Storyboarding Process – How Clean is “Clean?”

SpongeBob reaches into his face to pull out his eyeballs
One of the questions I’m often asked by storyboarding students is
“How clean does a cleaned-up storyboard have to be?”
SpongeBob_Storyboard_Rough SpongeBob reaches into his face to pull out his eyeballs
The two drawings above show the difference between the cleaned-up storyboard drawing (drawn with 3B pencil on standard copy-grade storyboard paper) and the rough drawing (done in ball-point pen on a Post-It note).
It’s usually fine to let some of the construction lines show through on the finals. You can’t quite see it with these scans, but there are faint sketch lines visible on all the clean-up drawings shown here.
SpongeBob pulls out his eyeballs SpongeBob_Storyboard_Rough
(These storyboard drawings are from a Burger King commercial in 2005. BK was giving out SpongeBob watches, and this was the commercial promoting them.)
SpongeBob pulls out his eyeballs SpongeBob_Storyboard_Clean_Eyeballs-detail02
For the examples above, the rough was drawn with a Pitt brush-marker on Post-It note, then finished with 3B pencil.
SpongeBob shows Patrick his new watch
Here’s a tiny Post-it thumbnail (above) followed by marker rough, followed by the final storyboard drawing.
SpongeBob shows Patrick his new watch SpongeBob_Storyboard_Rough_01
SpongeBob shows Patrick his new watch
As usual, the drawing with the most life is the rough. It’s hard to keep that energy when you clean it up, but that’s the eternal challenge!
The clean-ups shown here are actually cleaner than we usually draw for storyboards. Since these were done for an advertising campaign, I had to make sure that they looked as close to “finished art” as possible because they were being looked at by non-animation people. I wanted to show them here to demonstrate the extremes of roughs to clean-ups.
Krabby Patties and drinks and food fall on SpongeBob
This is a good example of not drawing lots of detail until you know that the shot works. There’s no way I’m going to waste my time drawing all those falling Krabby Patties until the final drawing (below).
Krabby Patties and drinks and food fall on SpongeBob
Click on any of these drawings to see a BIG full-sized scan!
SpongeBob pulls out his eyeballs SpongeBob_Storyboard_Rough
SpongeBob_Storyboard_Clean SpongeBob pulls out his eyeballs
SpongeBob and Mr. Krabs in the Krusty Krab storyboard rough drawing
If you click on the drawing below (to see the larger version) you’ll be able to see lots of construction lines on the characters and perspective lines going through the background. These are totally acceptable in any storyboard clean-up! This is as clean as I have ever drawn (except for the SpongeBob Movie because we had so much time on that project to make the drawings perfect).
SpongeBob and Mr. Krabs in the Krusty Krab storyboard clean drawing
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16 Responses to “Storyboarding Process – How Clean is “Clean?””

  1. “how clean is clean”

    Ok Sherm now you are getting to Awesome to be kept a secret anymore! This blog is the best kept secret on the net! I’m gonna have to work on exposing more people to this.

  2. Great stuff, Sherm! This is a great and informative collection!

  3. Wonderful stuff Sherm ! Thanks for this.
    Cheers! John.

  4. Just bought the DVD, can’t wait to start watching!

  5. Hi Derek — thanks! I hope you enjoy the DVD. Please feel free to post any comments or questions about it here 🙂

  6. Hey, Sherm! I think I know everything about you! I have loved reading about you and everything you have to offer for advice! I’ll stop gushing now, and get to my question: I was talking with a woman in hopes of storyboarding her film, and it seems that they’re using the storyboards to market their film, and using the storyboards to determine what kind of budget they’re looking at. Is that dangerous? Should I be getting paid as some sort of marketing employee? I haven’t done the project yet. Thanks for your advice!

  7. Thanks Sherm for sharing this!

  8. Thank you so much for the tutorials, very useful 🙂

    i hope to see more of you 🙂

  9. WOW, just had this question running through my head the other day! You’re the man Sherm, please keep doing what you’re doing!

  10. hey Sherm…thanks for posting so much cool insight…love it!

  11. My pleasure! Thanks for letting me know it was so helpful ^_^

  12. I’ve got a question Sherm. I notice that in some storyboards there are the scene panel and slug words. And in others, there is Panel, timing, and BG. How does this vary? Does it make a difference?


  13. Hi Jeremy…it’s slightly different for every studio/production. If you’re working on your own boards, just Scene and Panel indications are needed. If you’re working on a studio project, they’ll usually supply the template they need. So it really makes no difference 🙂


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