Comic Book Storyboard Basics & What I Learned So Far
- Set a page count. If it’s the first issue, start with a manageable test. For The City, we started with 12 pages as a test run. It was our MVP (minimal viable product) and proof that we can work together on the next issue.
- Break down the script. Start by breaking down the script or story into individual scenes or sequences. Then, divide each scene into smaller segments, which will form individual panels on the page. Label each scene to individual pages within the page count.
- Plan the layout. Plan out the layout of each page, including the number of panels and the composition of each panel. In comics, composing panels with negative space in mind is uber important. You don’t want the illustrator or the colorer to do extra work when their work will be covered by a word bubble! Think about the pacing and flow of the story and how each panel will lead to the next.
- Start with a prompt. This is something I learned as I got into the groove of things, around Chapter 3. For each issue, I read through the script and identify what is visually a defining moment. There could be a few per issue. Start sketching that out first then consider how they will look in a panel. Should it be a double spread? A page flip reveal? Or a 9 panel sequence on 1 page?
- Use references. Use an action figure and your phone camera to make rough sketches of each panel and visualize how the action will look on the page. Keep in mind the characters’ positions, expressions, and movements, as well as the background and setting. Revisit mood boards from your concept art development stage, or create new mood boards that can help the illustrator. Don’t worry about drawing the details accurately, illustrators are very good at catching what amateurs are trying to draw!
- Add wee little details. Once you have a rough layout, add more details to each panel. This includes where the letters and bubbles will go, or little Easter egg bonuses for the careful reader. Think about the overall mood and tone of the scene and how you can convey it visually. Maybe adding a bit more debris on the street help emphasize the tone. If it’s important, write it down on note form so the illustrator understands its importance when penciling or inking.
- Communicate. Clearly convey your direction or be open to take it from your team members. Especially if it’s a collaborative process, be mindful of everyone’s intention. The completion of the project should be the first goal. The rest can be iteration and learning experiences for everyone, whether or not someone’s approach may have been more effective.