As a graphic designer in the film industry, a lot of my work tends to focus on the most visible side of filmmaking – with pitch decks, posters and social media campaigns taking up much of my time.

I’ve previously talked about how graphic design can be used in the story world but it can also play a key role in envisioning the film even before ‘Action!’ is called for the first time. One way is through use of concept art (which I will discuss another time), but another is with storyboarding.

Storyboards are a simple and effective way for checking how and if your visual storytelling is working. On set, they are a brilliant reference for ensuring you get appropriate coverage. And in the edit suite, they provide a starting point for the editor for just how the film might jigsaw together.

So, how exactly does the process of creating a storyboard work, and how can it work best for you?

Outline your goals

What do you want your storyboards to look like? Storyboards can vary from stick figure sketches to beautiful full colour scenes that look like they’re straight out of a graphic novel. If you are paying someone to create your boards, bear in mind that colour is much more expensive.

Who are your storyboards for? Are they just a tool for the director on set, or will they be shared with other crew members, or even investors in the project? This may affect the level of detail mentioned above.

What form will they be used in? They could just be a printout or they could be used to create animatics (put into a pre-visualisation video with specific timings). Animatics are most likely to be useful in the case of complicated sequences that require a lot of thought and perhaps even trial and error to get just right.

Communicating your vision

Before you begin, it’s important to establish a clear style for the boards. If you are working with a graphic designer, make sure you have an in-depth discussion to set up the overall mood, but also how you plan to visualise shot types such as pans, tilts, zooms and dollies – as well as angles.

I usually work with a director in real time – drawing an extremely rough version of the storyboards using a graphics tablet – which I then go back and refine later. It’s important to be realistic about how detailed you really need the boards to be – as otherwise, this process can become very labour intensive.

Some handy tools for helping describe scenes to your designer are mini whiteboards and toy figurines. Seriously!

Be smart

If you working in a longer format (i.e. a feature film as opposed to a short), even the most simple storyboards will be time-consuming. If you are creating the storyboards yourself – save time by reusing drawings of characters and backgrounds, compositing and resizing them where necessary.

Be flexible

Storyboards are an incredible tool for helping you to make the most of your time on set and give confidence that you have all the footage you need, but don’t let them hold you back either! There will be times on your shoot when the shots you’ve planned just don’t quite work or maybe you can see the potential for something different and better. If that’s the case, throw your storyboard out of the window! But not literally – you might need it for other scenes.

Be prepared

From Confucius to Oprah to Scar from The Lion King (admittedly it didn’t work out that well for him…), everyone agrees – preparation is key. Storyboarding lets your brain work through all the fiddly details, helps you understand your film even better – and gives you the space to make your film the best it can be.

How it can work

To give you an idea about how storyboards can guide and help your film, below are a few examples from Anamnesis. As a quick reference during filming, they really are invaluable for helping to get the shots you need.

MCU of Maggie in hospital bed - storyboard and final shot
Wide of Maggie in hospital bed with Theo sat by her bed - storyboard and final shot.
CU of Theo - storyboard and final shot.
CU of Theo pressing drip button - storyboard and final shot.

If you’d like to discuss storyboarding for your upcoming film, feel free to drop me a line at