Might we ever have a class on JUST doing thumbnails?

  • SVS OG

    I seem to have a very difficult time doing thumbnails...I mean, I do them but, I don't think I really use them right or do them right. I have watched the videos and heard all the advice to DO thumbnails to save time, or rework compositions but, I seem to have a hard time doing them right, I think. I understand that they are just shapes and so forth to help you get the composition and flow of your book, etc. but, somehow I just don't seem to be able to even think of what to do sometimes. I was just trying to play around with some a little. I'm thinking that people spend a whole lot more time on thumbnails than I had imagined?

    I would love to save time and get the main ideas out on thumbnails instead of redrawing my big sketches over and over again. Is ther anyone else like me out there?

    Maybe I just need to think more about the story first, and the words.....

  • SVS OG

    There is a good lesson on thumbnails in the Illustration 1 live class 🙂 They do make a big difference, but i still have to force myself to do them!

  • What really helped me get the feel for thumbnailing was doing basic shape compositions for graphic design. I would use it as a warmup, instead of trying to do antyhing with a story or characters right off the bat. Soemthing like this but with whatever shapes or values came naturally.

    If you're struggling with coming up with those, you can pull up some of your favorite artists and see if you can dissect or breakdown their artwork into basic shapes and values.

    I think that in order to thumbnail quickly and fluidly (which not many of us can, certainly not me), you need a MASSIVE visual library. That's your mental well full of inspiration and techniques and things you've drawn enough to be able to draw fairly well from memory. With a huge visual library, you can just start summoning random visual items and drawing gets started much more quickly. But building that library up involves thousands of hours of master copies, studies, life drawing, classes, and studying other work.

    SO, i guess what my rambling monologue here is basically saying is, if you get stuck, don't try starting from scratch. Go find successful artwork out there, and break it down into a thumbnail and try to dissect what made it a good composition in its most primitive form> Do that enough and going the other way get easier (but not always easy >.<) !

  • SVS OG

    Thank you!
    Okay, so what I did was find some of our chldren's books and started looking through them, then decided to thumbnail one of them. As I got going I started coming up wth some ideas for my next story and started thumbnailing that! Now I am working on what I want the characters to look like and playing with that. There are only three, a Granny, a dog and a cat. I also want to keep it simple. The thumbnails are VERY rough but, I think I am getting the idea a little more. Just had to push myself through the block. Thanks for your input. I'll keep working on it and fill my brain with some images too. I can do this.

  • Oh boy, I can relate to this. I've always struggled with utilizing thumbnails effectively (or at all). It's only recently after coming back from a break in art that I feel they've clicked. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why they are clicking now, but here are my guesses.

    I learned perspective, breaking down objects into simple 3d shapes, and basic lighting a couple of years ago and it took some time to sink in. . . and I'm still learning about those topics, really. Before learning those things, practicing them, letting them sink in, etc, I wasn't able to visualize what I wanted. When I tried to do thumbnails I couldn't think of any variations. Now, knowing how to play with different angles and lighting schemes really helps a ton to lay in a bunch of rough plans and try different things.

    Another thing I think helped me to start doing thumbnails was taking the Creative Composition class and the Draw 50 Things class. There's a part in the Creative Composition class where Will Terry gives a drawing prompt, has you pause the video and do 5 or so thumbnails. When you unpause the video, you see Jake Parker do thumbnails on the same prompt. He has you do that for several drawing prompts. Something about doing that exercise and watching Jake work through his thumbnails after I did mine, really helped me. Then, watching Will go through the process of creating his 50 things project was super helpful as well. Oh, and I also watched Lighting for Storytelling, which covers a different thumbnailing process. Combining that with Will Terry's approach really helped me with one of my latest pieces.

    So in short, I guess my advice would be to work on perspective and breaking things down into simple 3d shapes (which I know you already are) and watch professional artists work through their thumbnailing process. I would also challenge you to do that exercise in the Creative Composition course where you have to pause the video, if you haven't already. If you have, come up with some of your own prompts and try to thumbnail at least 5 different ideas.

    It would kind be fun to start a thumbnail challenge thread. We could give a prompt, have people work on at least 5 thumbnails for that prompt, and then have them post them after a certain day, so they aren't influenced by what everyone else has done. It would be interesting to see the differences and similarities.

    Anyway, I hope it clicks for you one day. I really can relate to your struggles with the thumbnail process.

  • I made one of these, and I try to do thumbnails as much as possible. In fact, even when I am working on my final image, and walk far away, or shrink it down to thumbnail size to make sure everything is working the way I want. If you want, you can save this and make copies, and just scribble thumbnails while watching tv, or pretending to be listening someone talk 😉


    My method for drawing thumbnails is to create balance, but not to create detail. It is about seeing the weight, and shape of the image, and then once you end up liking one, you draw it a bit bigger, and see how it works out. Here is an example of what I do (i don't do this across many thumbnails, but just did this as an example)


    As you can see, i try diagonal lines that cross, with round shapes coming in a different angles. I might try overlapping shapes, which is a very important aspect of design I have come to find out. So, from here I would decide that I like the image enough to see it a bit more drawn out, and I would start to draw a little more of a detailed drawing of it. If it is looking good, then I take it to finish, and then do the rendering.

