How They Make Anime: A Guide to Creating Anime Storyboards

Have you ever wondered about the intricate process that brings your beloved anime characters to life on screen? Today, we delve into the world of anime storyboarding — the unsung hero of the animation process.


What are Anime Storyboards?

Anime storyboards serve as the blueprint for the magic that unfolds on your screens. They are the visual roadmap, outlining each frame and sequence that animators meticulously bring to life. While often overlooked, the art of storyboarding plays a crucial role in shaping the narrative, pacing, and emotional resonance of your favorite anime series and movies.


Why Should You Care About Anime Storyboards?

Understanding the art of anime storyboarding not only deepens your appreciation for the creative process but also provides a glimpse into the dedication and craftsmanship behind every frame. Whether you’re an aspiring artist, a devoted fan, or simply curious about the mechanics of animation, this guide is your ticket to discovering the secrets behind the scenes.


The Building Blocks of Anime Storyboards

What Goes into a Storyboard?

Every anime masterpiece starts with a blank canvas, or in this case, a series of frames waiting to be filled with life. Anime storyboards are composed of quick sketches and drafts, serving as the initial visualization of the narrative. These sketches, often known as thumbnails, lay the foundation for the entire animation process.


  1. Quick Sketches and Drafts

Storyboard artists use these preliminary sketches to map out the flow of the story, framing each scene and determining the placement of characters and key elements. These sketches, while simple, are the crucial first steps in bringing the script to visual fruition.


  1. Planning Dialogue and Scenes

Storyboards aren’t just about visuals; they’re the bridge between script and animation. Dialogue is carefully integrated into each frame, ensuring a seamless transition from words on paper to characters speaking and interacting on screen. Scene composition is also meticulously considered, setting the stage for animators to work their magic.


Bringing Anime to Life: The Role of Storyboards

How Storyboards Help Animators

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork with sketches and drafts, let’s explore how anime storyboards act as the guiding light for animators. Storyboards serve as a visual script, providing a roadmap for animators to follow. Each frame, carefully detailed in the storyboard, dictates the sequence of movements, expressions, and actions of the characters.


How Storyboards Influence Animation

  • Pacing and Timing: Storyboards dictate the rhythm of the animation, ensuring that scenes unfold at the right pace to evoke the intended emotions.
  • Action Sequences: From epic battles to subtle gestures, storyboards map out the choreography, ensuring that every movement feels authentic and impactful.
  • Emotional Beats: Expressions and reactions are choreographed to enhance the emotional impact of key moments in the storyline.


From Sketch to Screen: The Transformation Process

  • Storyboard to Animation: Animators use the storyboards as a visual reference, breathing life into each frame. It’s the bridge that transforms static images into dynamic, moving sequences.
  • Collaboration: The synergy between storyboard artists and animators is crucial. Clear storyboards facilitate smoother communication and collaboration throughout the production pipeline.


Tips and Tricks for Creating Awesome Anime Storyboards


Simple Techniques for Beginners

Entering the world of anime storyboarding can be both exciting and challenging. Here are some fundamental tips to help aspiring storyboard artists get started:


1. Understand the Basics of Composition:

  • Rule of Thirds: Divide your frame into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Important elements should align with these lines or their intersections.
  • Leading Lines: Use lines within your composition to guide the viewer’s eyes toward the focal point.


2. Grasp Character Emotion and Expression:

  • Facial Expressions: Master the art of conveying emotions through characters’ facial expressions. A subtle change in eyebrows or a slight curve of the mouth can speak volumes.
  • Body Language: Pay attention to the body language of characters. Pose and gesture can enhance the narrative and emphasize emotions.


3. Create Dynamic Action Sequences:

  • Flow and Movement: Plan the flow of action sequences to maintain a sense of continuity. Consider how one movement leads to the next.
  • Impactful Framing: Experiment with different angles and perspectives to make action scenes visually engaging.


Understanding Characters and Action

  • Establishing Pacing and Flow:

  • Varying Shot Types: Mix up your shots – close-ups for emotional moments, wide shots for establishing scenes, and medium shots for dialogue.
  • Use of White Space: Don’t overcrowd frames; leave room for viewers to absorb the visuals and process the narrative.


  • Crafting Dynamic Sequences:

  • Storyboard Layers: Think of your storyboard as layers of storytelling. Each frame contributes to the overall narrative, creating a dynamic and compelling sequence.
  • Consistency in Style: Maintain consistency in character design and style throughout the storyboard for a polished look.


Tools of the Trade: Creating Anime Storyboards

What You Need to Get Started

Now that we’ve covered the artistic aspects of anime storyboarding, let’s delve into the practical side – the tools and techniques used to bring these visual narratives to life.


  • Paper and Pencil

  • Traditional Approach: Many storyboard artists start with the classic combo of paper and pencil. It allows for quick sketching and easy revisions. Thumbnail sketches can be rapidly produced during brainstorming sessions.


