Mastering Storyboarding for Animation

Storyboarding is one of the key pillars of animation, serving as a visual blueprint that guides the entire creative process from conception to final production. Mastering the art of storyboarding is essential for creating compelling animations that captivate audiences and leave a lasting impression. In this guide, we’ll delve into the techniques and principles of storyboarding for animation, focusing on how to enhance narrative clarity and emotional impact through effective visual storytelling, pacing, and framing.

The Importance of Storyboarding

Before diving into the techniques, let’s briefly explore why storyboarding is so crucial in the animation industry.

 Storyboarding allows animators and filmmakers to visualise their ideas, plan out the sequence of events, and identify potential storytelling or practical challenges before production begins. It serves as a communication tool between the creative team, ensuring everyone is aligned on the vision and direction of the project, shot by shot. It is imperative for us, as animators, to suspend time on this process as we do not have the luxury to do take after take as one potentially would with a live action piece. So, this integral part of the process is where we take time to ensure that, when it comes to shooting, we are precise and accurate about what each shot is and what the overall arc of the piece looks like.

Key things to keep top of mind when making a storyboard:

Establishing the Foundation

Before our animators set about bringing a project to life, our storyboard artists meticulously lay the groundwork. Through a series of carefully crafted sketches, they establish the visual language of the narrative, setting the tone and mood for the entire production. From the opening establishing shots that introduce the world and characters, focusing in in the next frame to a character with their dynamic pose and intricate expression, they meticulously convey emotions and motivations with every frame, a deliberate composition designed to guide the viewer’s eye and immerse them in the story. For any animation process, and most especially stop-motion, we need to take time laying a strong solid storyboard so that when it comes to the shoot day(s),  the shots can be achieved clearly, concisely and efficiently. Here are some top points not to forget to utilise when starting to compose your storyboard.

Establishing Shots

In any animation production, establishing shots play a vital role in setting the scene and providing context for the story. For example, utilising wide-angle shots, we can showcase the detailed environments and help viewers understand the spatial relationships between characters and objects. 

Shot Composition

Shot composition is a fundamental aspect of visual storytelling in any animation medium. By paying attention to framing, perspective, and angles, we can guide the viewer’s eye and create visual interest within each frame. Experimenting with different compositions allows us to convey mood and emotion effectively. For instance, using close-up shots can intensify the emotional impact of a scene, while wide shots can emphasise the scale and scope of the environment. By carefully composing each shot, we can enhance the storytelling experience and evoke the desired emotional response from the audience.

Storyboard Thumbnails

As already mentioned, storyboarding is an essential step in the pre-production phase of any animation project. Starting with rough thumbnail sketches, we can quickly explore different compositions and layouts to plan out the sequence of shots. These sketches focus on capturing the essence of each scene and conveying the key story beats, allowing us to refine the details later in the production process. For example, for an animated series depicting a thrilling adventure, storyboard thumbnails can outline the sequence of action, from the initial journey to the climactic showdown, ensuring that each moment contributes to the overall narrative. It is vital for these to keep the process as slick as possible when it comes to shoot day.

Dynamic Poses and Expressions

Animating dynamic poses and facial expressions is crucial for bringing characters to life in any animation style. Whether it’s 2D, 3D, or stop motion animation, character movements and expressions convey emotions and intentions to the audience. By exaggerating movements and expressions, we can enhance clarity and impact. For example, in a stop motion animated film featuring a brave hero, we can exaggerate their gestures and facial expressions to convey courage and determination, ensuring that each frame is filled with personality and emotion and drawing us deeper into the characterisation.

Mastering the Rhythm and Flow

At A+C Studios, we believe that the true magic of an animation story  lies in its ability to seamlessly blend visuals with timing and pacing. This is where our storyboard artists truly shine, employing techniques that ensure a smooth and cohesive flow throughout the narrative.

  1. Storyboard Timing: By carefully considering the timing of each shot, our artists maintain a rhythmic cadence that builds tension, creates suspense, or evokes specific emotional responses from the audience. Also from a technical point of view this is helpful as in animation, every second counts! We also engage the editor to have a look to make any advisories on cuts or changes that will make the shoot process even easier.
  2. Storyboard Animatics: To test and refine the pacing and timing, we create animatics – rough animated sequences that bring the storyboard to life. This allows us to experience the narrative in real-time and make any necessary adjustments before moving into full production.
  3. Beat Boards: Our artists break down the storyboard into individual beats or moments, ensuring that each scene serves a specific purpose in advancing the story. By identifying and refining these beats, we enhance the overall storytelling impact and maintain a captivating rhythm throughout the animation.

Emotional Resonance through Artistry

At the heart of our storyboarding process lies a deep commitment to evoking genuine emotions and creating a profound connection with the viewer. We achieve this through a combination of artistic techniques and meticulous attention to detail.

  1. Character Acting and Gestures: Our storyboard artists are masters of character creation, using subtle nuances in movement and expression to breathe life into each shot. These intricate details add depth and authenticity, the slightest wiggle of an eyebrow can endear the audience all the more.
  2. Colour and Lighting: We meticulously explore colour palettes and lighting effects, using warm tones to convey joy and excitement, and cool hues to create a sense of tension or drama. This strategic use of colour and light enhances the mood and atmosphere of each scene, amplifying the emotional impact on the viewer. 
  3. Sound Design: Understanding that animation is a multisensory experience, our storyboard artists collaborate closely with our sound designers to incorporate sound effects and music that heighten the emotional resonance of key moments. From the suspenseful crescendo of a dramatic scene to the whimsical melody that accompanies a character’s joyful journey, sound design adds an immersive layer to our storytelling.
  4. We also like our Editor to have a look over the story boards before we move to shoot. This is so that they can advise on any unuseful shots or any difficult transitions and so those creases can be ironed out before we go into shoot days.


At A+C Studios, we understand that storyboarding is more than just a planning tool; it is an art form that requires a delicate balance of technical skill, creative vision, and storytelling prowess. By mastering the techniques and principles outlined above, our team of talented artists elevates each project, ensuring that our animations not only entertain but also captivate and inspire audiences of all ages.

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