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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Badrock

Why it is crucial that Artists use Thumbnail pictures

What is a thumbnail sketch?

Thumbnail sketches visually plan the completed vision for the artists work.

Technically speaking a thumbnail sketch is a drawing that is 2 inches square. They are not fully rendered pencil sketches however, thumbnailing is one of the most important steps in the creative process. Thumbnail sketches allow you to capture and impression or idea quickly, eliminate ideas that don’t work and pave the way to creating the ideal composition for the end product.

Planning these little sketches will help you get ideas onto the page quickly – think of them like a ‘brain dump’ to getting to the bottom of what will work and what is a distraction for your completed picture.

Artists refer to the preferred thumbnail picture throughout the creative process to ensure they commit to certain details.

I personally use thumbnail sketches in commission pieces all the time. I like to make a list of all the things they want to include. Sometimes the list is massive and I think “Oh, no, how will this all fit.” But with the thumbnail sketch, I can plan the composition and work in all the features a client asks for.

My thumbnail sketches are not, 2 inches square

**SHRIEK! She doesn’t follow the rule book!***

-They’re usually about half the size of an A5. So, just a tad larger. I usually make them in whatever medium I have close, which is graphite pencil or a pen. I’ll do about two or three and either make a new one that is the middle ground of all them combined, or just pick one that works.

Using this preliminary method will also prevent you from wasting good quality material. There is nothing worse than dra

wing a picture large scale on an expensive piece of watercolour paper and then having all these rub out lines as you try to master the composition. I just use photocopy paper or a sketching journal and then transfer the final layout onto the good quality paper. I even use the cheapest pencils or pens in my tool box. Don’t waste good quality materials on a thumbnail sketch.



A thumbnail is a quick study of a potential composition, not a fully rendered pencil drawing so it only takes a minute or two to create.

Follow the steps below and you will be amazed at how much your art will be improved.

1: Sketch a rough box, smaller but in the same proportions as the finished picture might be.

2: Then sketch

the composition lines that your picture will sit within

3: Outline any key shapes and subjects

4: Determine where your light source will be and hatch in the major dark areas.

(As a side note, I also do two more things)

1: I will think about the mood I want to create and what the client wants determine the key colours.

2: I will also create a colour chart of the main colours I will use next to the thumbnail image.

I like to have a really clear idea of what I want to achieve with my final art piece. I will refer to the colour wheel throughout this process to make sure the colours I sue together are making sense.

I hope this weeks blog has helped, and I would love to see some comments below on how you went with your thumbnail sketches!

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