  • Digital Tablets and Software

  • Digital Revolution: With advancements in technology, many storyboard artists have transitioned to digital tools. Graphics tablets paired with software like Adobe Photoshop or Clip Studio Paint offer flexibility and the ability to make quick edits. 


Bonus: If you want to make anime storyboarding easier and accomplish it with just a few clicks, explore the AI storyboard generator.   


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Digital vs. Traditional Methods

Pros of Traditional Storyboarding:

  • Immediate Sketching: No booting up or navigating software; you can start sketching ideas instantly.
  • Tangible Feel: Some artists prefer the tactile experience of pen on paper.


Advantages of Digital Storyboarding:

  • Efficiency: Quick edits and rearrangements can be made without redoing the entire storyboard.
  • Collaboration: Digital files are easily shareable, fostering collaboration among team members.


Hybrid Approach

Best of Both Worlds: Some artists combine traditional sketches with digital enhancements, merging the familiarity of hand-drawn sketches with the convenience of digital tools.


Inside the Anime Studio: A Peek into the Making of Storyboards

Who Does What? Roles in the Storyboarding Process

The creation of anime storyboards is a collaborative effort involving various key players, each contributing their expertise to bring the narrative to life.


1. Storyboard Artists:

These artists are the architects of the narrative, translating the script into visual sequences. They consider framing, composition, and the overall flow of the story.


2. Directors:

Directors work closely with storyboard artists, providing insights into the desired tone and style. They make crucial decisions regarding pacing, scene transitions, and the overall visual narrative.


Behind the Scenes: A Day in the Life of a Storyboard Artist

1. Storyboarding Sessions:

  • Collaborative Planning: Artists often engage in brainstorming sessions with directors and fellow team members to flesh out ideas.
  • Quick Sketches: Initial storyboard drafts are produced rapidly to capture the essence of each scene.


2. Feedback and Revisions:

  • Iterative Process: Feedback loops are integral. Artists receive input from directors and make revisions to refine the visual storytelling.
  • Polishing the Details: The devil is in the details; revisions may involve enhancing expressions, refining action sequences, or adjusting pacing.


Start Your Journey: Creating Your Own Anime Storyboard

Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

Now that you’ve gained insights into the world of anime storyboarding, it’s time to put pen to paper or stylus to tablet and embark on your own creative journey. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:


1. Choose Your Tools

Decide whether you prefer the tactile feel of traditional tools or the flexibility of digital options. Don’t be afraid to try a hybrid approach, combining the best of both worlds.


2. Understand the Basics of Composition

Use the rule of thirds to create balanced and visually appealing compositions. Play with different angles to add dynamism to your frames.


3. Grasp Character Emotion and Expression:

Practice conveying emotions through character expressions. Experiment with a range of emotions, from joy to sorrow. Explore how body language contributes to storytelling.


4. Create Dynamic Action Sequences:

Plan the flow of action sequences, considering how each movement connects to the next. Dynamic perspectives can make action scenes more visually interesting.


Resources and Communities for Aspiring Storyboard Artists

  1. Online Courses and Tutorials
  • Skillshare, Udemy, and More: Explore online platforms offering courses on storyboarding techniques and animation fundamentals.
  • YouTube Tutorials: Many experienced artists share their knowledge through free tutorials on YouTube.


  1. Join Art Communities:
  • DeviantArt, Reddit, and Discord: Connect with fellow artists, seek feedback, and learn from the experiences of others.
  • Participate in Challenges: Engage in art challenges to push your creativity and receive constructive criticism.



As we draw the curtains on our exploration of anime storyboarding, it’s worth reflecting on the profound role these visual blueprints play in the creation of the animated masterpieces we cherish. Anime storyboards are not just sketches; they are the foundation upon which entire universes are built, where emotions are felt, and where characters come to life.


Create storyboards in minutes




What is the role of an anime storyboard in the animation process?

An anime storyboard serves as a visual script, outlining the sequence of scenes, actions, and dialogue in an animated production. It acts as a crucial guide for animators, providing a frame-by-frame representation to ensure a coherent and visually compelling narrative.


Can anyone create anime storyboards, or is it a specialized skill?

While creating anime storyboards requires practice and a good understanding of visual storytelling, anyone with a passion for animation and dedication to learning can develop the skills. Online resources, tutorials, and participation in art communities can be valuable for aspiring storyboard artists.


How do storyboards influence the pacing and emotional impact of anime?

Storyboards play a significant role in determining the pacing of a scene or an entire animation. They guide animators in conveying character emotions through facial expressions and body language, contributing to the overall emotional resonance of the story.


Are there specific tools used in creating anime storyboards?

Storyboard artists can use traditional tools like paper and pencil or opt for digital methods using graphic tablets and software like Adobe Photoshop or Clip Studio Paint. The choice of tools often depends on personal preference and the efficiency needed in the production pipeline.


What advice do you have for someone aspiring to create their own anime storyboards?

For beginners, understanding the basics of composition, mastering character emotion, and experimenting with dynamic action sequences are key. Taking advantage of online courses, and tutorials, and engaging with art communities can provide valuable guidance and support as you embark on your journey into anime storyboarding.