So You Want to Be a Professional Storyboard Artist, eh?

I couldn’t help it, I’m Canadian.

This is an introductory post I’ll expand on in the ‘Production Journal‘ and ‘Storyboard Like a Pro‘. If you want to do storyboards for a living and have no idea what it takes, I’ll break it down for you. No sugar-coating…you deserve that. Here we go:


Do you have to know how to draw? Yes. How good? Pretty darn good. Do you have to be drop dead amazing? No. I’m nowhere near amazing, but I’m pretty good and get the job done. As I’ve said before, the drawings aren’t the most important thing in a board. But to work professionally, you need good solid drawing skills. And hey…amazing can’t hurt.


Do you need formal training to be able to work professionally? I’d like to say ‘no’, because anything is possible, but I’d be more inclined to say ‘yes, you do’. Any kind of formal art training is great to grow as an artist. Take classes in drawing, painting or life drawing if that’s what you love. Will that alone make you a storyboard artist? Nope. If you want to work in the animation, film or gaming field, you need some training in that field. You can’t produce storyboards for an industry if you don’t know how that industry works. You must know how a cartoon is produced or a film is shot in order to storyboard for a production effectively. Even if that training is reading everything you can gets your hands on…you need it. It’s expected.


As much I’d like to say working in animation is one big, fun party all the time…it ain’t. Sure, it’s a lot different than a traditional office and you get to be creative and casual and all that good stuff. But it’s a business. And in this business are deadlines and schedules to keep. This is no place to be a flake. The professionals (who keep working) get the job done, don’t lie to the client or studio and meet their deadlines. If you’re not the type of person who can do that, think twice about professional storyboarding. And being organized really helps (though I’m sure there are many pros out there who are admittedly not…it’s an artist thing).


This means personal discipline. If you freelance, the vast majority of storyboard work involves working alone. So very alone. Even if you work in a studio, it’s still a very solitary process. Lots of thinking and drawing at a desk. You have to be able to work in your own time frame, which on one hand is a fabulous thing and on the other, very tough. It’s very easy for a day to get whittled away with distractions and procrastination. Storyboarding involves many long days and nights working by yourself. You’ve been warned : ).


I’ve said that drawing isn’t the most important skill for a board artist to have, so what are the others? There are many. As a professional board artist you have to be:

  • a storyteller
  • a filmmaker
  • an actor
  • an editor
  • a cinematographer
  • (I’ll say it anyway) an artist
  • a little nuts…it helps

I’ll write more about these other skills and the traits mentioned above as time goes on (even the nuts part). But for now, they’re things to consider. Do you think you possess some of these skills? Are you willing to learn about the ones you don’t have? Does it excite you to think “Hey, I might be able to do this”? Cool. Looking forward to telling you more.

Subscribe to the RSS feed if you don’t want to miss future posts that explore the professional side of storyboarding.

33 thoughts on “So You Want to Be a Professional Storyboard Artist, eh?

  1. Debi

    I just stumbled onto your blog and what a great find! Already stuck it in my favorites.

    I’m a struggling storyboard artist with some Indy films under my belt, who is trying to land those so hard to find paying gigs. Do you have any suggestions, if you have all the above in order, on what the next step is? Get an agent and how? Who should one contact and beg to? Move to L.A.? Sell one’s soul or first-born?

    Also, gotta say, huge fan of Vancouver. One of my favorite games is the β€œSpot that Vancouver location/actor” in all the sci-fi/fantasy shows. I think when I finally get to go visit, I’ll know most of the city and most of the people. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for the great blog and resource!

  2. KJL

    Thanks for the great feedback Debi! Still pretty new to the blog thing, so I really appreciate hearing from people like you.

    I’ll answer your questions in future posts as best I can. I work primarily in the animation field, so I feel more comfortable answering ‘getting the gig’ questions about that. BUT I have resources to tap into for info about working in film specifically.

    You sound like you’re on the right track though. Indie and student films are a great place to start…but you have to pay your rent too, right?

    Thanks for reading and don’t sell your first-born yet. : )

  3. Ivan

    Hey K,
    Great blog. Definitely appreciate the “keepin’ it real” blog, which is much needed with the lack of info on the animation storyboading field, which, well surprisingly not much info about it out there. I’m going to postpone my questions, cus I know you’ll talk about it in the near future. Looking forward to read your future posts!


  4. axion

    the first blog I have read and i almost … Ok let me say your keepin’ it real be real sister. A little nutts, a story teller, a cinematographer, a film maker , an editor and an artist “I took note” . A board artist could not have written it any better for a wannabe board artist. I’m interested Karen I’ll be subscribing to this feed.

  5. KJL

    Welcome Axion. Thanks so much for feedback…and for subscribing! I will continue with the ‘keeping it real’ stuff…definitely πŸ™‚

  6. corey

    Hi Karen, this is corey from class 62 & mercury. This blog of yers is really helpful. I just started storyboarding myself. I’m 3 days into it and already I can feel the burn. Thanks for the help at school & with this here blog. Keep it up.

  7. KJL Post author

    Hey Corey! Glad to have you. That burn you feel is your life slowly slipping away…
    I kid! I kid! πŸ™‚
    That’s great. Keep us updated here on the blog now and then. I’m sure others would love to hear from someone new to the game. Good luck!

  8. Kasana

    Hey karen !
    Thanks A Ton. It ‘ll be really helpful. I have nothing to ask…but everything to know. And Surely I’ll be getting it here.
    Just want to say one thing….. KEEP IT UP…. πŸ™‚


  9. Y.O.

    Hi Karen, thanks for the blog. I’m an aspiring storyboard artist, and an alumni of the VFS classical animation program, and have done, through networking, some freelance storyboard projects, but want to keep doing more and make a living off it, but for live action stuff, I’ve heard you can only apply for that if you’re in the union (IATSE). Hope to see more from the blog. Thanks.

