Though they are usually associated with movies, storyboards can serve many purposes. People frequently use them outside of the film and advertising industry in educational settings and for pitching business concepts. Given their versatility, knowing what software you can use to create one is quite advantageous!
In this article, we’ll provide a brief overview of how to create a storyboard. We’ll then share the top seven storyboarding tools you can use to build your own. If you’ve ever wanted to develop storyboards for personal or business reasons, keep reading!
First up: What is a storyboard?
What is a storyboard?
We’ll start with the fundamentals in case you aren’t familiar with storyboards. At its most basic, a storyboard is a way to visually convey a script or concept. Creators distill the narrative or ideas into a chronological sequence of drawings called “panels,” which can be analog drawings, digital illustrations, or even stock photography or images.
We explain what a storyboard is in more detail (and give some examples) in this guide. For now, though, let’s look at how to create a storyboard.
How to build a storyboard
Note: This article only includes a cursory overview for creating a storyboard, but you can follow our step-by-step guide to storyboarding for more in-depth instructions.
Here is a high-level overview on how to build your own storyboard:
- Mark up your script. While you may have a clear vision in your head for your movie, jotting down notes (anything from “mood” to camera angles to the type of shot) can help crystallize it and highlight any gaps in your plan.
- Draw your panels. Known as “scamping,” crafting your scene illustrations will make up the bulk of the time spent on creating your storyboard (especially if you don’t have a strong vision for how it will play out).
- Arrange your panels sequentially and add details. This stage is where you can evaluate your scenes’ flow to determine if it makes logical sense and adjust them (or add new ones) as necessary. If desired, you can also get into the details of camera angles, shot types, voiceovers, and more.
Building a storyboard is not terribly challenging in theory, but it does require a strong vision. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself facing disjointed scenes that don’t flow smoothly or worse, blank panels that no number of sketches seem suitable for.
Now that you know how to build a storyboard, let’s look at the tools you can use to make the act infinitely easier!
The 7 best storyboarding software tools
Let’s make one thing clear: there is no single best tool or software for building a storyboard. Each one has its disadvantages and benefits (including plain ole pencil and paper!), and you’ll need to evaluate your needs before deciding which one will suit you best. It comes down to what you value most and are willing to live without.
Here are the top seven storyboarding software we’ve found:
FrameForge is not messing around. Thanks to its jaw-dropping capabilities, this award-winning storyboard software (it won an Emmy®!) is the go-to for professional movie-makers. With FrameForge, you can:
- Add characters and props through a drag-n-drop interface
- Manipulate actor and object positions (including facial expressions)
- Create data-rich, 3D storyboards that include information such as focal length, camera height, camera angle, etc.
- See how a scene will look from any camera on the set as well as the type of shot (e.g., zoom, crane and dolly, pan/tilt, etc.)
- Craft your own background with pre-populated outdoor objects like streets, greenery, sidewalks, and even weather conditions!
As you can see, FrameForge is not for individuals looking to whip up a quick storyboard in a few hours. However, it’s a great tool for professional (and aspiring professional) filmmakers.
Price: $500 for Core Edition (or subscribe for $12.99/month); Pro starts at $799 (annual subscription is $25.99/month)
This aptly named tool allows you to create quick-n-dirty storyboards. While it’s a very simple application devoid of any bells and whistles, it enables you to whip up rough sketches, move panels around, and add notes to each panel. Depending on how much effort you put into your drawings (which you can also modify in Photoshop for a more polished look), your storyboard can take a few hours or several days to complete.
It may not be as flashy or feature-rich as some of the other options on this list, but Storyboarder gets the job done, and you can’t beat the price!
Boords is another user-friendly storyboarding software with a low learning curve. It offers templates (choose from Photoshop, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and others) to get you up and running quickly, secure online sharing for collaboration, one-click animatics, and dynamic frame number updates as you add and move panels around.
You can illustrate your scenes from inside Boords or import images, include camera movement indicators, and dynamically port your script into the panels. It even has the ability to turn your storyboard into an animation in a single click.
Though a bit pricey (depending on your needs), it’s a very robust platform. And hey, 200,000 users can’t be wrong, right?