    Another tip is to flip through Will Terry's website, Lee White's and Jake Parker's, and make thumbnails of their images. See how they put their horizons, and how the angle the ground a character is walking on. I usually copy thumbnails for a warmup, and by the time I have done one sheet of them, my next sheet looks pretty interesting. Hope this helps.

  • Here is another example of a recent piece I just finished.

    I just scribble lines, and cross lines, and put circles, and long shapes and short shapes etc. sometimes I will make a value study on the thunbnail to see what I think. For this one I liked the 5th one from the right on the top of the cowboy with the tall hat.

    Then I enhance it make it into a drawing, which I will then move things around a bit to make it fit to what I want.

    Then I do a value study of the image after I like what I see

    And then the fun part..

    This is how I do every single image. It really makes sure everything is balanced correctly. It all starts with basic shapes, and proper weight balance. Just have fun with thumbnails, and do a bunch of them. Don't spend a ton of time on them, and remind yourself that they are not suppose to look incredible, just suppose to give you a feeling as to if you are headed in the right direction. Hope this helps.

  • @marsha-kay-ottum-owen I think the story is really important to consider for developing thumbnails for picture books. You have to consider which pictures will be the double spreads, the spots etc... page layout with the words, how that will work throughout the book. Lynne Chapman has some tips here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5DQXg86luA.
    I think the thing I've been trying to do more and more is not to get too attached to my initial ideas- just make quick sketches and keep developing things, it's not a fast process, I think the early stages need a lot of consideration and patience.

  • I second the recommendation for the Creative Illustration 1 course! If you really want to understand how to generate, refine, and execute ideas, that's the class for you!

    For me, I think of thumbnails as "zoomed out" images. Like looking at a shelf full of books. First you find one (of many) that stand out, and then you pull it off. After looking at the cover more closely, you actually open it up. If you don't like it, you have all of the other options ready to look at.

    Basically, thumbnails are your library of ideas based on a concept or theme. I don't know if that helps, but that's how I look at it XD

  • Here's a progression of one of my pieces from thumbnails. It's not the best example because I didn't explore a ton of angles, but you can see how messy they start out and to anyone else, they probably can't tell what's going on at first.








  • Pro SVS OG

    @tessw and @Eric-Castleman I always love seeing progression pieces from thumbnails to finish.
    Great work! Thanks for sharing!

    And ditto on a class dedicated to thumbnails!

  • SVS OG

    @tessw Great advice. I was thinking that if I knew perspective better it would help. Lee White suggested I take the light and shadow class. I never saw the videos on the creative composition class! I have a bunch of workbooks I'm trying to finish and that is one of them. I'm actually on the 25 thing assignment and it's a little tough to get going. I'm going to look for the videos you were talking about. I think that might be very helpful! Thanks!

    Let's set a date for a thumbnail challenge! We could start on a Monday and then reveal the next Monday. I'm going to be gone from this Tuesday until the 25th so maybe the week after that? Or after peoples kids get settled in school as that seems to be a challenge for many right now 🙂 We could start by reviewing the creative composition videos.......

  • SVS OG

    @eric-castleman Thanks! Great ideas for thumbnailing! I actually did make it through some rough thumbnails last night but ...I still have a lot to learn actually on just drawing, perspective, lighting, etc. Deep breaths and move forward. Really appreciate your input and encouragement, Eric.

  • Perhaps you are putting too much pressure on yourself in the early stages of your book. The first thumbnails only need to be rough and they are for planning the overall structure and flow of the picture book. I don't think you should be worrying too much about perspective at this stage although it is certainly good to work on the skills with that for later on if that is how you want the book to look. It's more about design and composition. I hope this is OK to mention, but I see lots of picture books which don't seem to use perspective very much and they are still very effective at telling a story in an entertaining way for Children.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    Hi Marsha, It seems you are struggling with a lot of the basic stuff covered in early illustration training. I would recommend taking a real class in illustration. Either a brick and mortar school like a local university, or the Illustration 1 class at svs which david Hohn and I teach. We cover a lot of these things and can clear up most of the problems you are having in your early development process for projects/books, etc.

  • SVS OG

    @christine-garner Thank you.

  • SVS OG

    @lee-white Thanks. I am enrolled in a couple of classes this fall-2D Design and a watercolor class-not necessarily ilustration foundations but, the 2D design might be helpful to me, I think. I looked at the Illustration 1 class but it looks like it has already started on July 11th to Sept 5th? I will be gone quite a bit in July and August so it would be hard to take it at that time. Will it be offered again? If so, when? Thanks. Also, is it mainly coming up with ideas for images ?

  • SVS OG

    Here are some thumbnails I did. Think I'm getting it?

    0_1500254674960_granny thumbnails.jpg

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    @marsha-kay-ottum-owen Thumbnails are basically a step to try a bunch of stuff out. If you are able to do that, then you are getting it.The big step is doing a lot of variations on a single image. If you just go with what you did for the first thumbnail, then more are needed.

  • Yes definitely on the right track 🙂
    I found a SCWIBI article on this subject that I think is relevant to your topic and might help you (I thought I should brush upon this stuff as well because I'm working on a personal project which could be a book but I'm still in very early stages)

    I found this article through this blog post: http://thebigbadbook.com/thumbnails-and-storyboards/

    Here's another tip: I found out that sometimes the thumb-nailing stage is called "picture book story-boarding" so you might find more tips looking for that word or variations of it in Google.

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