  10. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hi Y.O. and welcome!
    Did I teach you or were you before or after my time there?

    Go to the Archives and check out some of Adrien’s (live-action-go-to-guy) posts. He addresses lots of live action issues here so they might be of help. Good luck to you and thanks for coming by. πŸ™‚

  11. Y.O.

    Hi Karen. again, great blog. thanks. no it was a long time ago but i don’t think you taught me. it was most likely before your time there. I’ll check those out. thanks.

  12. Pingback: Inside Vancouver Film School - Behind the Storyboards

  13. Ana

    Hey!! Just like the 1st comment, I bumped onto your blog and what a great find!! It’s already in my favourites!! heheh
    Seriously, I really enjoy storyboarding but don’t feel like I’m good enough yet to apply for a job in this specific field!
    Just bought a few books and together with your blog (which is very fun and helpful), hopefully I’ll get better!
    Thank you very much for the initiative!! I highly appreciate it!! =D

  14. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hi Ana!
    Well, I’m so glad that you did find me! Have a look around and enjoy because you certainly sound like my target audience. πŸ™‚

    If you ever have any questions just head to the contact page and ask. Great to have you here.

  15. hugo dagostine

    i’d like get more information about storyboard
    the reason i m in a course HNC music technology level 4
    i’d like some profissional help and tequinics.

    i hope you consider and hearing from you
    thank you.

  16. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hi Hugo. Well if you want to be a little more specific with your questions, you can head to the Contact page and send me a message. I’ll be happy to answer as best I can.

    I’m just not quite sure what kind of information you’re looking for. I look forward to hearing from you.

  17. David

    Karen, I am learning so much about Storyboards. I went to school for Graphic design. I went because they taught Lightwave. I draw really well. I did a few book covers, I didn’t get paid but it looks nice in my portfolio. A great opportunity presented itself to me. I need to try to make a portfolio that is strictly On-Model storyboards. I have approximately 3 to 4 weeks to get my stuff together. Can you steer me in a direction of what exactly I should provide in my portfolio. YOUR BLOG ROCKS!!!!!

  18. Terry Heath

    Great post and so true. But here’s the thing . . .

    I wondered to myself, “Now, do I really know just exactly what a storyboard is?”

    And then I thought, “No.”

    So since I was on a thinking roll, I thought I’d click your “So What IS a Storyboard, Anyway?” and guess what?

    The link doesn’t work. Turns out it pulls up two “http://” things (hover over it and you’ll see). Kinda hurts the whole “make it so people can figure out what you do” thing! LOL

    Love the post (theoretically, anyway). Retweeted, Stumbled, and subscribed.

  19. Karen J Lloyd Post author


    How the hell did that happen and how long has it been like that? *grumble, grumble*

    Thanks so much Terry! I truly appreciate it when people give me the heads up on these silly issues. Ugh.


    You can go read it now. πŸ™‚

  20. Terry Heath

    Now the really funny thing is, my comment was supposed to have been under your last post about hiding! LOL

    How the heck did I get off track like that?

    Technology is a wonderful thing.

  21. Lenny Buscemi

    This was very interesting. I am also interested in getting into the career of story artist. Can you reveal what pay can be expected in US $’s? Again this has been such a helpful blog. Please continue.

  22. praful

    hii karen,
    i have been reading your blog and i must say i find it interesting than many other sites i have been. cheers for that :-0……i am actually studying animation now but my original interest is story writing. i always dream of publishing my work and i have a module called “visualization and story-boarding ” by which i realized how useful story-boarding can be. i think i am good at it but my biggest concern is “I CANT SKETCH”. i admit that i have two left hands. i generally use stick figures and stuff but i try to make it in such a way that people can understand what i want to say. Is it mandatory that you should able to sketch if you want to use story-boarding as a career? please let me know.

  23. steve isaac

    I have a friend who wants to attend college to study to be a storyboard artist in animation. What classes she needs to take to obtain a degree and other required courses.

  24. Kimberly

    Pretty interesting find. I enjoyed what you had to say about storyboard and it makes me feel like I’m heading the right way. The only thing is I’m stuck on my education portion. Right now I’m a communication major with an art minor (this art minor is being offered by the visualization department) Anyways with this kind of criteria am I going about it the right way or does the degree really not matter? but more what you are capable of doing?

  25. Jon

    Hi Karen,

    I have just begun to look into this as a profession. I have already gone through school (in an area totally opposite of the arts), but have come back to my interest in drawing as a career. Recently I have decided that Story Boarding/Sequential Arts and possibly Video Game Concept Art is the right direction to go.

    Any advice for a working professional who is looking to change up careers? I have looked into some schools – but not sure that another 4 year program is the way to go. Looking at vocational avenues through Continuing Ed courses which would re-sharpen my skills and position me better to developing a Portfolio worth presenting.

    Great Blog ! Look forward to hearing from you.


  26. Chris

    Hi Karen!

    My name is Chris , and I love animation/cartoons and feature-lenght animated films from Pixar/Disney ect. My passion comes from the idea of telling a story , or creating a scene that really moves people. A good example of this is like in “Beauty and the Beast” when Beast must make the decision to let Belle go , but he is conflicted because he wants her to say. The emotion you feel from his facial expressions feel SO genuine and real , they completely make you forget you are watching an animated feature. I have drawn several Disney characters on paper , where I feel my drawing is good…but not great. Should I go to a special school for animation , so I can be a storyboard artist , or do I have to get a degree in something else? I just need some kind of help as to how I can get closer to obtaining a career in Storyboarding.


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