The best animated movies in history all began with simple sketches. Creating these foundational sketches is the storyboard artist. The decisions and drawings from these artists influence the rest of a film or TV show. But what is a storyboard artist responsible for other than creating sketches? A whole lot. In this article, we’ll take a look at the role and responsibilities of a storyboard artist, how much they are paid for their work, and how to become one.

What is a storyboard artist in film?

Storyboard artists explained

Many people assume that storyboard artists simply draw out the story from a script. While this is true, they must also make critical visual decisions that require filmmaking knowledge.  Let’s take a look at the storyboard artist definition to learn more about the role. 


What is a storyboard artist?

storyboard artist creates the initial visual representations of a story’s narrative. In collaboration with the director, storyboard artists visualize the story from a script or treatment. They then make visual decisions that develop how the story looks on a storyboard panel. 

Simply put, these artists create what can be considered the “raw footage” of the show or movie. The raw footage consists of sequential drawings and/or sketches that help visualize the beats of the story. These storyboards function as the foundation of the next phases of the production process.

What does a storyboard artist do?

  • Visualize the script and story
  • Draw the initial sketches for the narrative
  • Contribute to creating animatics

Storyboard artist job duties

What does a storyboard artist do?

Storyboard artists are involved throughout both the live-action and animation processes. In the beginning stages of the production, these artists read and visualize the script along with the director. 

These artists try to compose their boards in a way that best serves the story of the script. They take their ideas and develop rough sketches and drawings that help the team visualize the beats of the story. This is called a ‘thumbnail pass.’

This is essentially the “raw footage” of the animated show or film. It lays down the foundation of the next phases of animation. Check out the initial storyboards that were created for Frozen, one of the best animated movies

You’ll see how the storyboards led to the final animation. 

Storyboard artists work on Frozen

After these initial panels and boards are drawn, the artist may also be asked to contribute to developing the animatics of the project. An animatic is a string of storyboard images edited together with sound to illustrate how a sequence will flow in motion. It’s a next-level technique after storyboarding. 

Oftentimes, these artists will clean up and add detail to their initial storyboards to create a more complete animatic. This can be character or background details that fill out the panels like in this animatic from Rick and Morty

What is a storyboard artist?  •  Rick and Morty

For both the thumbnail pass and the animatic, artists receive feedback and notes from the director. They take these notes and apply it to their next round of revisions. All in all, working as a storyboard artist entails a whole lot of drawing every day. If this sounds enticing to you, let’s take a look at how to become a storyboard artist.

Storyboard artist qualifications

How to become a storyboard artist

Like any role in filmmaking, there is not one distinct path. For the role of an artist, your journey can begin in various ways to obtain various storyboard artist qualifications. Many artists begin by going to a university to study either art or filmmaking. 

Becoming a working artist requires both the knowledge of filmmaking principles such as different types of shots, camera angles, and camera movements. But it also requires a high level of draftsmanship (ability to draw) as well as an understanding of animation software.

Once you’ve developed these skills in either a university or on your own, it’s time to get your foot in the door. The best way to do this is to work as an intern at an animation studio. Check out the video below to see how experienced storyboard artist Patrick Harpin took on an internship that opened countless doors in his career. 

What is a storyboard artist? With Sony’s Patrick Harpin

To reiterate Harpin’s advice, becoming a board artist is more than just being able to draw well. It requires a creative intuition for telling stories and being able to visualize a story from a script. As Harpin did, develop your portfolio so that you have something to present when an opportunity (like an internship or gig) presents itself. 

How much do storyboard artists make

Storyboard artist salary

Storyboard artists’ work is seasonal so they are typically paid week-to-week rather based on the gig. However, the seasonal work typically lasts anywhere from 9-10 months which is a good chunk of the year. The average salary for these artists is around $115,000 per year. However, this can range from $85,000 - $150,000 per year based on experience and the level of production. 

How to Become a Storyboard Artist

Find storyboard artist jobs

Finding storyboard artist jobs will depend greatly on your network. You’ll typically find these jobs based on referrals or word of mouth on jobs you are already working on or from people you’ve worked with in the past. 

To get started, however, it’s worth looking into internships or gigs on hiring websites like EntertainmentCareers, Glassdoor, or Indeed. Be sure to consistently check the internships page on your favorite animation studios as well. Working an internship will help get you more jobs down the road.  

Up Next

Discover more filmmaking roles

The importance of storyboard artists is too often overlooked in the animation process, but hopefully now you’ve learned their value.  To continue through our series of the various filmmaking roles and positions, you can explore similar jobs like cinematographer, producer, or editor, you can jump over to our Film Crew Index to browse the entire range of filmmaking roles. Understanding what everyone’s role on a film set is will help make you a better overall filmmaker and a more efficient crew member.

Up Next: Explore more crew positions →
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