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What are thumbnails?

Thumbnail drawings are small, preliminary sketches, usually done within an outlined frame as a quick snapshot before you begin working on your final idea.


Traditional artists have always used them to work out an idea and to create structure to the composition.  Whether you plan to work on a drawing, painting, sculpture or even digital design - doing thumbnail sketches is always a great way to begin.

Art directors and graphic designers use the term "thumbnail sketch" to describe a small drawing on paper (usually as several drawings on one page as part of a group).  These are used to explore multiple ideas quickly.




Thumbnail drawings are similar to doodles, but they may include as much detail as a small sketch depending on the artists intentions.










Thumbnails can be used to work out larger ideas or to explore smaller details such as shading or visual texture. 

thumbnail doodle.jpeg

Use these documents to further explore shading and texture through the use of thumbnails:

Here are some examples of thumbnail sketches being used to explore basic shapes and geometric forms ;

to create a story panel, and to explore composition for a still-life.  
Notice how some thumbnails do not use the "box" format - these
are borderless

thumbnail_basic shapes.jpeg

If you experimented with the elem_principles matrix from the Principles of Design page, then you already have had some practice with using thumbnails.

Now you can take your exploration further using this simple thumbnail template.  Use this to keep structure with your initial ideas.  But remember, as you progress it may not always be necessary to use the "box" format for your thumbnails.

Thumbnail template

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