Storyboard templates are visual tools filmmakers use to plan out each shot of a scene or sequence. It often incorporates sketches or images that represent what’s in a single frame and includes notes about the characters, actions, dialogue, and settings to further describe what’s going on at each moment.
You can use a storyboard to map out an entire film or season of TV, outline a single act or sequence, or even break down an individual scene into its important moments and beats. You can also use one for nearly any visual storytelling project, including shorts, features, commercials, sitcoms, serials…you name it.
Image via Flickr by TrueFalseFilmFestival
Many different visual storytellers use storyboards in their creative processes. Animators frequently use storyboards to draw characters in action, but writers, directors, cinematographers, editors, storyboard artists, and other production professionals rely on storyboards to:
Even with so many different uses, there are two major types that you are likely to use in your filmmaking career. The storyboard for the shot is typically used during the pre-production and production/photography phases whereas the storyboard for the edit is a post-production tool for putting the visual and audio assets together. A storyboard template is the blank slate version of these tools where you can fill in all of the details and customize it to whichever of the two major purposes it serves. Here are some examples of storyboard templates you can download and use:
Here is a video on how to draw storyboards:
The structure, layout, and orientation of a storyboard may vary. Some storyboards are vertically organized while others are landscape/horizontal. Some may have description spaces above, below, or on either side of the shot image box. No matter the style, all storyboards and templates have many of the same key elements to organize and plan a filmmaking project, including:
Since there are many pre-made template options and even the choice to make your own storyboard template, you can find the structure, layout, and orientation that works best for your creative process.
There are many pre-made templates to help you get started, especially if you’ve never used a storyboard before. Using a pre-made template can ensure you have all of the elements you need, laid out in an easy-to-understand way.
A Google Image search for ‘storyboard template’ pulls up hundreds of options you can print out and fill in right away. If you’d rather use a digital template on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, there are many storyboard apps you can download for free, as a subscription, or for a one-time purchase. Free options include Storyboard Composer, Storyboarder, and Canva.
In addition, many scriptwriting software have built-in storyboarding features. FinalDraft 11 has the open-form Beat Board function that you can easily transform into a storyboard that connects directly to your script. Celtx also has the robust Storyboard and Shot Blocker features to easily transition your story from page to screen.
If you don’t find a pre-made template that’s just right, you can create your own. Making your own template may be more time-consuming upfront, but it allows you to include space for each of the elements you need, especially ones that aren’t always included, in a way that best helps you. You can even use apps that you probably already have on your computer, like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Adobe Illustrator.
Here’s how you create your own storyboard template using these apps:
You can take this single-page template and duplicate it as many times as you need to have a full series of panels to outline your visual story. When you go to use your template, take the PDF version of the Word or PowerPoint template or the JPEG version of Illustrator-made template and insert images and text. You could also make a new file out of either type of template and fill it in on that program as well. Or, if you prefer putting hand to paper, print out your template and sketch away.
As you use a storyboard template, remember to use it as a guide to translate your script into a compelling visual story. Compose frames with clear character desire and precise action in mind. Then, share this tool with other filmmakers on your project to create the most captivating scenes and sequences for your audience.