Price: Starting $36/month for three users; 50 users will run you $120/month
If you’re looking for storyboarding software that’s easy to use, offers collaboration features, and is easy on the wallet , Plot is for you. Simply add your script—which you break down into scenes—then add images to each panel. You can supplement the script with notes, such as an explanation of what’s happening in the scene, camera angle, type of shot, etc., and it’s effortless to add in new scenes or split your script using a shortcut.
Not an artist? No worries. Take advantage of Plot’s stock clip art or import images from other sources. Once you’ve finished your first draft, you can easily share it with stakeholders; Plot enables commenting and editing for all users who have access to a storyboard.
Price: Starts at $10/month
This uncomplicated storyboarding software is perfect for newbies or casual storyboarders. It includes basic features like the ability to sketch out your scenes or upload images (but doesn’t include any stock or clip art for you to choose from), customizable frames with automatic frame numbering, and aspect ratio sizing. Rearrange your frames as needed, add descriptions, and export to a PDF when it comes time for sharing.
Another one of MakeStoryboard’s convenient features is its ability to keep multiple versions or backups of your work in progress, just in case you realize halfway through that you’re headed in the wrong direction and need to backtrack.
Simple yet feature-rich, MakeStoryboard is a great option for a variety of use-cases and professional situations.
Price: Free (limited features and storyboards); starts at $12/month for the Pro version
StudioBinder delivers a feature-rich interface without being overly complex. It offers the usual storyboarding must-haves, like the ability to import images, move panels around, and dynamic frame numbering. However, it also provides the option to add storyboard specs with ease (choose from a menu of clickable options like your shots and equipment).
One of its most innovative features is its ability to auto-organize scenes after you’ve imported a script, to which you can add storyboards. Collaborators can add comments at will, and after you’ve finalized your storyboard, you can turn it into an animatic slideshow, complete with basic movements.
The Professional and Studio versions also offer additional goodies like a Gantt-style production calendar and custom branding. Note that only the Studio plan allows for collaboration.
StudioBinder does require a bit of time to learn how to use, but it’s well worth your effort for the results you’ll be able to achieve, especially if you’re part of a larger team.
Price: Indie (limited features and 10 projects) for $29/month; goes up to Studio (full feature access and unlimited projects) for $99/month
Visme enables you to create presentations, videos, infographics, and more. While not strictly storyboarding software, it does have the advantage of having a free option (and reasonable pricing for paid versions), and it’s pretty straightforward to create a storyboard thanks to its simple, user-friendly interface.
Using the video option, you can select a template from which you can create a storyboard. Then use Visme’s stock photos or upload images of your own for each panel and add “presenter notes,” which can include all the details you want about the camera shots, angles, timing, aspect ratios, script, etc. To share it, you can download your storyboard as a PDF or share it with teammates online.
If you’re looking for a reasonably powerful tool that does more than help you create storyboards, you should definitely consider Visme.
Price: Free (5 projects, limited templates and can only download files as JPGs); goes up to $29/month for full feature access.
Note to the traditionalists
Now, all you traditionalists out there harboring an *ahem* nostalgic desire to create a storyboard using the tried-and-true method of pencil and paper may be thinking that storyboarding software requires too much effort and expense for you to consider using one. This is a valid opinion!
However, if you are looking to create a professional-looking storyboard (especially critical for pitching ideas in a business setting), a digital storyboard can leave a much better impression and result in a more positive outcome. Furthermore, digital storyboards are just plain easier to share and collaborate on. Just some things to bear in mind when you’re weighing the pros and cons.
Next steps for storyboarders
Now that you have a better idea of what types of storyboarding software are available, consider your objectives for wanting one. Are you in the film or advertising industry? Are you an entrepreneur looking for more compelling ways to pitch to potential investors? Perhaps you’ve always had an eye for design or illustration, and a career in UI, UX, or animation design has always appealed to you (these roles often create storyboards as part of their job duties).
Whatever your reason for landing on this article, before moving ahead with storyboarding software, ensure you know what features are must-haves and which ones are nice to have. This will help you evaluate your choices and select one that fits your needs and budget. Then it’s off to the races!
Brand new to the world of design and animation? Start with the fundamentals in this free introductory UI design short course, and learn more in the following guides: