How To Create a Storyboard In Storyboard Pro

We use Toon Boom for a lot of our animation, and Storyboard Pro is a tool that saves us time and gives us a bit more flexibility when it comes to sketching out our ideas.

It can be a little daunting for beginners, and although we found about 6 different tutorials for various versions, in different languages and with video, text and even interactive components, for ease and brevity we’ve cherry picked some of the basic info you need to make your storyboard, without confusing you with loads of unnecessary info.

Creating a Project

Right, you’ve launched Storyboard Pro, you’re grasping your stylus in anticipation and you’re ready to sketch, but before you do, there’s a little admin to sort out!

The Welcome screen and the New Project window serve the same purpose here. To find the latter, just click New at the top right or go to the top menu and select File>New.

Stick in a Project Name (which will become the filename) and a Project Title (which will appear on PDF exports). Next, choose a project directory, this will be the file folder where the project will live. You may wish to put some additional project information in the Project Subtitle section, too.

The last and most important bit of the creation process is choosing a Camera Size. Use the dropdown menu to select which resolution you wish to use. Something like HDTV is a safe bet but you might have a different size in mind. Select your desired resolution or make a custom one to see the measurements it gives you and when you’re happy, click Create Project to begin!

Panels

Now you’re in and there are suddenly a million buttons in front of you. Forget about all those for a second, we need to find you a canvas. Storyboard Pro calls these Panels and you can create one by going to the top storyboard toolbar and clicking on the New Panel icon. You’ll see it pop up in the Thumbnail view below

You can also create a Panel by going to the top menu and selecting Storyboard > New > New Panel or use the keyboard shortcut P.

As you might imagine, these Panels can be duplicated to make it easier for you to make small edits to the detail between scenes or shots. Just hit the Duplicate Selected Panels button in the Storyboard toolbar.

If you’ve goofed and stuck a panel in the wrong place, you can also go to the Thumbnail view and grab the top left on the tab where the little bumps are and drag it in between two other Panels.

Drawing and Layers

Once you’ve added a panel, now you can simply select a brush tool on the left-hand toolbar and have at it. You can draw in either bitmap or in vector, so let’s add a bitmap drawing layer to start off with your rough sketches by clicking the icon at the bottom of the layers view in that column just to the right of your active Panel.

Select a drawing tool in the left toolbar (we like the brush) and a colour you like from the Brush Properties section on the far right, then sketch your first storyboard scene in the Panel!

When you’re done with the rough drawing, you can clean this up by creating a new layer, let’s try using a vector layer for this. Just click the New Vector Layer icon next to the one you used for your Bitmap Layer earlier.

A black pencil drawing tool works great for cleaning up your sketches, just draw right over the top of the sketch on your new Vector Layer.

Turn off the rough drawing in the layer view column to see how your vector pencil drawing worked out. Still looking a bit dodgy? Check out the Contour Editor tool in the left toolbar. You can touch up your lines by clicking on them and adjusting their position slightly so that you don’t have to sit there erasing lines and redoing them over and over.

Now that you have your nice, squeaky clean vector layer, you might want to go underneath it with another bitmap layer so that you can add some shading and textures. We like the marker or chalk brushes, but do muck around with the colours and settings on the right until you find something you like.

Remember to keep your drawing within the camera view – everything outside it will be chopped off when you export out otherwise.

Creating your Animatic

Now that you’ve got a selection of storyboard panels, you can start creating your animatic – the animated storyboard. This is what sets retro storyboarding methods and digital solutions like Storyboard Pro apart.

Here are some of the basic elements of creating your animatic:

Camera motion

  • Go to Windows>Camera View so that you can manipulate your shot
  • Go to the Motion Toolbar on the left and click the Camera Motion tool
  • To create any camera motion, you need at least two Keyframes, a start frame and an end frame
  • Go to the Tool properties panel on the right and click on the Add Keyframe button
  • Go back to the Timeline below your shot, drag the playhead across to a random frame, and then click on the Add Keyframe button again.
  • Now you can hold your cursor close to the blue square box to select a motion (tracking, zoom, rotation) and where you want your end Keyframe to be in relation to your starting Keyframe

Layer animation

  • Enable the layer Animation Properties by clicking on the little gray dude in the layer selection column, he’ll turn into a yellow running guy, showing you that this layer is ready to be animated
  • Select the Transform Tool from the Motion Toolbar on the left and the motion controls will appear
  • Add a keyframe by clicking on the Add Keyframe button in the Tool Properties panel for the Transform Tool
  • Move your layer in the same way as you did for your camera – drag a character horizontally or truck away to show walking for example

Setting pivots

  • Set the point that your layer will rotate from, scale from and be moved from by selecting the Transform Tool in the left Motion Toolbar
  • Drag the pivot to somewhere more natural and useful such as the chest or between the feet

Importing sound

  • Right-click anywhere under the thumbnail in the Timeline View and select New Audio Track (Sound > New Audio Track works too!)
  • Right-click anywhere in the audio field and select Import Sound Clips
  • The Import Sound Clips dialogue box appears and you can click on this folder here to open the browser window to look for a sound file on your computer

Changing the panel duration

  • Hover between two panels in the Timeline View and a double-headed arrow will appear
  • Click and drag between two panels to either shorten or lengthen that panel

Scripts, captions and dialogue

You’ll probably want to import a script for reference. You can also create captions or dialogue or action notes if you don’t have audio files for your project yet. To import text files:

  • Go to the Storyboard View on the right and select Import Caption
  • A browser window will pop up, allowing you to open a text file from somewhere on your computer
  • You’ll see it appear in the black box for you to view and edit
  • Alternatively, you can also paste any text directly into the script or any caption box here
  • For dialogue, action notes, staging and other notes, select the Panel View on the top right and simply enter the desired text in the box of your choice

Exporting your project

Your storyboard project is complete – yay! All you have to do is export it so that you can share it. Do this by going to the top menu and clicking File > Export > PDF. The Export to PDF dialogue box opens letting you select the file destination then hit Save As… to rename your file.

In the PDF Export Parameters you can select the layout for your PDF. 3 Panels Horizontal is the default choice and a pretty safe bet, giving you a decently presented storyboard. Select All for your export range, click Export, then OK once it’s finished and you’re done.

That’s pretty much the basics of creating a storyboard in Storyboard Pro! It’s going to take a lot of tinkering and experimentation along with a hearty serving of video tutorials to really wrap your head around all of the capabilities of this program, but we hope we’ve given you a decent start!

Freebies are great, and you’re in luck because you can grab a 3-week free trial to put everything you’ve just learned into practice:

https://store.toonboom.com/downloads/try/515

Do send us some of your projects to hello@fudgeanimation.com – we’re always up for dishing out a few pointers where we can! Otherwise check out our Twitter @fudgeanimation and facebook.com/fudgeanimation – See you next week!