Animation

Storyboard artist

Also known as: Storyboard assistant, Storyboard revisionist

Entry level

Storyboard artist

What does a storyboard artist do?

Storyboard artists help the head of story create a visual representation of the animation’s narrative. Storyboard artists translate the script and the director’s vision into pictures. They produce a series of panels of images to plan the shots and ensure continuity between them. These form the basis for the animation in the next stage of production.

Storyboard artists may be asked to complete partly-drawn panels and ensure they are in the right style for the animation project. Depending on the production, the storyboard panels might need to be cleaned up (in terms of the lines and sharpness of the image), so that the drawings are tighter and more accurate. If the panels are being sent overseas to be animated this is particularly important.

Storyboard artists might also need to fill in background details or they may be asked to revise scenes already drawn by senior artist. They may be required to work using various different types of software to prepare panels for editorial.

Storyboard artists usually work in-house at the animation studio.

Watch

What’s a storyboard artist good at?

  • Drawing: have excellent drawing skills and be able to produce artwork in a range of styles
  • Storytelling: be able to communicate a narrative well
  • Knowledge of animation: be literate in animation with a good understanding of layout, composition, sequential drawing and editing as well as a strong understanding of framing
  • Learning by watching and asking: observe what’s happening in your department and company, take initiative, ask questions at appropriate times
  • Watching animations: have a passion for the medium and a love of the industry

Who does a storyboard artist work with?

Storyboard artists primarily help the head of story or a senior storyboard artist. This will sometimes also involve communicating with the director and writer, and with the art designer.

How do I become a storyboard artist?

The most important thing when applying for roles in storyboarding is to demonstrate good drawing skills. You need to show storytelling skills and an understanding of film. Many storyboard artists have a degree but you don’t necessarily need one as long as you have a strong portfolio and can show your experience. In some companies you can move into being a junior storyboard artist from being a runner.

At school or college:
You can take A-levels or Highers in fine art, art and design, graphic design, or film studies. Or you might want to take any of the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:

  • BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
  • UAL Applied General Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
  • NCFE Applied General Certificate in Art and Design
  • BTEC National Extended Diploma in Creative Digital Media Production

If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:

  • BTEC National Diploma in Graphics
  • UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
  • OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (Graphic Design)
  • BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Visual Effects
  • UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production and Technology
  • OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Moving Image and Audio Production)

Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn.

These are the relevant apprenticeships that might be available throughout the UK:

In Scotland, you might be able to find degree-level apprenticeships through the following frameworks:

  • Creative (SCQF Level 6/7, Scotland)
  • Creative and Digital Media (SCQF Level 6/7, Scotland)

Before taking any apprenticeship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will be giving you the skills you want. Go to how to become an apprentice to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region or approach companies directly.

Draw:
Regularly practise drawing and observing how people and things around you move and look. Carry a sketchbook with you.

Build a portfolio:
Learn how to show story sequences cut together in an animatic form. Start creating work that you can show to admissions tutors or employers. Go to build your animation portfolio to learn more. Have a look at these Tips for making a story portfolio for feature and TV animation.

Get a degree:
A degree in fine art or illustration will equip you well for this job. So will a degree in film or animation. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses. We endorse courses when they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the animation industry.

Look outside the industry:
You might be able to get a job in an art department with a game design company. You could use the skills you would hone in this role to later transfer into animation.

Network:
Get to know people in the animation industry by attending events. Meet producers and filmmakers and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest and knowledge in the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to how to network well to learn how to do this.

Get a job as a runner:
Being a runner for an animation company will enable you to gain experience and to gain a better understanding of the whole animation production process. It’s a good way to build contacts and get to know people working in storyboarding. Go to the runner job profile for details on how to do this.

Search for jobs:
Research animation companies you’d like to work for. Animation UK has a directory of animation companies. Go to their websites and check if they are advertising for junior roles. Even if they aren’t, send in your CV and portfolio and ask them to bear you in mind for future roles. Keep looking on job websites too. ScreenSkills offers some advice from professionals on how to approach animation and VFX employers.

You might also be interested in…

Being a head of story or a director in the animation industry.

Further resources