I’ve realised that the way I use Photoshop to storyboard isn’t that well known. This way of working uses Frame Animation within the Timeline panel. It takes a short while to organise new shortcuts and change a few settings, but once that’s done it’s easy to add new frames and scroll through the storyboard. Most importantly, it’s simple to export.
I have used this technique in CS5 and CC. This tutorial uses Photoshop CC 2018 on a Mac.
The size of the canvas doesn’t matter. I generally use a 1920×1080 pixel canvas if I’m boarding in 16:9; the inbuilt Film & Video presets can be helpful. Like with any Photoshop file, a large canvas area plus lots of layers can become unwieldy.
Setting up the document
Open the Timeline panel by going to Window > Timeline.
Click ‘Create Frame Animation’.
In the bottom left-hand corner of the Timeline panel there will be a single frame. Click the little arrow in its bottom right-hand corner.
Change the amount to 1.0, or one second. This is important because in order to export the frame rate is set at 1fps.
Click the ‘Duplicate Frames’ button to add two more frames.
Click the button in the top right corner of the Timeline panel.
If ‘New Layers Visible in All Frames’ is checked, uncheck it.
I like to save a copy of the document as a template.
Setting up shortcuts
By default, Photoshop does not assign any shortcuts for Frames in the Timeline panel. Click Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts.
Next to ‘Shortcuts For:’ choose ‘Panel Menus’.
Scroll down to ‘Timeline (Frames)’ and open the dropdown menu.
I set shortcuts for ‘New Frame’, ‘Next Frame’ and ‘Previous Frame’. Choose whatever keystrokes suit you best. I don’t worry too much about what the shortcut is as I then assign them to buttons on my Cintiq.
To assign the shortcuts to a Wacom tablet, open the Wacom Tablet Preferences. This can be accessed either through the Radial Menu or, on a Mac, System Preferences.
Click the drop-down menu next to the button. Select Keyboard > Keystroke …
Add the keystroke and assign it a name.
It’s worth testing the buttons a few times, to make sure they’re working as expected. Usually if I have problems it’s because I’ve made a mistake in entering the keystroke.
This is not a tutorial on how to storyboard, but I’ll give a few hints about how to use this setup.
First, don’t add any layers on the first frame. Always leave it blank. I like to have both the first and last frame blank.
Add a layer to draw. I like to keep my layers reasonably tidy, by sorting all the layers for one shot into one folder.
It’s easy to reuse layers across several frames. As long as you don’t transform the layer (resize, rotate, etc.) you can move it without duplicating or redrawing. This progression was a simple case of duplicating the frame, then moving the position of the figure. If I rotate the layer with the figure on frame 4, it also rotates on the other frames. It’s the same if I decide to add to the drawing.
As creating a new frame duplicates the current frame, you need to turn off the layers you don’t want to see in it. (This is when grouping layers can be particularly useful.) Then, add a new layer to draw.
Go to File > Export > Render Video …
Change the name and save location.
Change the dropdown menu from ‘Adobe Media Encoder’ to ‘Photoshop Image Sequence’.
Change the Frame Rate to ‘Custom’ and enter 1 fps.
Render Video automatically exports all frames, but it is possible to select a group of frames on the Timeline and then export the selected frames only.
Once you’ve finished adding the information you need, click ‘Render’.
If only a few images have exported, or some have been exported two or more times, check that the frames are all set at 1 sec and that you are also exporting at 1 fps.
This is a very quick walkthrough of the process, so please let me know if you think there’s something I haven’t covered. Ask any questions below!