characters. What is important as a story artist is to be quick, clear, visually tell the story and capture the emotions in the scene.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid: Stills vs. Storyboard

Disney’s The Little Mermaid movie stills vs. storyboard art by Roger Allers. © Walt Disney Animation Studios. Used for educational purposes. Source: Google Images

Your mission if you choose to accept it following this post is:

  1. Create simplified character and location designs to use in your storyboard.
  2. Or adapt existing character designs to use in your storyboard.

Until next time: Stay creative!

PART 4 Coming Soon!